Throughout the history of human civilization, mankind has been engaged in warfare against each other. The United States has not being exempted from this phenomenon and as a matter of fact, America has had a long standing history of wars waged both within and without her borders.
The reasons for these wars have ranged from protecting America’s territorial integrity to assisting her allies. Invariably, war has far-reaching effects on the countries that are involved in the operations. The focus of this paper shall be on the wars that have been waged by America since 1877.
The paper shall argue that the war has had an overall negative effect on the American culture and its people. To reinforce this assertion, this paper shall engage in an analysis of specific war efforts that the Unite States has engaged in and how they affected the country economically, politically and culturally.
Significant Wars and their effects
The Spanish-American War
The first war that was waged by America after the American civil war that led to the unification of the states into a country was the Spanish-American war of 1898. This main theatre of this war was the Manila Bay in the Philippines which was attacked by American naval forces leading to the loss of ten Spanish Ships. The cause of this war was an explosion at a Cuban harbor which resulted in the death of American Service Men.
This war was mostly economically motivated since part of the reason for its being waged was to stop Cubans from revolting against their Spanish rulers. Boyer et al. notes that American businessmen had invested over $50 million in Cuba and therefore, unrest was undesirable. The war resulted in the recognition of Cuba’s independence from Spanish rule and the abandoning of Philippines and Puerto Rico colonies.
While this war lasted for only a few days with huge success for American forces, it had far reaching political and cultural consequences. The war resulted in America ruling a foreign nation (the Philippines) which was the first act of imperialism by the USA. In the Philippines, there was an independence movement which had been trying to free the country from Spanish rule.
When America became the new rulers, these independence fighters began attacking American troops in a war that lasted for over 4 years. This war came at a great human and financial cost for America. In addition to this, the cultural values of the Filipino people were eroded as their new rulers tried to “educate the Filipinos, and to uplift and civilize and Christianize them.”
The First World War
Another war in which America involved itself with was the Great War of 1914 which became known as the “First World War”. At the onset of this war, the Unite States under the presidency of Wilson proclaimed its neutrality in the war.
However, this neutrality did not last indefinitely owing to America’s close cultural ties with England and France as well as economic considerations made by American politicians. As such, America’s official policy of neutrality in the war lasted for only 3 years and in 1971, America joined the war on the side of the allies.
Some of the economic considerations made in American joining this war were the huge loans (up to $2.3 billion) that the USA had given to the allies. The war resulted in an increase in the taxes imposed by Congress to businesses although this was offset by the profits gained from the war efforts.
While the First World War had little impact on American soil and the causality rates were low, the war led to the drafting and deployment of servicemen on a previously unprecedented scale. This laid precedence to the military build up that was to later characterize the U.S. leading to billions of dollars being used in military efforts.
Politically, Boyer et. al notes that the war led to a trampling of citizen’s constitutional rights as intolerance of dissent become prevalent due to government propaganda which encouraged conformity to the war efforts.
The Second World War
The Second World War is without doubt the biggest war to ever have been waged by nations against nations up to date. Unlike the First World War in which America was only a minor player, the U.S. played a significant role in this war from the very onset. The Second World War was caused by the aggression of Nazi Germany in Europe. Germany’s expansion ambitions made it lock horns with most of the European nations.
Germany’s invasion of Poland was the marked the official start of WWII and resulted in the declaration of war on Germany and His Allies by Britain. These military alliances consisted of two major protagonists; Britain and her allies who made up the Allies and Germany and her allies making up the Axis. Both alliances where immensely powerful and wrecked havoc on each other’s land throughout the war period.
Economically, the war was huge implications to America. Military spending went from 9% of gross national produce in 1940 to 46% in 1945. America also became the world’s leading weapons manufacturer as she set out to fulfill the demand by her European allies for weapons. The Marshall Plan which followed the end of the Second World War and was aimed at assisting in the re-building of war torn Europe was also a costly affair for the United States.
The Second World War was to a large extent detrimental to the democratic freedoms of U.S. citizens as it led to an increase in government censorship as the administration worked to suppress information that could damage the war effort. The government also created departments to shape public opinion by spreading propaganda and inciting hatred for the enemy.
Wars in the Cold War Era
The Second World War led to the emergence of two distinct world super powers; the United States of America and the Soviet Union. These two powers appeared to be pitted against each other from an ideological point of view resulting in high polarization. The United States favored communism while the Soviet Union was pro communism and aimed to spread this ideology to its spheres of influence.
The Soviet Union was seen as an aggressor, keen on expanding by influencing weaker states and exporting its communism ideals to the countries. The United States was keen to deter the spread of Soviet communism and as such, most of the wars waged after the Second World War were proxy wars between the U.S. and Communism.
The Korean War which took place from 1950 to 1953 involved Communist North Korea and China, and the American backed Republic of Korea. The U.S. with authorization from the U.N. mounted a military attack to protect the Republic of Korea from communist backed North Korean invasion.
Another significant war that was waged in the cold war era was the Vietnam War of 1960 which involved Western forces trying to repress communists who had taken over Northern Vietnam. Once North Vietnam fell under communist rule, there was fear that the same could happen to South Vietnam.
The U.S. therefore dedicated considerable military resources to Vietnam to ensure that the spread of communism was deterred. These wars led to an increase in military spending by the U.S. as well as amassing of nuclear by most nations. These wars also resulted in thousands of U.S. troops being killed in battle.
This paper set out to argue that war has had an unfavorable effect on America. To underscore this point, a look at the major wars that America has waged has been undertaken.
From the evidence presented in this paper, it is clear that while war in some instances result in great economic benefits and technological progress for the country, it also resulted in the damaging of culture and the loss of lives and huge economic costs to the United States. As such, it is conceivable that the society would have been better off if these wars had never been waged.
The New Deal
The Great Depression which began in 1929 and continued for the better part of the following decade was a huge economic disaster that affected nation’s virtually all over the world. The United States was especially affected with stock prices crashing and unemployment rates rising throughout the Country.
A political solution to this problem was necessitated and it came in the form of “The New Deal” which consisted of a series of laws which congress began enacting following the election into office of Franklin Roosevelt. In this essay, I shall argue that the New Deal had profound and positive changes in the Lives of America.
One of the key commitments of the New Deal reforms was the commitment to “make federally guaranteed economic security a political right for every American”. New Deal programs such as the federal unemployment benefits meant that people could continue to survive even under harsh economic realities. This was a significant thing considering the fact that the Great depression had resulted in unprecedented levels of unemployment.
In order to encourage growth, the New Deal also implemented programs that were aimed at fair pricings for farmers on their crops therefore enabling poor rural farmers to attain a comfortable middle class life. This was mostly as a result of government action which resulted in the protection from unfair competition and also the freedom from domination by large monopolies that had previously crippled the small scale farmers.
One of the issues that the New Deal opponents raised was that the goals that the New Deal proposed to reach through the Economic Bill of Rights would result in greater expansion of the federal government’s power which would result in greater government control in people and business affairs.
This was a valid fear but it was a trade off that most people were willing to make if it would guarantee the future security of the economy and therefore their well being by extension. For all its benefits, the New Deal was not without its flaws and it has been accused of undermining the free market by imposing protective tariffs which hampered international trade. Also, federal guaranteed economic assistance to the poor has been labeled as “wasting tax payer’s money” and were scrapped in 1996.
While most of the policies of the New Deal such as guaranteed economic assistance and protectionism measures are undesirable today, they were necessary in the years immediately after the Great Depression and these programs led to the economic recovery of America and greatly improved the lives of the American people. It can therefore be authoritatively stated that the New Deal was a useful legislature for the American people.
Conformity in 1950s America
Conformity can be described as a “set of beliefs and practices that promote uniformity in the ways that people life and think”. This was the condition that affected America in the decade that followed the Second World War. As a result of the huge economic benefits that America had reaped following the large scale industrialization efforts that were as a result of World War II, there was enough money to afford most people a comfortable lifestyle.
Leisure activities mostly included watching TV and going for movies which depicted an ideal “American Life” which was showcased as having a nice family, a car and children. Many people were influenced by media and sought to achieve this popular culture. Strict social norms were also broadcasted through the media and stereotypical suburban white families portrayed in popular programs.
The ideal woman in the 1950s was married, took care of her family and entertained guest in her suburban house while the ideal man was the provider and protector of the family. These well defined gender roles further led to conformity as men and women were expected to fit into these templates.
Another byproduct of the Second World War was the rise of the Cold War which pitted the Capitalistic West against the Communist East. Many Americans were hysterical about the “evil communists” as a result of government propaganda.
As a result of this mass hysteria, people began suspecting and accusing each other of holding communistic sentiments and as a result of this, people were afraid of being labeled as communist sympathizers. Due to fear and suspicions, Americans in the 1950s were afraid of expressing their political opinions for few that they would be labeled as communists. This furthered the conformity in the American society of the 1950s.
While conformity was good for the stability of the nation, it was a big hindrance to the democratic development of the nation. Since people were afraid to express their opinions, they could not criticize the government hence making it more accountable for its actions. In addition to this, conformity led to the continued perpetration of social ills since it refused to acknowledge real issues such as racial discrimination that were prevalent at that time.
The Warren Court Decisions
The Warren Court is the term given to the Supreme Court from the mid 1950s to the late 1960s under Chief Justice Earl Warren. The Warren Court made some rulings which had revolutionary significance for America and affected the society in profound ways.
As a result of this, the Warren Court era is hailed as an era of “judicial activism” whereby the judicial system lead to major social, economic and political changes in the country. This essay shall argue that the changes that the Warren Court made were immense and had a positive and lasting impact on the American society.
The Warren Court period experienced a significant expansion of civil rights mostly in relation to discrimination. As such, one of the significant social events of the Warren court era was the segregation policy that existed in many states. This policy resulted in the presence of segregated schools and social amenities for the different races.
The Warren court struck down this “miscegenation laws” as can be seen from the Evans v. Newton case in which the ruling forbade the city of Macon, Georgia from maintaining a segregated park. While this blow against legally mandated racial segregation did not result in the immediate end of racial discrimination, it was a major blow against racial segregation and paved way for an era of social awareness on the race issue and eventually the end of racial discrimination in America.
Freedom of speech is one of the most revered constitutional rights of the American people. While these rights were enshrined long before the Warren Court era, it is this period that made significant positive contributions to these rights. The 1950s were an era that was dominated by conformism and government control of popular opinion.
The government was eager to suppress so called “hate speech” which was mostly any speech related to race, sex or other biased ideas. The decisions by the Warren Courts played a critical role in the Civil Rights movement. Schwartz notes that the Warren Court overturned previous court rulings in the New York Times v. Sullivan by granting First Amendment protection for statements that defamed public officials.
The Warren Court therefore affected the society since it showed that all people were afforded similar rights by the constitution and discrimination was therefore undesirable. In addition to this, the court reinforced the sanctity of the freedom of speech for the American people therefore negating the conformity and government censorship that had began to infiltrate the country.
Boyer, Paul. et. al. The Enduring Vision: A History of the American People, Volume 2: From 1865, Concise. Cengage Learning, 2009.
Chickering, Roger., Forster, Stig and Greiner, Bernd. A World at Total War: Global Conflict and the Politics of Destruction, 1937-1945. Cambridge University Press, 2005
Davidson, James West. US: A Narrative History, Volume 2: Since 1865. McGraw-Hill, 2008.
Edsforth, Ronald. The New Deal: America’s response to the Great Depression. Wiley-Blackwell, 2000.
Schwartz, Bernard. The Warren Court: a Retrospective. Oxford University Press US, 1996.
Paul Boyer, et. al., The Enduring Vision: A History of the American People, Volume 2: From 1865 Concise, (Cengage Learning, 2009), 472.
James Davidson West, US: A Narrative History, Volume 2: Since 1865. (McGraw-Hill, 2008). ^
Paul et al, 517.
Roger Chickering, Stig Forster and Bernd Greiner, A World at Total War: Global Conflict and the Politics of Destruction, 1937-1945. (Cambridge University Press, 2005), 19.
Paul et al, 598.
Ronald Edsforth, The New Deal: America’s response to the Great Depression. Wiley-Blackwell, 2000. ^
Ibid, p. 2.
James Davidson West, US: A Narrative History, Volume 2: Since 1865. (McGraw-Hill, 2008).
Bernard Schwartz, The Warren Court: a Retrospective, (Oxford University Press US, 1996), 233.