A New World
As Ronald Reagan's second
term drew to a close, the election campaign for his successor heated up. Vice
President George H.W. Bush swept through the 1988 primaries to win the
Republican presidential nomination. Bush chose Indiana senator Dan Quayle as his
running mate. Many Democrats vied for their party's nomination, but the field
quickly narrowed to two candidates - civil rights leader Jesse Jackson and
Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis. Dukakis, who ran the most effective
primary campaign, won the nomination and chose Senator Lloyd Bentsen of Texas as
his running mate.
On Election Day, Bush carried 40 states, giving him 426 electoral votes to 112 for Dukakis. However, Bush's victory did not extend to Congress. The Democrats retained control of the House and the Senate.
A Changing Soviet Union
With much experience in
foreign affairs, newly elected president George Bush was called upon to steer
the United States through a time of sweeping change facing the world. Many
important changes dealt with the Soviet Union.
In December 1988, Soviet
leader Mikhail Gorbachev stood before the United Nations to describe the "new
world order" to come. Gorbachev stressed that people throughout the world wanted
"independence, democracy, and social justice."
Gorbachev wanted to end
the arms race so he could focus on reforms within the Soviet Union. He sought to
continue the progress on arms control begun with President Reagan. In 1990
Gorbachev and President Bush agreed with European leaders to destroy tanks and
other conventional weapons positioned throughout Europe. In 1991, with the
Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), they achieved a breakthrough. For the
first time, two nuclear powers agreed to destroy existing nuclear weapons.
Unrest in the Soviet Union
Most Soviet citizens,
however, were more concerned about their own problems than about arms control.
For years they had endured shortages of food and basic items such as shoes and
soap because of government mismanagement and heavy defense spending. Gorbachev's
policies aimed to solve the economic problems, but changes came slowly. The
shortages continued, and people grew impatient with the conditions.
With Gorbachev's policy of
glasnost, Soviet citizens began to express their dissatisfaction openly.
Thousands of people marched through Moscow in February 1990, demanding an end to
Communist rule. Unrest and calls for democracy had also spread throughout the
Soviet Union. Many of the republics that made up the Soviet Union demanded
A Rising Tide of Freedom
While events were
unfolding in the Soviet Union, the people of Eastern Europe also grew restless.
Many people sensing change occurring in the Soviet Union under Gorbachev's
leadership felt freer to demand change in their countries as well.
The first democratic moves
outside of the Soviet Union occurred in Poland, where shipyard workers had won
the right to form an independent labor union called Solidarity in August 1980.
Lech Walesa, the leader of Solidarity, emerged as a symbol of resistance to
Communist rule. He led the Poles in calling for reforms. Although the government
cracked down on the democratic movement in the mid-1980s, the movement gained
strength and forced the government to hold open elections in June 1989.
The democratic cause
spread to neighboring countries. Across Eastern Europe demonstrators filled the
streets of major cities. As a result of a relaxation of Soviet control and
public pressure, long-sealed national borders were opened and Communist
governments toppled. In the last three months of 1989, the iron curtain that had
separated Eastern and Western Europe for more than 40 years began to crumble.
Throughout 1989 Gorbachev not only refused to intervene, but he encouraged
The Wall Comes Tumbling
Freedom also came to East
Germany - the focus of so much cold war tension. With protests raging and
thousands of citizens fleeing to West Germany, the Communist government opened
the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989.
Germans brought hammers
and chisels to chop away at the Berlin Wall, long the symbol of the barrier to
the West. In 1990 East Germany voted to reunite with West Germany.
Collapse of the Soviet
As Europe was changing,
Gorbachev faced mounting opposition from political rivals within the Soviet
Union. Some reformers demanded that he move more quickly. Hardline Communists
in the military and secret police resisted his changes and feared the collapse
of the Soviet empire.
In August 1991, the
hardliners struck back. A group of Communist officials and army generals staged
a coup, an overthrow of the government. They held Gorbachev captive and ordered
soldiers to seize the parliament building.
As the world waited
anxiously, about 50,000 Russians surrounded the parliament building to protect
it from the soldiers. Boris Yeltsin, president of the Russian Republic and a
reformer, stood on top of a tank and declared, "Democracy will win!" President
Bush telephoned Yeltsin to express America's support. On August 22 the coup
collapsed. Freed, Gorbachev returned to Moscow.
The defeat of the coup
turned the tide of democracy into a tidal wave. Soon all 15 republics had
declared their independence from the Soviet Union. Yeltsin outlawed the
Communist Party in Russia. On December 25, 1991, Gorbachev announced the end of
the Soviet Union and the Soviet flag that flew over the Kremlin was lowered for
the last time.
The End of the Cold War
President Bush responded
quickly to the new situation. In the spring of 1992, Bush and other world
leaders pledged $24 billion in assistance to the former Soviet republics.
President Bush declared:
"For over 40 years, the United States led the West in the struggle against communism and the threat it posed to our most precious values. That confrontation is over."
A New Foreign Policy
With the end of the Cold
War came both renewed hope and new challenges to maintaining world peace. While
trying to redefine the goals of American foreign policy, President Bush had to
deal with crises in Central America, China, the Middle East, and the Balkans.
President Bush had
declared that a "war on drugs" was one of the major goals of his
administration. This war played a role in Bush's policy in Central America.
Under the rule of General Manuel Noriega, political repression and corruption had become widespread in Panama. In 1988 Noriega was charged with drug trafficking by an American court. Previously, he had refused to yield power to the newly elected president of Panama, Guillermo Endara. In December 1989, Bush ordered U.S. troops to the Central American nation to overthrow Noriega. When the troops gained control of the country, Noriega surrendered. Endara became Panama's new president, and the U.S. troops left Panama. In 1992 Noriega was tried and convicted in the United States.
