Is the USA a superpower today because of WW2?

Is the USA a superpower today because of WW2?

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I understand that the USA funded the war effort against the Axis, although the Allies in Europe had to pay for this help in one way or another.

It's fascinating to see how not that long ago (roughly 70 years) events unfolded to leave us in the state the world is in now.

In 1941, Life magazine editor Henry Luce predicted that the 20th century would be the "American" century, at a time when World War II was in progress, and America was profiting from the resulting trade (and as we now know, was about to join it). Was it World War II, or some other event(s) that caused the rise of the USA to being a superpower today?

Superpower is defined as a very powerful and influential nation.

The question I might have asked is, "Is the U.S. a Superpower today because of World War ONE?" And that's the question I'll answer.

In 1914, the U.S. probably was not the strongest country in the world (perhaps third or fourth, no weaker than fifth). By 1918, the U.S. was the strongest country in the world, with Germany, Britain, France, and Russia having knocked themselves out of contention. The U.S. fought in the war, but entered when it was about two thirds over, meaning that it was spared most of the damage. The only comparable event in U.S. history was "1991," with a victory in the Persian Gulf War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the rival superpower.

During the 1920s, the U.S. controlled something like 50 percent of the world's gold reserves, a result of the trade and money flows to the U.S. during and after World War I.

It's true that the U.S. emerged from World War II with something like 50 percent of the world's industrial capacity, versus 40 percent before World War II, according to Paul Kennedy in "Imperial Overstretch." But the stage had been set during and after World War I.

It's hard to not include possibly biased views or controversial arguments when answering such a question. But considering the vague nature of the question, there will be no definite answer anyhow. Apart from the fact that one can not give a strict definition of the term "superpower", there is no single chain of causalities between a global event like WWII and a particular development in the subsequent years that lead to the state of the world as we know it.

Thus, I'd only like to point out certain events of WWII that - as far as I can judge this - directly contributed to the role of the US as a military superpower:

  • Operation Alsos contributed to the Manhattan project, eventually leading to the end of WWII
  • Operation Paperclip brought the scientists into the US who can probably be considered as being the driving force for winning the Space Race against the Soviet Union
  • Progresses in the development of Stealth Aircraft technology may at least partially be considered as results of capturing the Horton Fighter Bomber

Of course, the above mentioned points do not take into account other ((socio-)economical, geographical and general political) aspects that have been mentioned in other answers. But still, these points should be considered retrospectively.

However, the border may be "blurred". In this sense, one could say that winning WWII was what made the US a superpower. And regardless of that, saying that anyone "profited" from WWII leaves an uncanny feeling…

No, I think that the USA would have been a very powerful nation if the war had not happened because the factors that caused America being a superpower would have existed whether or not the war did. These factors could be its large population and landmass (US's landmass is far larger than Britain's, France's and Germany's combined). In addition, it was industrializing with this large landmass and population (unlike China which had both population and landmass but no industrialization).

You could also consider some more controversial factors such as a large intelligent Jewish population, slavery and cheap immigrant labour to produce cheaper goods and food, a less class-based economy for more efficiency and patriotic spirit that might cause Americans to work longer hours). However, some may disagree if these are factors. There are also many other factors that could be considered, which would still exist if world war two had never happened.

The USA would have these factors irrelevant of the war so would be a superpower irrelevant of the war. However, WW2 definitely helped them achieve their 'superpowership' faster by allowing them to sell weapons and profit from the war.

However, if you define a superpower as the most powerful nation (power as in military and economy and influence), then maybe Russia would have become more powerful nation than the US if WW2 did not happen, so the US would not be a superpower as it was not a powerful nation.

I think the USA would definitely still be a powerful nation if WW2 had not happened.

WW2 was clearly a factor in putting the USA in the position of superpower.

Military superpower: In 1939, the USA had a weaker, in number, army than Romania. They had a powerful fleet , however, and aviation was OK: reliable airplanes, with useful performances. In 1945, they are first in aviation, navy, and second in land army after the Soviet Union.

Economic and industrial: In the meantime, a powerful industry has been put to its maximal production rate, putting many women to work. Thus, the US enhanced their workforce. Economical power is vastly supported by the financial edge, with gold reserves. They managed well this power when they achieve to put into service the Bretton Wood system.

Political power: Multiple and reliable allies in Europe, even if they had some trouble with France. Communist parties failed to be an efficient counterpower in most european countries. Strong alliances in South America. Good partners in the Middle East, from Saudi Arabia to Israel a few decades later.

Cultural power: From Captain America to movies.

Food power: Important thing. The Marshall plan was for a great part about feeding the Europeans, and America achieves to do that. They sold a lot of food, seeds and fertilizer.

However all this power was a little hampered by the vigorous fights in Asia: China, Korea and later Vietnam. USA lost there a lot of bases, and a lot of cultural power fled to non governemental forces (like the hippie movement), thus levering down the American edge in the cultural influence.

The Soviet-American Arms Race

John Swift examines a vital element of the Cold War and assesses the motives of the Superpowers.

The destruction of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by American atomic weapons in August 1945 began an arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union. This lasted until the signing of the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty of November 1990. An entire generation grew up under the shadow of imminent catastrophe. There were widespread fears that humanity could not survive. A single reckless leader, or even a mistake or misunderstanding, could initiate the extinction of mankind. Stockpiles of fearsome weapons were built up to levels far beyond any conceivable purpose, and only seemed to add to the uncertainty and instability of the age. Did Cold War leaders act irrationally through fear and distrust? Or was there a degree of rationality and reason behind the colossal arms build-up?

A New Superweapon?

The rapid surrender of Japan in 1945 certainly suggested that the United States possessed the most decisive of weapons. Indeed there is reason to suspect that the real purpose in using them was less to force a Japanese defeat than to warn the Soviet Union to be amenable to American wishes in the construction of the postwar world. As an aid to American diplomacy, however, the possession of atomic weapons proved of little value. The Soviet leadership quickly realised their limitations. The Americans, it was clear, would use them in defence of Western Europe in the face of a Soviet invasion – a step Joseph Stalin never seems to have seriously contemplated – but no American government could justify their use in order to force political reforms on Eastern Europe. Arguably Right: The test explosion of an American nuclear bomb in the Marshall Islands. John Swift examines a vital element of the Cold War and assesses the motives of the Superpowers. Soviet leaders became even more intransigent in negotiations, determined to show they would not be intimidated. Also, it was certain that the Soviet Union would develop atomic weapons of their own, and as rapidly as possible. This, the Americans assumed, would take between eight and 15 years, given the wartime devastation the Soviet Union had suffered.

This left the Americans to ponder the problems of security in an atomicallyarmed world. A single weapon could destroy a city. Also wartime experience had shown that there had been no defence against German V2 rockets. If, therefore, a warhead could be mounted on such a rocket, it would surely provide instant victory. Additionally, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor had taught that the surprise attack was the tool of aggressors. Peace-loving democracies would be terribly vulnerable. In consequence, some thought was given to international controls, under the auspices of the United Nations, to prevent any nation possessing these weapons. This was the basis of the Baruch Plan.

In 1946 American financier, and presidential adviser, Bernard Baruch proposed the dismantling of American weapons, international prohibition on the production of any more, and international co-operation in developing atomic energy for peaceful use under the strict supervision of an international body. But the Soviet Union would have to submit to that inspection regime, and the United States would not share its weapons technology. It is unclear how seriously president Harry S. Truman and his administration took these proposals. They sounded pious, and when the Soviet Union rejected them, which they did, the Americans scored considerable propaganda points – which may have been the whole point of the exercise.

Without international controls, the only defence seemed to be to threaten retaliation in kind if an atomic attack was ever made on the United States or its allies. As it proved extremely difficult to develop long-range missiles that were sufficiently reliable and accurate, initially that deterrence was provided by B36 bombers stationed in Britain and the Far East. But the Soviet Union tested its first atomic weapon in 1949, far earlier than had been expected. The shock of this made American stockpiles of nuclear bombs seem unconvincing. Truman, therefore, authorised the development of thermonuclear weapons, or hydrogen bombs. These yielded explosions of ten megatons (equivalent to 10,000,000 tons of TNT, whereas the bomb used on Hiroshima yielded the equivalent of 12,500 tons). But by 1953, the Soviet Union had caught up again. Meanwhile the United States began building its first effective long-range missile force. These included the Atlas and Titan ICBMs (Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles), the Jupiter and Thor IRBMs (Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles) and the Polaris SLBM (Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile). The Americans maintained a technological lead over the Soviet Union, but this did not always appear to be the case. In October 1957 the Soviets launched Sputnik 1, the world’s first artificial satellite. This shocked the American public, who were unused to the thought of being within range of Soviet weapons, which they now seemed to be.

The Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, made much of his nation’s technological prowess. In fact the technological lead and the strategic balance remained very much in America’s favour – but that did not prevent the American public believing in the existence of a ‘missile gap’ in favour of the Soviet Union. This in turn led John F. Kennedy, when he became president in 1961, to expand American missile forces much further. Kennedy’s presidency also saw the world stand on the brink of nuclear war during the Cuba Missile Crisis of October 1962. In its wake his Defence Secretary, Robert McNamara, moved to the strategy of MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction). This was intended to provide a degree of stability by accepting the complete destruction of both sides in an atomic exchange. Nothing could be done to prevent a devastating nuclear attack but the retaliation would still be launched, and both sides would suffer equally. This idea of mutual deterrence did have some advantages. If ICBMs were dispersed to hardened silos, and the SLBM fleet sufficiently undetectable, then enough would survive to retaliate. A surprise attack would benefit nobody. Also it would render it unnecessary to keep building ever more missiles, just to retain a degree of parity. It would thus surely make some form of negotiated limits on missile numbers possible.

Criticism of Mutual Deterrence

There were aspects of MAD that many found objectionable. Future president Ronald Reagan felt it was defeatist, and held that the United States should be defended, whereas proponents of MAD insisted it could only work if deterrence was mutual and both sides remained equally vulnerable. Peace campaigners had other concerns. MAD seemed to offer only a perpetual threat of war. They feared that in such circumstances, war could not be avoided permanently. Despite the best intentions of political leaders, a mistake or an accident must at some point push the world over the edge. Also there were arguments that deterrence did not keep the peace, but caused war. Deterrence required not only ability (the possession of the weapons), it also needed the perception of resolve (the other side must believe in the willingness to actually launch the missiles if necessary). This in turn required both sides to show resolve. The best way to show willingness to launch death and destruction on a world scale, was to launch it on a smaller scale. Thus many of the wars of the Cold War, it was argued, such as Vietnam and Afghanistan, were caused, at least in part, by the deterrence strategy.

Peace campaigners were also among those who addressed the question of how much deterrence was needed. During the Cuba Missile Crisis, Kennedy had the option of launching air-strikes to destroy the missiles in Cuba. But when he learned that a handful of them were likely to survive, he rejected that option for fear they might be launched. A little deterrence obviously can go a long way. Yet by the mid 1970s peace research groups, such as the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, were variously reporting that enough atomic weaponry had been stockpiled to exterminate humanity 690 times. At the same time, work on chemical and biological warfare (CBW) was making rapid progress. Diseases such as anthrax and glanders, which could kill virtually everyone who contracted them, could easily be spread. Other biological agents could target livestock or crops to cause famine. The risks of an epidemic destroying its originators merely added to the inherent horrors of such weapons.

Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT)

That some form of agreement over missile numbers would have to be found was obvious. The greater the stockpiles of weapons, the more horrifying the potential consequences of escalating confrontations became. Even the development of small-yield, tactical, or battlefield nuclear weapons did little to suggest that even a limited nuclear engagement would be less than catastrophic. In the 1950s the United States Army undertook military exercises, such as operations Sage Brush and Carte Blanche, to see if such weapons could be used to defend West Germany from Soviet invasion. The conclusion reached was that they might – but only after West Germany had virtually ceased to exist. As early as the mid 1950s it was generally accepted that in a nuclear war the concept of a victory was ludicrous. There developed a widespread pessimism that in a post-nuclear war world, suffering destruction, chaos, nuclear fallout, famine and disease, the survivors would envy the dead.

Some steps to ease tensions had been taken. Badly shaken by their nearness to disaster during the Cuba Missile Crisis, Kennedy and Khrushchev had installed a hotline (in reality a teletype line connecting the Whitehouse and the Kremlin, so that both leaders could act quickly to diffuse crises). They also agreed on a Partial Test Ban Treaty, moving test detonations of nuclear weapons underground, which did something to reduce atmospheric radioactive contamination from such tests. Furthermore they agreed not to station nuclear missiles in space or on the seabed, which neither had the technology to do anyway. Also, to prevent those countries that did not already possess nuclear weapons gaining them, in 1968 the Non Proliferation Treaty was signed. By this, nations who either lacked the technology or the desire to own them, agreed not to build nuclear weapons and to allow international inspection of their nuclear facilities – providing, that is, that the nuclear powers undertook to completely disarm at the earliest opportunity. Other nations who had (or hoped to gain) the technology, and had the will, such as North Korea, Israel, Pakistan and India, either refused to sign or subsequently withdrew from it. All soon gained nuclear weapons that threatened to begin regional arms races.

But a solid agreement between the two main Cold War protagonists limiting the stockpiles of nuclear weapons proved very difficult to find. President Eisenhower, in 1955, had urged an agreement on ‘open skies’. By this, both sides would be free to over-fly each other’s military bases. This would allow the verification that both were adhering to a future arms control agreement. The Soviets promptly rejected the idea. They did not possess the aircraft to over-fly US bases, and saw it as an American attempt to legitimise spying. To the Americans, strict verification of Soviet compliance remained fundamental to any agreement. Herein lay a basic problem. Both sides were convinced of their own moral superiority. It was the other side who could not be trusted, and they reacted with astonished outrage when their own good intentions were questioned.

But simply building ever more weapons was futile, costly and dangerous. By 2000 it is thought that there had been over 30 ‘broken arrows’, or accidents involving nuclear weapons, and perhaps six warheads had been lost at sea and never recovered. Also during the 1960s a new technological development arose that threatened whatever stability MAD offered. This came from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) system. This defensive system was designed to intercept and destroy ICBMs in flight. Despite being in its infancy and having very limited reliability, it might tempt a reckless leader to gamble on surviving retaliation and launch a surprise attack. Deterrence would only work if it was mutual, and if both sides were sure the other could not survive a nuclear exchange. Yet ABM would require sophisticated radar systems and its missiles would have to be deployed in huge numbers to defend a nation, and it promised to be impossibly expensive. It would also result in a new surge in constructing missiles in order to have the ability to swamp the enemy ABM system. By 1967 therefore US president Lyndon Johnson and Soviet premier Alexey Kosygin were ready to open negotiations.

The American position was that both sides should agree to abandon ABM systems, so that both would remain defenceless and deterrence would continue to be mutual. This was not easy for the Soviet negotiators to accept. They felt they had a duty to defend their citizens, and that defensive weapons were moral, while offensive weapons were immoral. It took five years to negotiate the first Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT I). The United States and the Soviet Union agreed to limit themselves to two ABM sites each, when there was only one, around Moscow, in existence. This was subsequently reduced to one each, and the Soviets chose to defend Moscow, while the Americans defended an ICBM site. It was further agreed there would be no new land-based ICBMs beyond agreed numbers and no new missile submarines beyond those under construction.

Superficially this might have seemed a considerable step forward, but the agreement was reached as newer technology was being deployed. With the introduction of Multiple Independentlytargeted Re-entry Vehicles (MIRV), a single missile could carry several warheads and attack several separate targets – up to 12 in the case of some American missiles. There was no limit on modernising or replacing existing missiles to carry MIRV (and later MARV, or Manoeuvrable Re-entry Vehicle, which could change target in flight.) In fact SALT I allowed for a major expansion of nuclear weapons, and the signing of SALT II in 1979, which was ultimately to lead to a limit of 2,250 delivery systems (missiles, aircraft and submarines), did little to alter this. Even then the US Congress refused to ratify the latter Treaty, arguing that the Soviet Union had gained too much advantage in the agreement. Both sides, however, indicated they would adhere to the terms, as long as the other did. Even then, the development of cruise missile technology, which produced cheap, easily transportable and concealable weapons, opened new problems for verification measures.

Excesses of the Nuclear Arms Build-Up

The question addressed by peace campaigners, of how much deterrence was needed, was addressed by government and military institutions on both sides. An American study considered how many 100 megaton thermonuclear weapons would be needed to utterly destroy the Soviet Union. It found that after 400 or so detonations there would be nothing left worth attacking. Further detonations would be ‘making the rubble bounce’, or targeting isolated shepherds. Unquestionably the Soviets performed a similar study and reached a very similar conclusion. Of course the situation was a little more complicated. Some missiles would be destroyed in a surprise attack. Others would be intercepted or simply miss their targets. Others would fail to launch or be undergoing routine servicing. A degree of redundancy was needed, say four-fold. By this logic, neither side needed to go beyond the expense and inherent risks of producing more than 1600 warheads. But by 1985 the United States could deliver nearly 20,000 and the Soviet Union well over 11,000. Why did such an irrational state of affairs come about?

From the 1970s there was a considerable amount of research studying this question, and a number of factors have been suggested that might explain this degree of overkill. One is the competition between and within the armed services of a state. Any major arms programme carries with it prestige and resources and also secures careers for the service responsible for it. With nuclear weapons obviously intended as the mainstay of American defence strategy for decades, if not generations to come, all services campaigned to win a role in their deployment. Thus the United States Navy insisted on the superiority of the SLBM to prevent the United States Air Force gaining a monopoly over missile deployment. The United States Army, for its part, clamoured for battlefield nuclear weapons so as not to be excluded. Also within the army, for example, different sections demanded either nuclear artillery shells or ground launched cruise missiles.

All services lobbied government for a larger slice of the pie. But this does not necessarily explain why the size of the pie kept growing. Governments were not obliged to concede every demand made upon them by their own military. A similar argument can be used when addressing the issue of bureaucratic politics, where a similar process of competition for the resources, prestige and careers made available by the arms race existed between government agencies and departments.

Another possible factor explaining the nuclear build-up lies within the nature of the political and social systems involved. The fears and uncertainties of a nation can be exploited. Governments, it has been suggested, used the arms race to fuel fears of a foreign threat to enhance patriotism, national unity and their own authority. The arms race could be seen as a cynical exercise in social control. Both Soviet and American observers often accused their Cold War opponents of such squalid motives. But it remains a conspiracy theory based on intuition rather than fact, and should be treated with considerable caution.

A similar degree of caution should be used when ascribing the arms race to the military-industrial complex. This assumes that the arms manufacturers have a common interest in fostering a climate of fear to increase sales to the military. They are assumed to foster moral panics of the kind that followed the launch of Sputnik, so that the public will clamour for military expansion.

In the United States most major weapons systems are produced by about eight large corporations. Between them they represent a huge investment in productive capacity and expertise. They are seen as vital and irreplaceable national assets, and cannot be allowed to go bankrupt. If in trouble, the US government will always be tempted to bail them out with hefty orders. Also, within research laboratories, the development of new weapons had become the norm, and the arms race had developed a measure of organisational momentum. They represent great investments that make it difficult to justify halting. But how does this work in the Soviet Union, where the profitability of arms manufacturers was no great issue?

Electoral politics can, perhaps, supply another explanation. The claim that the nation was in danger, and that the incumbent administration was imperilling the United States by allowing a ‘missile gap’ to develop was certainly used to great effect by Kennedy in the 1960 presidential elections. It was a simple message, easily grasped by the electorate, accompanied by a simple solution – spend more money on defence. Once in office Kennedy found there was no ‘missile gap’, but expanded America’s missile forces in part, at least, to prevent a future opponent levelling similar accusations against him. At a lower level, congressmen of constituencies where warships, for instance, are constructed will constantly stress the Soviet naval threat. The more warships built, the more local jobs, and the more votes that might be won. This is perhaps a more convincing argument. But how could it be applied to the Soviet Union? As an explanation it is at best only partial.

Also, it is simply logical to respond to the actions of a potential enemy to negate any possible advantage they might gain. Thus if deterrence was to be the strategy, then the risk posed by ABM needed to be countered by MIRV and then MARV, to swamp or outfox it. Furthermore there was always the tantalizing possibility that research might find the ultimate weapon, or the impenetrable defence. As the arms race progressed the chances of this happening became increasingly unlikely. But could a state take the risk of ignoring the possibility? When in 1983 Reagan unveiled his Strategic Defence Initiative (SDI), which envisaged a network of orbiting lasers, particle beams and intercepting darts to destroy ICBMs in flight, it was widely treated with derision in the United States, where the press jeeringly referred to it as ‘Star Wars’, after the science fiction film. But could the Soviet Union afford to assume it would never work and ignore it? It certainly caused Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev considerable anxiety.

Added to this was the simple fact that, in the arms race, the United States had the much stronger economy. Part of the logic of proceeding with SDI was that, eventually, the arms race would cripple the Soviet economy. This is in fact what was happening. By the 1980s the strain of keeping abreast in the arms race was causing unsustainable strains on the Soviet Union, paving the way for a complete re-alignment of East-West relations.

A final, perhaps even more attractive, point comes if the arms race is viewed as a measure of political will. The fact that it existed was not necessarily a sign that war must come, but simply proof that both sides were competing. It might even be seen as a relatively low risk form of competition. Competing by building weapons is, after all, a much better than competing by using them. But it must be said, even from such a perspective, had some error or mishandled crisis ever led these weapons to be used, the consequences for the world would have been too terrible to contemplate. Arguably by confining their competition to the sports field, or not competing at all, both sides would have served humanity far better.

