The history of America encompasses a myriad of issues that were intertwined. Some of these issues led to varying stances among leaders and citizens. Relationships with other countries were paramount for the purpose of joint development efforts and support. This paper discuses some of the issues and how they affected the world.
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The Nation at War
The Trench Warfare refers to an historic time when soldiers dug trenches which were used to launch attacks and prevent direct attack from enemies. The layout of these trenches was quite complex and had a zigzag design which did not allow direct shooting from enemies during an attack (Divine et al., 2011).
Communication was also intensive with phone lines passing underground for the purpose of connecting with other trenches. Besides these trenches, there were resting points for fresh soldiers who were always on standby, ammunition, mail, water, food and several essential supplies.
Why did the Trench Warfare leave a three-year stalemate and historic slaughter on the battlefield? This was attributed to the tactics which were employed by both parties. Millions of soldiers were sent by France and Britain to participate in the attrition yet they knew that they would die.
The trench layout also led to massive deaths as millions lost their lives crossing barbed wires within the trench. Besides these wires, trench walls were a security threat as they collapsed and buried soldiers especially during heavy shielding (Divine et al., 2011). Trench conditions further claimed millions of soldiers with others succumbing to wounds sustained during battle attacks.
It was unhealthy for soldiers to spend hours standing in cold water as this affected their feet and general health. They also lacked sanitary facilities like toilets and proper sewage system with some of the diseases having been spread by lice and rats which lived in the trenches. Lastly, some of the weapons used were quite lethal including riffles, machine guns, gas, tanks and bayonets.
Two major battles were recorded during this period. The first one was the Battle of Verdun and Somme in 1916 in which German and French troops were the main casualties. On the other hand, the Battles of Arras and Leper which involved the Allies and Germany in 1917 causing more than 250, 000 casualties from each side (Divine et al., 2011).
The Treaty of Versailles
The treaty was signed in June 1919 with the aim of ending the First World War which had significantly affected millions of people around the world. The treaty was further mandated to promote peace among nations and punish Germany by establishing a League of Nations to resolve diplomatic crisis.
To the contrary, the treaty resulted into a legacy of problems which has been arguably blamed for the start and escalation of the Second World War. The treaty was discussed by Allies without involving Germany after its ratification.
Terms for the treaty were drawn after discussions by the “Big Three” who included Lloyd George, Clemenceau and Woodrow Wilson (Divine et al., 2011). With each having personal views, it is believed that Wilson’s “Fourteen Points” were to have significant impact and make the world safer for democracy to thrive.
The points were part of the speech the president gave in January 1918 and later formed the basis for a peace programme. Among these points was the need to have transparent agreements. This was to promote transparency in making future treaties and sub-treaties in order to engage every party involved.
As a result, all private discussions were to become effective after receiving a global public covenant. Secondly, President Wilson advocated for impartiality in making decisions concerning all colonies based on equitable claims and general interests of the population.
As such, colonial powers were not to act as owners of colonies but as trustees of the society’s interests through ethical administrative conduct. Lastly, he proposed the formation of a League of Nations aimed at guaranteeing the territorial and political sovereignty of all states (Divine et al., 2011). This formed a structural foundation of permanent peace among nations and cities and promoted democratic relationships.
Transition to Modern America
This was the period after 1860 that was characterized by high level of industrial technology and advances in mass production of goods. There were new scientific knowledge and discoveries which were applied in industrial production leading to the establishment of new industries in steel, petroleum and chemical industries (Ross, 2008).
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Advances in electricity and magnetism found application in the electrical industry, permitting high productivity than before. As a result, U.S. and Germany became the leading producers as they challenged the Great Britain on the Global market (Divine et al., 2011). Electricity was essential in driving all forms of machinery and powering of streetcars as electrical companies in Germany and United States sold their products around the world.
Existence of large production firms for steel and chemicals provided employment for millions of people as major firms dominated the market. Improved communication technology enhanced better communication as managers coordinated businesses and industrial operations effectively. Automobiles facilitated the movement of people, transportation of raw materials to factories and distribution of finished products around the world (Ross, 2008).
