The presidencies of George H.W. Bush from 1989 to 1993 and Bill Clinton from 1993 to 2001 were marked by increased international economic integration and a few brief military engagements. Both presidents worked to negotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, which was signed during the Clinton administration and greatly increased trade between the three signatories: Canada, Mexico, and the United States. Meanwhile, the United States started to become a sort of international military police force. When Iraqi Prime Minister Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, the Bush administration quickly reacted with a swift military engagement that pushed Hussein’s forces back into Iraq, and maintained Kuwait’s independence. During the Bush and Clinton administrations, the United States also had brief military engagements in Panama and the Balkans. It was in this atmosphere that George W. Bush, son of George H.W. Bush, took office in early 2001. America’s role, it seemed, was to maintain the international peace.
All of this changed on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001 when America experienced the first attack on its continental homeland since the war of 1812. Two airplanes crashed into the twin towers of New York City’s World Trade Center, another into the Pentagon, the headquarters of the American military, and a fourth was brought down by passengers in Pennsylvania. The nation was plunged into an immediate crisis. All airplanes were grounded, and the president was transported to a secure location. In this state of emergency, it slowly became clear that the attack had been orchestrated by a newly founded global organization called al-Qaeda, “the base” or “foundation.” Al-Qaeda’s leader was the very same Osama bin Laden whom America had armed twenty years earlier to fight against the Soviets. After that fight ended, bin Laden formed al-Qaeda based on the networks he established in Afghanistan as the “base” from which to wage an international holy war against Western nations.
- Do you feel like “Satan?” