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Major U S Historical Events 1980Present

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When Ronald Reagan was inaugurated president in 1980, his term was ushered in with a wave of new conservatism. Reagan, a military hard-liner and staunch anti-communist, was able to confront the USSR and end the Cold War without precipitating a nuclear disaster. His administration enacted several initiatives that would form the basis of a multi-faceted attack on the USSR. This was accomplished by increased military spending, support of democracy in the Soviet’s satellite countries, and crippling the economy of the Soviet Union. These initiatives in unison eroded the communist system and by the end of his term, the Soviets had capitulated.
The increase in military expenditures was responsible for the implementation of National Security Defense Directive (NSDD) 32, signed by Reagan in 1982. Its purpose was to financially and covertly support anti-Soviet groups in Eastern Europe (Edward’s). As anti-Soviet sentiment rose in Eastern Europe, Reagan enacted NSDD 66, which called for a clandestine economic war on the Soviet Union. It called for limiting the USSR’s access to technology as well as curtailing their ability to produce natural gas (Edwards). Embargoing the Soviet economy was coupled with increased pressure exerted by American military goals to bring the Soviet system to a gradual halt during Reagan’s administration. The dismantling of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the most celebrated symbol of the victory, ended 40 years of American effort and opened up new opportunities for peace around the world as well as new challenges for America’s foreign policy. The ending of the Cold War served to increase the public’s belief in America’s system of democracy and allowed diplomatic and military resources to be turned towards other endeavors.
When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, the memory of the failure to secure a victory in Southeast Asia decades earlier still fomented fears of another Vietnam. Iraq, debt-ridden and weary from years of war with Iran, made a desperate and miscalculated move to invade Kuwait. President George Bush Sr. was able to capitalize on Huessein’s miscalculations and through diplomacy and political savvy was able to form a united coalition of nations to stand against Iraqi aggression. Saudi Arabia, a vital American interest, and 14 members of the Arab League joined to condemn Iraq’s aggression (Persian Gulf War). Within days, international cooperation led by Bush, resulted in a global embargo against the Iragi regime.
Bush, able to unite America under a new wave of national pride, assembled a military team to plan a strategic operation while diplomacy and UN Sanctions worked behind the scenes in an effort to oust the Iraqis from Kuwait. As diplomacy failed and UN deadlines expired, the first air attacks on Iraq began on January 17, 1991 (Atkinson). After more than a month of air strikes, a 4 day ground war decisively expelled Iraq from Kuwait and decimated their military. This rapid victory, with few casualties, placed America as an international military power once again. The coalition victory brought with it new hope for the future of global cooperation to suppress dictators and promote human rights. American pride had been restored and resulted in a new