Although a lot had been achieved through the second industrial revolution, economic weaknesses to the prosperity of the Roaring Twenties were immense. This was a decade in which no major event happened as in previous years. There was haphazard demobilization of the nation from WWI through several ways (Streissguth, 2007).
These included reduction of army sizes, pausing of the shipbuilding exercise and control of the railroads by the private sector. In addition, there were labor strikes across the country and race violence. America witnessed several cultural conflicts before inflation hit the country towards the end of the decade (Divine et al., 2011). Although America was rapidly modernizing and urbanizing in the 1920s, conservatives and traditionalists created a backlash. This was mainly based on ideologies and perceptions from leaders and the public.
FDR and the New Deal
It is believed that the crash of the stock market on October 29, 1929 led to a series of economic events which significantly contributed to the Great Depression. Unrealistic view of prosperity during “The Roaring Twenties” meant that America over-depended on industrial production and automobiles, widening the gap between the rich and the poor (Streissguth, 2007).
There was further disparity in sharing of resources between agriculture and industries with the latter dominating the market. Secondly, the depression emanated from global crisis as Europe struggled to deal with the effects of WWI (Divine et al., 2011). This made America to become the world banker allowing other nations to borrow loans some of which were not paid. Consequently, the demand for American products dropped since several nations had accumulated debts.
Another cause was false speculation from investors that resulted in high stock prices before the depression began. After the crash of October 1929, investors resorted to massive sell-off of stocks. Failure of banks also contributed to the depression as people withdrew most their savings after the crash.
This continuous withdrawal led to the collapse of several American banks. Accordingly, most banks did not have money to give out in form of loans during the Great Depression (Streissguth, 2007). Due to lack of employment, stock market crash and collapse of banks, there was low spending which implied low demand for products.
President Hoover’s legacy in fighting the Great Depression seemed controversial as he resisted calls for the government to intervene arguing that it was to affect American morality. He believed in austerity measures like reduction of expenditure. Nevertheless, he gave in reluctantly after pressure for his intervention mounted from Congress (Streissguth, 2007).
Hoover supported extra spending as away of stabilizing the business community. After his defeat, Hoover was replaced by President Franklin Roosevelt who engaged in intensive legislative procedures in “100 days”, from March 20th to June 28th in 1933 based on the New Deal (Divine et al., 2011). He met the Congress for a hundred days with all of his requests being granted, resulting into the adoption of programs such as FDIC which was meant to insure banks.
America and the World
Kellogg-Briand Pact was signed on August 27, 1928 by fifteen countries to stop the use of war in solving international disputes. Although it was ratified by more than sixty nations, the Act was never effective because it lacked enforcement mechanisms. For instance, the League of Nations could not remove Japanese troops from Manchuria in 1931 and the much they could do was protesting (Divine et al., 2011).
The agreement was steered by Aristide Briand who was serving as French Foreign Affairs Minister. This pact shows the futility, naivete, and misguided diplomacy of the Great Powers in the interwar years. It lacked the mechanism to change the attitude of nations which were at war. The agreement did not have a holistic approach in curbing war as it permitted self defense. Lastly, Kellogg-Briand Pact lacked provisions to amend it in order to address and accommodate new democratic ideas.
As a result of warfare and tense relationships among nations, the US was reluctant to engage in partnerships and war. Many isolationists believed that America had a different and workable approach to solving conflicts and promoting democracy contrary to European’s war involvement. They argued that their sacrifices in the Great War were total waste of manpower and financial resources and opposed anything that would promote European alliances (Divine et al., 2011).
As a result, the US did not ratify the Treaty of Versailles and rejected the League of Nations. The country remained isolated in 1920s and 1930s, limiting its international involvement and trade. It protected its industries using tariffs on foreign products thus discouraging Europe from buying its goods. It also cut down the influx of immigrants as away of advancing its isolationism interests.
The rise of Hitler to power was attributed to a number of long term factors. Together with his followers, he opposed the Treaty of Versailles and the First World War. Secondly, the weak and infective constitution permitted dictators to rise to power especially during the crisis of 1929-1931 (Thomsett, 2007).
He also had financial support from rich businessmen and used propaganda to convince Germans that he was their last liberator. Storm-troopers attacked and killed Jews and all who were opposed to Hitler’s rule. Hitler also had personal characteristics like good speech, organizational power and politician qualities. He therefore made people believe that he had come to rule Germany and the world (Divine et al., 2011).
On the other hand, fascism was founded by Benito Mussolini in Italy who propagated unity and socialism. Fascism fought for the rights of the nation, and Benito customized it into a cult to fight communism. It was associated with Hitler as it took control of the economy and advanced Benito’s belief of having a self reliant nation.
FDR’s endeavor to get America involved in some active way against the threat of European fascism was in 1933 through the National Industry Recovery Act (NRA) (Thomsett, 2007). The ideas contained in the act were believed to be from Gerard Swope which was later ratified by the US Chamber of Commerce.
Strategic plan of the allies to defeat Hitler
The strategy was laid down by several leaders and military heads. According to the strategy, US together with the Allies purposed to defeat Hitler before attacking Japan. They knew that the collapse of Germany was to be a blow to Japan and they would have easier time defeating it (Thomsett, 2007).
As a result of the Cold War, Europe was divided variedly. West Germany was ruled by USSR while allied powers controlled the Eastern part of Germany. Europe remained divided throughout Cold War period up to the late 80’s when Mikhail Gorbachev transformed the system allowing Eastern Europe to be free from Soviet power (Divine et al., 2011).
Containment was a US policy during the rule of President Harry Truman to use diplomatic, military and economic approach to end the spread of communism. President Truman ensured this by resisting communism in China and Korea, cutting diplomatic relations with Russia and preparing America for war in promoting peace.
Effects of the Cold War
The Cold War had far reaching effects in Asia. They included a significant rise in nationalism, revolt against Iran leader, and a strained relationship between the US and the Middle East. In America, the war strengthened the connection of the country with the foreign enemy which resulted into the “Red Scare” (Divine et al., 2011). Politicians distanced themselves from communism with victims facing trials conducted by the House Committee on Un-American Activities.
American Civil Rights movement 1945-168
There was a series of events which led to ratification of treaties, riots and deaths among others. The Civil Rights Committee was established in 1946 as the Supreme Court outlawed segregation on buses. Following this, discrimination in defense forces was banned in 1948 before segregation in schools was outlawed in 1954 by the Supreme Court.
The country witnessed the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955 as Martin Luther King took the leadership of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The Civil Rights Act was passed in 1957 as pressure mounted from Elijah Muhammad to have black states formed (Divine et al., 2011).
As these efforts progressed, Freedom Riders were arrested in 1961 as students rioted after James Meredith was admitted at Mississippi University. It was followed by the assassination of Medgar Evers in 1963 resulting into protests in Washington, Chicago and other cities.
The efforts of Dr. Martin Luther were acknowledged when he won Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 with another Civil Rights Act being passed. Malcolm X was assassinated in 1965, causing demonstrations which were led by Martin Luther. Inter-racial marriages were allowed in 1967, the same year when Thurgood Marshall became the first black to join the Supreme Court. This period ended by the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther in 1968 (Divine et al., 2011).
It is evident that the United States’ history is encompassed with a plethora of events ranging from Trench Warfare to the Civil Rights Movement. These events were led by individuals who fought for a better nation that respected the rule of law, democracy and equality.
Divine et al. (2011). America Past and Present, Volume II: Since 1865. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
Ross, S. (2008). The Industrial Revolution. London, UK: Evans Brothers.
Streissguth, T. (2007). The roaring twenties. New York, NY: Infobase Publishing.
Thomsett, M. (2007). The German Opposition to Hitler: The Resistance, the Underground, and Assassination Plots, 1938-1945. New York, NY: McFarland.