One of the most critical outcomes of armed conflict is the impact on societies. Armed conflict has far-reaching effects and substantially impacts societies. Below is a list of conflicts the United States fought after 1918.
Choose one (1) conflict from the list below:
World War II
Analyze two to three (2?3) major consequences the conflict had on United States? society.
How did this war affect American sensibilities, including the way Americans viewed the war and themselves?
Did the war change America?s role in the world? Explain your answer.
Was the outcome of the war beneficial or detrimental to the United States (or a combination both)?
Note: The scope of this assignment is to analyze how U.S. society changed due to armed conflict and not to provide a summary of the conflict.
The Revolutionary War
Americans first engaged in war during the founding of their country. By 1775, colonists in America were distinguishable from their British counterparts in a variety of ways. The colonists lived their lives without a formal aristocratic class. Also, many more colonists were in possession of real property than in Britain, had a lower rate of poverty, and were more agrarian than those living on the British Isles. Furthermore, the colonists were more religiously pluralistic. Such differences led to escalating tension as the colonists saw themselves as increasingly divergent from their Old World counterparts.
Specific events that led to the Revolutionary War include a series of acts in which the British Parliament placed restrictions or increased taxes on the colonies. Perhaps the most notable was the Stamp Act of 1765, which was imposed upon the colonies after a costly seven-year war with France, known as the French and Indian War. Colonists protested the Stamp Act because they felt it amounted to taxation without parliamentary representation.
Colonists also disagreed with a provision in the act which stated that those who violated the Stamp Act would be tried in court without a jury. Subsequent taxes were levied, including a tax on tea
that famously led colonists dressed as Native Americans to destroy 342 containers of tea
Harbor, which later became known as the Boston Tea Party
. The British government responded harshly to these protests, especially in Massachusetts. Subsequently, the colonists countered with boycotts. This culminated in a meeting of the First Continental Congress in 1774 to organize resistance against the British government. By April of 1775, skirmishes at Lexington and Concord prompted a Second Continental Congress to meet, in which George Washington was appointed commander-in-chief of the Continental Army. In 1776, the Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence, effectively declaring war against the British.
The Revolutionary War had far-reaching consequences. Not only did it result in the formation of a country bound to become extremely powerful and influential in later centuries but it also foreshadowed independence movements and revolutions in the New World and Europe. The American Revolution provided a model for the later revolutions in France and against the colonial dominance of Spain in the New World. The revolution also resulted in an early experiment in democracy, constitutional government, and an adherence to the rule of law as opposed to monarchy and aristocratic privilege. Following the revolution, middling elements of American society began to participate more often in the political process. Ideas like liberty and freedom, fundamental to the American Revolution, raised questions that eventually eradicated ancient institutions such as slavery and instituted universal suffrage, slowly broadening democratic institutions to encompass all citizens and eliminating privilege.
Although the Revolutionary War won American colonists their independence from Great Britain, serious tensions still existed between Britain and its former North American colonies. In fact, British ships routinely interdicted American shipping vessels, often oppressing American citizens in the process, thus agitating relations between the two countries. Following a failed embargo of British goods, President James Madison presented Congress with a report maintaining that American settlers in the northwest were being raided by Native Americans who were agitated by the British. Convinced that military action was necessary, the United States declared war in 1812.
The War of 1812 and the Civil War
The War of 1812
The War of 1812 brought about three major developments for the United States. First, the war resulted in the destruction of the ability of Native American tribes that bordered the United States to resist future expansion westward. Second, it led to the normalization of the United States' borders with Spain and Britain, leading to greater clarity of the United States' western borders. Lastly, it led to the marginalization of the Federalist party
, which had fervently resisted the war. After the resounding defeat of British forces at New Orleans and the signing of the Treaty of Ghent, many labeled the Federalists as traitors, a moniker from which they never recovered.
The Civil War
After the War of 1812, the United States experienced relative peace for the next few decades. However, growing tensions over the United States' expanding borders, federal authority, and civil rights led to the costliest war in U.S. history. Fundamentally, the American Civil War was caused by irreconcilable differences between free states in the north and slave states in the south. As the United States expanded, questions arose as to whether or not newly acquired states would become slave-owning states or states that relied upon free labor. In 1860, following the failure of the Missouri Compromise and the Compromise of 1850, both of which sought to divide U.S. territory into areas where slavery would remain and other areas in which it was banned, the election of Abraham Lincoln brought about the first state secessions. South Carolina seceded from the Union that year, fearing that President Lincoln would appoint antislavery officials, military personnel, and judges, and impede the movement of slavery into U.S. territories. Many more states seceded shortly thereafter. The war officially began 1861, when Lincoln made the decision to resupply Fort Sumter, a federally-held fortification in southern territory.
The Civil War had many effects on American society. Perhaps most importantly, the U.S. Constitution was amended for the first time, in an attempt to exclude race as a barrier to citizenship and full and equal participation in civil society. Though even amendments to the Constitution failed to deter harsh discrimination and institutional inequality, the aftermath of the Civil War demonstrated that the federal government could indeed play a role in changing American society in relation to race and civil rights. Secondly, it established a precedent in which secession from the United States would not be voluntary. Economic reforms were also institutionalized. Once again, the federal government chartered banks and also temporarily imposed an income tax. The federal government granted land for massive railroad construction projects, vastly increasing the effectiveness of U.S. infrastructure. Lastly, the end of the war freed large amounts of people to settle western territories, soon leading to the induction of new states to the Union.
World War I
The origins of World War I are particularly complicated. However, they can be traced back to the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1914. The assassination was performed by a young Serbian with indirect ties to the Serbian government. The Austro-Hungarian Empire, committed to punishing Serbia for its involvement in the assassination, invaded it. Within weeks, because of a series of political and military alliances, most of Europe had mobilized for war. After a century of nearly uninterrupted peace, most Europeans believed that large-scale, protracted war was anachronistic. However, as the western front drew to a stalemate, the eastern front failed to reach swift conclusions, and the death toll reached numbers never witnessed before, it was soon realized that warfare in the modern world was certain to be even more costly than in past eras.
Despite the growing casualties in Europe, the United States attempted to stay neutral, though U.S. foreign trade heavily favored Britain and France. U.S. trade preferences eventually led to tension with Prussia over unrestricted submarine warfare. Believing that the U.S. military response would come too late to affect the war, Prussia decided to take the risk of inciting America to war. In 1917, expecting to defeat Britain and France within less than a year, Prussian military strategists made the decision to resume unrestricted submarine warfare to further debilitate allied war efforts. That same year, a plot was uncovered that was to incite Mexico into war against the United States with Prussian assistance. Acting in what would become known as the Zimmerman Telegram, Prussian diplomats agitated for armed conflict in North America, which they believed would distract the United States from interfering in the European theatre of war. Because of this, President Woodrow Wilson received a declaration of war from Congress in 1917.
Most of the consequences of World War I can be seen in the events that led to World War II. Following the defeat of Prussia, Austria, and Russia, all three countries suffered profound changes. Russian failure led to the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, which established the first functioning Marxist government, known as the Soviet Union. The Austro-Hungarian Empire also crumbled, transforming Austria from a massive state to a much smaller, far less significant country, leading many in Austria to favor union with Germany just before the beginning of World War II. Prussia was reconstituted under the new name of Germany, reflecting the end of the Prussian monarchy and the establishment of a democratic state. More importantly, however, the heavy financial reparations, geographic losses, and military restrictions, which crippled the newly reconstituted German state, directly led to another, even more destructive war 20 years later. Furthermore, from the ruins of central European empires, new countries were established, under the principle of nationalism, for many nations that were previously part of much larger, pan-national states.
Political events that came about as a result of World War I included the League of Nations, which was established in an effort to resolve diplomatic disputes before large-scale war could occur again. Though the League was largely ineffective, this was the first time such an institution was attempted. Technologically, World War I introduced the use of airplanes, tanks, chemical warfare, and other mechanized innovations, all of which profoundly changed modern warfare.
Most importantly for the United States, World War I marked the beginning of the U.S. as a globally important country. For the first time, the United States directly intervened in a conflict on the European continent. Though American politicians eventually chose to extract themselves from European concerns and adopted an isolationist position, the United States would no longer be able to permanently withdraw from international significance.
World War II
Widely viewed as an extension of World War I, the Second World War arose from German animosity toward the heavy punishments and restrictions imposed upon the country in the Treaty of Versailles. Soon after the United States entered into WWI, Prussian military forces collapsed, leading to the surrender of both Austro-Hungary and Prussia. Forced to pay heavy indemnities, demilitarize, capitulate all colonial possessions, and forfeit large territories in the East, the newly constituted German state (formerly known as Prussia) suffered under burdensome Allied demands.
Known as the Weimar Republic, the democratic German state experienced a stabilization of political and social life during the relative economic peace of the 1920s. However, once the economic turmoil of the American stock market destroyed a delicate balance of international loans and payments, the 1930s revealed how difficult it was for Germany to function under the terms of peace to which it had unconditionally surrendered.
As economic situations worsened, radical political movements slowly gained favor among significant minorities of voters. By 1933, one of those parties, the National Socialist German Worker's Party
(NSDAP), commonly known as the Nazi party
, gained enough seats in the German Parliament to elect Adolf Hitler as Chancellor of the Weimar Republic. Under Hitler?s leadership, German foreign and domestic policy became increasingly belligerent. Later in 1933, the German parliamentary building known as the Reichstag caught fire. This resulted in Adolf Hitler taking full control of the government, after which he began to remilitarize and expand the borders of Germany. Hitler?s reoccupation of the Rhineland, annexation of Austria, invasion of Czechoslovakia, and signing of a secret nonaggression treaty with the Soviet Union, all culminated with the invasion of Poland in 1939. This action resulted in the beginning of another general European war.
Other countries within Europe and beyond were also expanding militarily. The Soviet Union, interested in regaining lost territories in Eastern Europe, remilitarized under Joseph Stalin, which resulted in the conquest of the Baltic States, Finland, and part of Poland. In Italy, Bonito Mussolini seized political control in a coup in 1922, introducing fascism to Europe. His invasion of Ethiopia was a prelude to war in Europe. In Japan, imperialist forces rapidly expanded into Korea, China, and the Pacific, precipitating war by the early 1930s.
The United States' involvement in WWII came as a direct result of the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. However, the bombing of Pearl Harbor was not a spontaneous occurrence. U.S. and Japanese relations were degrading for years prior to that event. The 1937 Japanese invasion of China incited objections by the United States and the League of Nations. Japanese invasion of French Indochina and other aggressive acts in the Pacific convinced the United States to embargo oil exports to Japan. Japanese military strategists eventually found that U.S. presence in the Pacific was detrimental to their expansion in the region. The attack on Pearl Harbor was an attempt to eradicate the U.S. presence in the Pacific with one debilitating military strike. Instead, it led to a protracted, costly war in the Pacific and a total loss for Japan.
A major consequences of World War II was the emergence of the United States as a globally-important political and economic power. With Europe economically ruined from war and industrially incapacitated, the United States emerged as the only western state able to counter total Soviet expansion throughout Europe and large portions of Asia. Europe was split into an western, American-supported portion and a pro-Soviet eastern portion. Also, in the United States, the war ended the Great Depression and brought about a long period of economic and industrial expansion. American women entered the workforce in large numbers for the first time, which later initiated the modern feminist movement. Likewise, minority participation in the war and in domestic labor initiatives sparked further petitions for equality and civil rights.
Furthermore, the United States' policy makers and the public at large no longer felt that it was prudent to allow world events to unfold without American influence. The Soviet Union maneuvered to spread its influence within Europe and throughout the world. Soon, it became obvious to American policy makers that the Soviet Union, openly hostile to western democratic states and unwilling to allow free elections within the Soviet Union or in countries under its influence, needed to be contained. However, western states were unwilling to risk an open and comprehensive war with the Soviet Union. Instead, the next few decades saw regional conflicts emerge along with other indirect conflicts with the Soviet Union. This time period is often referred to as the Cold War.
Presentation: America and the Great War
America and the Great War
June 28, 1914, America awakes to the news of the assassination of an Austrian prince in the town of Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia Herzegovina. To the common man, the obscure events unfolding over there were of little concern. How were they to know that less than 2 months later, the guns of August would herald the beginning of the largest conflict the world had ever seen?
As the events unfolded in Europe, America began to feel the repercussions in the form of an increased demand for war materials to wage the growing conflict. On the high seas, both England and Germany interfered with American vessels? right of free passage, which brought stern condemnation from President Wilson and the American Congress. Events worsened with Germany?s announcement of a policy of unrestricted submarine warfare in the Atlantic. President Wilson warned Germany about the dire consequences of this policy, and Germany relented.
President Wilson would win reelection on the popular belief that his policies had kept the United States out of the war in Europe; however, on January 31, 1917, Germany would once again resume unrestricted submarine warfare in the Atlantic. By April, 1917 Germany had sunk five America vessels, leaving President Wilson with little choice but to ask Congress for a declaration of war, which was quickly approved. From the farm to the factory, America would mobilize for war on all levels of society.
Although seen as the junior member of the allied nations at war with the Central Powers (Germany, Austria, Turkey), the fresh troops from America played key roles in shoring up the now tired and war-weary soldiers of Britain, France, and Italy (the Triple Entente). They were instrumental in stopping the last great German offensive of the war in the summer of 1918. They would repeat this role in the fall Argonne offensive, which broke Germany's Hindenburg Line and started the German retreat back into Germany. Germany, sensing defeat, began secret negotiations for a cessation of hostilities in October of 1918. By November 11th, an armistice was signed ending the war to end all wars.
President Wilson's hope was for a peace treaty that would be fair to all parties. But Britain and France would force the Treaty of Versailles on Germany that would place a heavy burden on Germany. President Wilson?s other dream of America joining the new League of Nations was also to be met with failure. America would revert to its position of isolationism, which had been its stance on world issues before the war.
Korean and Vietnam Conflicts
Following the collapse of Imperial Japan in 1945, American troops occupied South Korea, while North Korea was occupied by Soviet troops. Following an uneasy five years of peace, the fall of China to communism prompted North Korea to invade South Korea. North Korean aggression, militarily supported by the Soviet Union, was also precipitated by a perceived weakness of American commitment to South Korea. Indeed, North Korean armies soon captured Seoul, before a United Nations (UN) force, comprised mostly of American troops, pushed North Korean armies back to the 38th parallel, where the border remains to this day.
A variety of consequences occurred as a result of the Korean Conflict, which ended in 1953, with thousands of fatalities but no clear victor and no peace treaty signed. The North continued to be occupied by communist forces, and the South became an American ally. Also, Korea illustrated how a relatively contained conflict could turn into a much broader regional conflagration. As the conflict escalated, there were points in time in which China and the Soviet Union could have conceivably been drawn into the conflict, potentially resulting in another regional, or even general war. Perhaps most importantly, Korea illustrated how tensions between the U.S.S.R. and the United States could become full-scale armed conflicts. Other long-term consequences include the establishment of permanent nuclear installations in South Korea and the commitment of conventional U.S. military equipment and troops to South Korea for decades afterwards.
Although the cause of the Korean Conflict remains relatively simple to explain, the origins of the Vietnam Conflict are more complex and its development far more gradual. The Vietnam War began in the 1950s. After the decisive defeat of French colonial forces by Vietnamese nationalists in 1954, the French government sued for peace. It soon became obvious that Soviet political involvement would result in a communist-controlled Vietnam, soon after independence was arranged. Instead, after peace talks in Geneva, Vietnam was split into a northern region, dominated by the Communist party
of Vietnam, and a French-controlled southern region. Free elections were to proceed in 1956, after which a reunification of the two regions was planned. However, once the Eisenhower administration came to the conclusion that even free elections would result in a Vietnam governed by communists, President Eisenhower and Secretary of State John Dulles supplied the South with sizeable military support.
Elections were indeed held in 1956, leading to the election of Ngo Dinh Diem. Diem, a staunch anticommunist, was eventually assassinated in 1963, just weeks before the assassination of President Kennedy. Further destabilization occurred in 1964, when North Vietnamese forces launched an attack against patrolling American naval vessels, giving President Johnson the political capacity to expand American involvement in Vietnam. U.S. aerial bombing operations quickly led to American ground force commitments in 1965, and a full-scale armed conflict erupted.
In many ways, the consequences of the Vietnam Conflict are as complicated as the event itself. However, some clear results can be identified. After the evacuation of U.S. forces from Saigon in 1975, North and South Vietnam were unified under one government, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. In the United States, the experience of Vietnam was far-reaching. Vietnam not only resulted in the longest conflict in U.S. history and the most controversial conflict of the 20th century, but it also led to the establishment of a military draft. This is an event that has not been experienced in the United States since that period. The draft led to a decrease in the voting age to 18, which was also the age at which an American male could be drafted.
Other important legislative changes include the passage of the War Powers Act (1973), requiring U.S. presidents to receive explicit approval from Congress before forces could be deployed overseas for combat purposes. Politically, the conflict resulted in an aversion to further American casualties, which fundamentally changed U.S. intervention in later international conflicts. The Democratic party
also experienced serious consequences in 1968. Democratic voters, split over U.S. involvement in Vietnam, divided their votes between Hubert Humphrey and George Wallace, resulting in a Republican presidential victory and a Democratic party
whose politics were changed fundamentally. Economically, the Vietnam Conflict resulted in inflation as spending for Vietnam continued, but the United States remunerated largely through monetizing of the money supply.
The Cold War
The origins of the Cold War lie in the immediate conclusion of World War II. Very shortly after Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany were defeated, two former allies, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and the United States, began to perceive each other as global competitors. Soviet unwillingness to cooperate with the United States and Western Europe manifested in 1948.
In an attempt to economically revive West Germany, the Allies announced establishment of a West German currency, independent of Soviet influence. The USSR, wary of German revival, established an independent currency for East Germany as well, and blocked all transportation routes into the city of Berlin in an attempt to force the Allies to abandon the city. In response, the Allies initiated an airlift of food and other supplies, rendering the blockade ineffective by 1949. Slowly, as it became obvious that life in the Western parts of the city was more preferable to life in the Eastern parts, a wall was built to keep the communist section of the city partitioned and its people sequestered.
Trouble over the city of Berlin also precipitated the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1949, to contain the Soviet aggression in Europe. The Soviet Union reacted by establishing a mutual defense treaty, known as the Warsaw Pact, in 1955. By the late 1950s, the Cold War in Europe had become a stalemate. However, this indirect conflict shifted to other portions of the world. Open conflicts such as the Korean and Vietnam Wars are examples of the Cold War turning decisively hot.
Many historians trace the beginnings of the Cold War to the Berlin Blockade of 1948. The conflict did not end until decades later, when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. Because of the Cold War?s length and the fact that it was fought indirectly, many of the consequences of the Cold War were indirect. The long struggle demonstrated to most observers the superiority of the Western economic and political systems. Western economies continuously outperformed the Soviet Union's and provided higher standards of living for their citizens. Furthermore, the politically and socially transparent nature of Western societies resulted in a greater ability to satisfy the needs of their citizens.
There were other effects of the Cold War beyond ideologies, however. Massive investments in military technology eventually led to tremendous benefits for civilians when that technology was applied to peaceful pursuits. This was perhaps most evident in the microcomputer industry, where technological innovations routinely found application in the civilian world. The United States also resolved to expand infrastructure, creating the interstate highway system.
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