1944: The Dollar Is Declared the Global Currency

After World War II, the world's developed countries met in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, to create a more stable monetary system. In the Bretton Woods agreement, they promised to tie the value of their currencies to the U.S. dollar. The United States agreed to redeem any dollar for its value in gold.

Why dollars? The United States held three-fourths of the world's supply of gold.   No other country had enough gold to back their currency's value. Bretton Woods allowed the world to transition from a gold standard to a U.S. dollar standard.

The Bretton Woods Agreement established the U.S. dollar as the most powerful currency in the world economy.

Bretton Woods allowed the dollar to become a substitute for gold. As a result, the value of the dollar began to increase relative to other currencies.

This is How the Space Race Changed the Great Power Rivalry Forever

The zeal the United States and USSR had to outperform one another in the Space Race was beneficial to scientific progress.

The Space Race between the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics post World War II was a tipping point in the history of mankind. This superpower race intensified the Cold War rivalry because for the first time mankind was looking to compete in the arena of space. Dominance over space and the race to outdo one another became a matter of pride for both the United States and USSR.

The competition to conquer space was so huge that a new benchmark was set by one of the two superpowers almost every year throughout 1950s and 1960s. There were many “firsts” during the Space Race. The first intercontinental ballistic missile in 1957, the first artificial satellite (Sputnik 1) in 1957, the first dog in orbit (sent by Sputnik 2) in 1957, the first solar-powered satellite, the first communication satellite, etc.

The Space Race didn’t just leave an impact on the area of space research, it left a wider impact in the field of technology. The technological superiority required for the dominance of space was deemed a necessity for national security, and it was symbolic of ideological superiority. The Space Race spawned pioneering efforts to launch artificial satellites. It prompted competitive countries to send unmanned space probes to the Moon, Venus and Mars. It also made possible human spaceflight in low Earth orbit and to the Moon.

The zeal the United States and USSR had to outperform one another proved quite beneficial to the progress of science. The work culture of the two superpowers was poles apart yet both were trying to be better than the other in order to become the best in the world. While the USSR had a highly centralized setup that had an impact on the source of investments in their space program, the United States, on the other hand, got private players to to invest in their space program. NASA, the premiere space research agency, was also built in 1958 during the Space Race to counter the early success in USSR in outer space.

The Space Race started with the USSR launching Sputnik 1 in 1957, which created a furor worldwide. The governments and masses were excited to see mankind taking another leap towards progress. When the human race ventured into space, it was a “paradigm shift” moment. Neil Armstrong landing on Moon is still regarded as one of the breakpoints in history and his words, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for the mankind,” are now one of the most quoted phrases in literature.

In a May 1961 speech to Congress, President John F. Kennedy presented his views on the Space Race when he said, “These are extraordinary times and we face an extraordinary challenge. Our strength as well as our convictions has imposed upon this nation the role of leader in freedom’s cause.”

“If we are to win the battle that is now going on around the world between freedom and tyranny, the dramatic achievements in space which occurred in recent weeks should have made clear to us all, as did the Sputnik in 1957, the impact of this adventure on the minds of men everywhere, who are attempting to make a determination of which road they should take. . . . Now it is time to take longer strides—time for a great new American enterprise—time for this nation to take a clearly leading role in space achievement, which in many ways may hold the key to our future on Earth,” he added.

The space programs of both the superpowers were not just for civilian purposes it was as much about the military-space program. Through this, the idea was to fight the battle with the rival by displaying power without actually having to fight an actual war. At that point, the United Nations had to step in to ensure that outer space didn’t become a battleground for the superpowers.

That is when the Outer Space Treaty came into picture. The Outer Space Treaty represents the basic legal framework of international-space law. Formally known as Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, the treaty bars states party to the treaty from placing weapons of mass destruction in orbit of Earth, installing them on the Moon or any other celestial body, or otherwise stationing them in outer space.

It exclusively limits the use of the Moon and other celestial bodies to peaceful purposes and expressly prohibits their use for testing weapons of any kind, conducting military maneuvers, or establishing military bases, installations and fortifications. Soviets were reluctant to sign this treaty because, in their opinion, the treaty would restrict their dominance over the United States in the Space Race. They later signed the treaty in 1967 when it was opened for signatures. To date, more than one hundred nations have become signatories to the treaty.

The Space Race didn’t have an end date and in many ways the race still continues. But the “space rivalry” ended between the United States and USSR in 1975, when the first multinational human-crewed mission went to space under the Apollo-Soyuz joint-test mission. In that mission, three U.S. astronauts and two Soviet cosmonauts became the part of first joint U.S.-Soviet space flight.

The Space Race left a legacy in the field of space research worldwide. As the pioneers of space missions, both the United States and USSR helped their allies build their space missions through the training of scientists and engineers, the transferring of technology, and by allowing other researchers to visit their space laboratories. That way, both superpowers could learn and improve their knowledge and skills related to space research.

The Indian space mission was in its very nascent stage when the Space Race was at its peak. The Indian space program owes its development and expansion to the aid and assistance of both the United States and the USSR because Indian space scientists and engineers were sent to train in both those countries. As a nonaligned country, India maintained a delicate balance between keeping good relations with both the superpowers, especially in the arena of space cooperation. As a result, the Indian Space Research Organisation went on to become one of the best space research institutions in the world.

In conclusion, the Space Race is one of the most iconic moments in the history of mankind. It is quite difficult to assess its full impact in the area of space research and technology. One thing is for sure though—if there had been no Space Race, then surely the world of space research and space missions would be quite different from what it is today.

Martand Jha is a junior research fellow at Jawaharlal Nehru University’s School of International Studies Center for Russian and Central Asian Studies in New Delhi, India.

