A New World Order


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.


Video Introduction

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 independence.

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 reform.

The Wall Comes Tumbling Down

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 Union

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."


Video Review

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.

~ Panama

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.


Video Review

~ China

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.


Video Review


~ 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 stopped.


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.


Video Review


Domestic Issues


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.


Economic Downturn


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.


Video Review




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