George Bush had served as
the first US. Envoy, or diplomatic .representative, to China when the two
countries reopened relations in 1974. He took a special interest in China,
claiming, "I know the Chinese." During the 1980s, China's Communist government began to reform the economy, but it refused to make political reforms. In May 1989, students and workers in China held demonstrations calling for more democracy. As the protests spread, the country seemed on the verge of revolution.
The Chinese government sent troops to crush the uprising. On June 4, 1989, soldiers and tanks killed several hundred protesters gathered in Tiananmen Square in the center of Beijing. World leaders condemned the slaughter. Although President Bush disapproved of the Chinese leaders' use of force, he carefully avoided words or actions that might lead the Chinese to break off relations with the United States. He did not believe that international pressure or trade sanctions would result in a change in Chinese policies. Although Bush's policy met opposition, it permitted U.S. trade with China to continue to grow.
~ War in the Balkans
Another challenge to world peace arose in Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia had been composed of several republics. After the collapse of Yugoslavia's government, the republics of Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina declared independence in 1991. The population of Croatia and Bosnia included many Serbs - people from the Yugoslav republic of Serbia. These Serbs, backed by the Serbian republic, fought to hold on to certain areas of Croatia and Bosnia. In the terrible civil war that followed, thousands died.
Reports of atrocities
committed by the Serbs outraged world leaders. In 1992 the UN passed a
resolution that placed a boycott on trade with Serbia until the fighting
The Persian Gulf War
The Bush administration -
and the world - faced a serious challenge to stability in 1990. On August 2
Iraq's dictator, Saddam Hussein (hoo-SAYN), sent his army into Kuwait, a small
neighboring country rich in oil. Kuwait was quickly overwhelmed. The fear grew
that Iraq would also invade Saudi Arabia.
Vowing to "draw a line in the sand," President Bush persuaded other nations to join what he called Operation Desert Shield. Hundreds of thousands of troops moved to Saudi Arabia to prevent an invasion of that country. The coalition forces were under the command of U. S. general Norman Schwarzkopf. Hussein was ordered to withdraw his troops from Kuwait-but the Iraqi troops did not leave and tension mounted. The United Nations set a deadline. Iraq must withdraw by January 15, 1991, or the allies would use force to remove them. Congress voted to support military action if Iraq did not withdraw.
~ Operation Desert Storm
Iraq refused to budge, and
on January 16 the allies launched Operation Desert Storm. Laser-guided missiles
and thousands of tons of bombs fell on Iraq, destroying its air defenses and
other military targets and damaging many civilian sites. President Bush
explained the attack:
"The world could wait
no longer. ... While the world waited, Saddam Hussein met every overture of
peace with open contempt."
After almost six weeks of
round-the-clock bombardment, Hussein's forces still refused to leave Kuwait. In
late February the allies opened the second phase of Desert Storm-a ground war in
which they attacked Iraqi troops from the side and rear. At the same time,
planes bombarded Iraqi positions.
Thousands of Iraqi
soldiers died. Thousands more surrendered. Just 100 hours after the ground war
began, President Bush suspended military action. "Kuwait is liberated," he
announced. "America and the world have kept their word." Iraq accepted the
allied cease-fire terms, and Saddam Hussein's troops finally left Kuwait.
Americans celebrated the sudden victory. They hailed the leaders of Desert Storm, Norman Schwarzkopf and General Colin Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and held parades for the troops. President Bush's approval rating in opinion polls soared above 90 percent. After the war, the United States helped rebuild Kuwait. It took nine months to extinguish the hundreds of oil well fires set by fleeing Iraqi troops.
Early in his presidency, Bush faced a banking crisis. During the 1980s, the Reagan administration had cut regulations in many industries. New laws eased restrictions on savings and loan associations (S&Ls)-financial institutions that specialized in making loans to buy homes.
The new laws allowed managers of S&Ls to become more aggressive in offering attractive returns to savers - and in making far more risky loans. When many borrowers could not repay their loans and real estate values declined, S&Ls began to lose millions of dollars. Many failed completely and closed their doors. Individual deposits in S&Ls were insured by the government, which now had to payout billions of dollars to the customers of the failed institutions. To prevent the crisis from spreading, the government bailed out other struggling S&Ls. This policy eventually cost taxpayers almost $500 billion.
The heavy borrowing of the 1980s loomed as another source of trouble for the economy. As the federal debt continued to reach new highs, business and personal debt grew as well. In 1990, when the economy slowed to a recession, many people and businesses could not meet loan payments. Some had to declare bankruptcy, selling off everything they owned to pay debts. Across the country businesses closed. Cuts in military spending, made possible by the end of the Cold War, led to additional job losses.
Many people called for the government to step in to stimulate the economy. President Bush refused to increase federal spending. He did agree to extend unemployment benefits for people who had lost their jobs, but he opposed further government involvement. The nation had to wait out the recession.
While the president and Congress disagreed on many issues, they cooperated on some legislation. In 1990, for example, the president signed a law updating the Clean Air Act. The next year he signed a law combating job discrimination.
Bush and Congress agreed on a major civil rights law as well. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 outlawed job discrimination against people with disabilities. It also required institutions to provide disabled people with easier access to workplaces, communications, transportation, and housing.
Another important part of the president's domestic agenda was the war on illegal drugs. In 1989 President Bush created the Office of National Drug Control Policy. This department coordinates the activities of more than 50 federal agencies involved in the war on drugs.
The Task: Part 1