Money and Power: America and Europe in the 20th Century

Money makes the world go around: Kathleen Burk looks at how the Yankee dollar transferred influence from the Old World to the New.

The international power of the United States in the twentieth century has been grounded in its economic strength. In 1900, even before the US had much of an army, it was perceived as a power and a future great power. By 1920 it was the supreme financial power in the world, having displaced Great Britain during the First World War. By 1945 it was virtually the only financial power, most others having been devastated by the Second World War. By 1985 it had lost its position as supreme financial power, with Japan succeeding to the crown. It had been a short but action-packed reign.

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7 Dismantling Of Labor Unions

Key to fascist ideology is state ownership not just of resources but of labor. That being the case, privatized labor unions, which negotiate terms on behalf of workers and prevent abuses by employers, aren&rsquot compatible in any way with a fascist government. After the Italian parliament elections in 1924, in which Benito Mussolini solidified his power, one of his first acts&mdashafter declaring other political parties illegal&mdashwas to outlaw labor unions and strikes. It was Mussolini who said, &ldquoFascism should rightly be called corporatism, as it is the merger of corporate and government power.&rdquo

Labor unions have historically been a rich source of funding for political candidates, and endorsements from important unions could help secure elections, but in recent decades, there has been a dramatic shift in this dynamic. Strong anti-union platforms&mdashparticularly within the Republican party&mdashhave gotten several high-profile conservative politicians, such as Wisconsin governor Scott Walker and Michigan governor Rick Snyder, reelected in recent years in states with a traditionally strong labor presence.

This is due at least in part to a long-standing and ongoing effort on the part of the US political right to undermine, discredit, and disperse labor unions, and it has achieved a sort of snowballing effect: As unions become less visible, fewer Americans see them as essential, which further precipitates their decline. In the mid-1950s, union representation among wage and salaried worker in the US was around 35 percent. Today, it is less than eight percent.

4. Historical Territories of the U.S.

The first significant territorial expansion took place after the Spanish-American War of 1898, where the United States complemented its already held possession with new lands in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Guam, and the Philippines. The historical territories which are considered to be part of the United States and still have not gained independence, include:

  • Midway Islands, which was incorporated in 1867
  • Puerto Rico, 1898 , 1899 Charlotte Amalie, 1927 , 1947
  • Guam, 1950

Another unique case is seen in the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and Palau. These territories gained independence, but remain in free association with the United States.

Iran and the United States in the Cold War

As the latest wave of revolutionary uncertainty sweeps across the Middle East, Iran remains one of the region’s biggest question marks. The Islamic regime that temporarily crushed the Green Movement after Iran’s controversial presidential elections of 2009 still faces serious internal challenges to its power, with no clear indication of how events will play out.

Few outside countries have more at stake in the evolution of Iran’s political situation than the United States, which has been in a state of open enmity with the Islamic Republic for more than three decades. Threats of Iran-backed terrorism, Tehran’s apparent nuclear ambitions, and its evident aim of destabilizing American allies—chiefly Israel—are perpetually high on the list of US concerns in the region. Why is Iran so important to the US? What explains the enduring animosity between the two countries? Answers to these and other questions about the United States’ position in the region today can be found by looking back to the Cold War.

Outside interest in Iran actually extends much further back in time than the Cold War. For centuries, Persia, as the country was once known, attracted the attention of rival great powers from the ancient Greeks to the Mongols, and from the Arabs to the Ottomans. In the latter nineteenth century, Russia and Britain struggled for influence. Situated at the head of the Persian Gulf, the country’s location offered year-round access to warm waters for Russia’s navy, which was generally hemmed in by icy northern seas during the winter months. For the British, Persia served as both a gateway and a defensive buffer for prized holdings and resources in India and the Orient. Iran became an even greater asset early in the twentieth century when the British, thanks ultimately to a decision by First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill, switched from the use of coal to petroleum to fuel their navy.

Both of these circumstances—Iran’s location between the USSR and the Persian Gulf, and the presence of major oil reserves—guaranteed the country’s importance during the Cold War. In addition, a third factor came into play: the emergence, even before the end of World War II, of the global military and ideological competition between the United States and the Soviet Union. Fear of losing influence in a vital part of the world to Soviet-led Communism motivated much of American foreign policy for the next several decades. American sentiment about competition and democracy was spelled out, sometimes in almost Biblical terms, in conceptual documents like NSC-68 and in numerous policy papers over the years.

In two key incidents in Iran from the post-war period these precepts were plainly evident, and produced consequences for the United States that were in some ways utterly unanticipated. At other moments later in the Cold War, described further below, Washington’s fixation on the Soviet threat left it unprepared to deal with crises of local origin that were equally significant for America’s standing in the region.

The first of these earlier episodes unfolded at the end of the Second World War when the USSR threatened to abrogate its agreement with Britain and Iran to remove its large troop presence from Iran’s northern province of Azerbaijan within six months of the cessation of hostilities. Anxious to gain an oil concession that would balance Britain’s privileged access in the south of the country, as well as to create a buffer zone in a vulnerable border region, Joseph Stalin planned to solidify Soviet influence in the southern Caucasus region—perhaps even to annex part of Azerbaijan province, according to Soviet archival records—but met surprising resistance from President Harry Truman, who gave a range of support to the young Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Stalin ultimately decided to withdraw from the country in late 1946. The actions of the United States were seen as a sign of genuine respect for the rights of sovereign states—highly unusual for a major power—and made a powerful impression on the Iranian people. To this day, the Azerbaijan crisis accounts for some of the positive views many still have of the United States.

Less than a decade later, however, a second major incident dramatically changed many Iranians’ opinion of the United States. In 1951, Iran’s recently elected prime minister, Mohammed Mosaddeq, nationalized the country’s petroleum industry, long the domain of the British-dominated Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC). The move pitted the two governments against each other in a bitter political fight, leaving the United States once again to play the intermediary. But while the Truman administration had tried to work with both sides, President Dwight Eisenhower and his advisers quickly concluded that Mosaddeq represented the problem rather than the solution to the crisis. Based strictly on Cold War calculations, Eisenhower authorized a preemptive covert operation to oust Mosaddeq before Moscow might have an opportunity to do so. The coup in August 1953 was carried out at US and British instigation but relied on a variety of Iranian groups and individuals for its eventual success.

The overthrow achieved the immediate objective of restoring to the throne the Shah, who had fled the country during the turmoil, and replacing Mosaddeq with a more amenable figure. For the next twenty-five years, Mohammad Reza Shah remained in power and made significant contributions to the interests of his superpower patron. But even though the coup had had the support of significant segments of Iranian society at the time, it came to be seen by many Iranians as a sea change in American conduct—from munificent protector of smaller countries to archetypal great power pursuing its own interests regardless of the wishes of local populations. This view of the United States gained currency inside Iran over the course of the Shah’s reign as he proceeded to exercise more and more arbitrary and dictatorial power at the expense of his subjects with little visible effort at restraint from Washington. In fact, Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson did press the Shah repeatedly to enact reforms, but that strategy effectively ended with the assertion of the Nixon Doctrine in 1969. Reflecting the heavy strain on American military resources caused by the Vietnam War, the new doctrine relied on regional powers to act as the first line of defense against potential Soviet expansionism. For the next several years, the Shah not only gained access to sophisticated American weaponry he had long coveted, but also obtained tacit White House permission to forgo any serious effort at reform.

By the 1970s, conditions inside Iran that were purely local in origin—with no connection to the Cold War—had begun to emerge that the United States was ill-equipped to address. Internal resentment against the Shah’s political and economic policies was building to a peak (and extending to his US sponsors), but the depth of the problem escaped the notice of American decision-makers. Led by Ayatollah Khomeini, a fierce public critic of Iran’s reliance on American backing who had been exiled for years for his views, Iran’s growing anti-Shah sentiments burst into open revolution in 1978–1979. After Khomeini’s triumphant return to Iran in early 1979 it was only a matter of months before the revolution gelled in the form of a theocratic state, not surprisingly characterized by significant anti-American overtones.

In the context of the Cold War, the revolution appeared to many Americans to signify the “loss” of Iran to Soviet influence, a loss that was magnified by the USSR’s invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979. In fact, Moscow was never able to gain a foothold in Iran because of the Islamic Republic’s deep suspicion of Russia’s history of aggressive behavior and the religious leadership’s antipathy for official Soviet atheism. This did not necessarily bode well for Washington, however. Instead, it was a sign of the rise of another factor in international politics that would have implications beyond the Cold War: Moslem fundamentalism, which not only incorporated the concept of national sovereignty (captured in the phrase “neither East nor West”) but was animated at its core by the ambition of creating a theocratic state and spreading Islam across the region.

Hand in hand with the revolution came another event with momentous implications for US-Iran relations: the storming of the US embassy in Tehran and the seizure of American hostages in November 1979. Iranian accounts indicate that the country’s leadership was initially unaware of the student-led plan to assault the embassy (which the students claimed was a response to years of perceived US antagonism dating back to the 1953 coup), but Khomeini was quick to embrace the move for domestic political reasons. While it helped to consolidate radical rule over the country, however, the takeover also created a political crisis for Iran, landing it in long-term diplomatic isolation, and engendering extraordinary enmity from Washington. The bitterness of the hostage crisis continues to poison official American attitudes toward the Islamic regime.

One other episode from this period was critical in forming the current antagonistic relationship between Iran and the United States. From 1980 through 1988, Iran and Iraq fought a horrific war initiated by Saddam Hussein’s opportunism but fueled by historical animosity, among other factors. In retrospect the record is clear that the United States sided with Baghdad (as the lesser of two evils), providing political, economic, and even military support for Saddam’s war effort, including tacit acquiescence to Iraq’s use of chemical weapons and missile attacks on Iran’s cities. Toward the end of the conflict, US forces directly engaged elements of Iran’s navy and Revolutionary Guards, and in July 1988 a US naval ship mistakenly shot down an Iranian civilian jetliner, killing all 290 on board. Ironically, these encounters helped lead to a cease-fire by persuading Iran’s leaders that America would stop at nothing to defeat them.

The Iran-Iraq War took place during the Cold War but it had virtually nothing to do with the East-West conflict it was a local dispute sparked by indigenous factors. Washington’s actions, however, did grow out of the American mindset of that era: a desire to protect the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf and a determination to block the Soviets from gaining influence in the region. Regardless of each side’s intentions, the war produced a number of enduring results. One was that the leaders of Iran’s revolution were able to link their cause to the survival of the nation itself. Another was the elevation of the status of the Revolutionary Guards, eventually rivaling even the power of the clerical leadership. (The country’s current combative president, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, was a member during the war.) Still another outcome, of direct relevance to US standing in the region, was the cementing of the perception among the country’s hardliners of Washington as an irreconcilable enemy of the Islamic Republic.

Although the Cold War ostensibly came to an end twenty years ago, the United States still confronts circumstances in Iran that emerged during that crucial period. Some are unchanged—the critical need for oil, for example. Other challenges have been altered or eliminated, but new ones take their place. The Communist threat has disappeared, for instance, but the menace of international terrorism has strengthened. Meanwhile, certain US strategic concepts rooted in the ideological thinking of the Cold War have been temporarily revived. George W. Bush’s national security doctrine reasserted Washington’s Cold War–era determination not to permit the emergence of another rival power (like the Soviets, or in an earlier era, the Nazis) to threaten American interests, and echoed Eisenhower’s concept, employed in Iran in 1953, of preempting a perceived threat. Although current US strategy no longer focuses on some of these ambitious concepts, their impact can be seen in the history of American involvement in the Middle East and continues to be felt across the region.

Malcolm Byrneis Deputy Director and Director of Research at the National Security Archive. His publications include The 1956 Hungarian Revolution: A History in Documents (National Security Archive Cold War Readers), The Iran-Contra Scandal (The New Press, 1993), and The Chronology: The Documented Day-by-day Account of the Secret Military Assistance to Iran and the Contras (Warner Books, 1987).

Is the USA a superpower today because of WW2? - History

United States Timeline

  • 5000 - Small tribal peoples develop across the United States.
  • 1000 - The Woodland period begins including the Adena culture and the Hopewell peoples.

Signing the Declaration of

George Washington Crossing the Delaware

Brief Overview of the History of United States

The area that is today the United States was inhabited for thousands of years by various tribal peoples. The first European to arrive in the area was Christopher Columbus and the first to make landfall was Ponce de Leon who landed at Florida. France laid claim to the interior of the United States, while Spain claimed what is now the Southwest.

The first English settlement was the Virginia Colony in the Jamestown in 1607. A few years later, in 1620, the Pilgrims arrived and founded Plymouth Colony. Eventually England would have 13 colonies in eastern North America. By the 1700s the American colonies were growing unhappy with what they called "taxation without representation". In 1776, the United States declared its independence from England. The American Revolutionary War for independence would follow and, with the help of France, the colonies defeated England.

In 1861, the United States experienced a civil war when the southern states tried to secede from the Union. They were defeated after a bloody war and the country remained together. The country continued to industrialize and in the 1900s became one of the world's industrial leaders.

In both World Wars the United States tried to remain neutral but ended up on the side of the United Kingdom and the Allies. In World War II, it was the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese that forced the US to enter the war. The US developed nuclear weapons and used 2 of them to bomb Japan, effectively ending the war and starting a cold war with the communist Soviet Union.

In the late 1900s the United States became one of the world's superpowers. The other superpower was the Soviet Union. Both countries had nuclear weapons. The two countries fought a Cold War for many years where battles were fought by spies, by a race for the most weapons, and in proxy wars like the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and Soviet-Afghanistan War.

What Were the Effects of World War 2?

Unparalleled Casualties

They say history repeats itself, which is what happened when Germany and its allies were trounced in the Second World War. If the effects of World War 1 were gruesome, those of World War 2 were a lot worse. Somewhere between 22 – 25 million soldiers and 38 – 55 million civilians lost their lives. Additionally, many more were left homeless. It is estimated that around 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust, the systemic state-sponsored genocide orchestrated by Adolf Hitler. Other than Jews, non-Jewish Poles and Slavs, Romanian gypsies, and even homosexuals were killed in large numbers in this genocide only because they were considered inferior.

Borders Were Redrawn

Several European and Asian countries had to bear the brunt of this war. The territorial borders of European countries were redrawn. The biggest beneficiary in terms of territorial expansion was the Soviet Union, which annexed parts of Finland, Poland, Japan, Germany, and some independent states to its territories. The worst affected nation was Germany, which was divided into four parts one each was held by France, United States, Soviet Union, and Great Britain. The initial plans put forth by the United States for Germany were very harsh. They were only relaxed after they realized that the revival of Europe was not possible without the revival of German industrial base.

United Nations

Post World War 2, the Allied Forces came together to form the United Nations―an organization formed to promote peace and security in the world. The newly formed organization outlawed wars of aggression to ensure that a third world war doesn’t happen. The Paris Peace Treaty was signed on February 10, 1947, allowing countries like Italy, Bulgaria, and Finland to resume as sovereign states in international affairs and become members of the United Nations. The Treaty also included provisions for the payment of war reparations and post-war territorial adjustments.

End of Dictatorship

On the flip side, World War 2 marked the end of dictatorship in Europe. While Mussolini was captured and shot dead on April 28, 1945, Hitler committed suicide on April 30, 1945. Emperor Hirohito was not prosecuted by the Allied Powers as General Douglas MacArthur, the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, thought that his cooperation was necessary for the administration of Japan. The Allied Forces held the Nuremberg trials wherein the top brass of Nazi Germany―except for Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, and Joseph Goebbels―were prosecuted.

Economic Effects

As for the economic effects of World War 2, it did have some positives, but they were by no means a match for the havoc this war created. The numerous jobs created during the war brought an end to the employment crisis during the Great Depression. While those industries that manufactured the products required during the war flourished, other industries suffered a major setback. The European economy was almost brought to a standstill during the Second World War. It took quite some time for the world to revive after the war came to an end on September 2, 1945 that though, was only after millions of people lost their lives.

New Rivalry

Most important of all, World War 2 put forth the United States and Soviet Union as the super powers of the world. If World War 1 laid the foundation for World War 2, the latter laid the foundation for the Cold War between the United States and Soviet Union which lasted for 44 years between 1947 and 1991.

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, the United States retaliated with full military force even going to the extent of using atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Had Japan not attacked Pearl Harbor, perhaps things would have had happened differently.

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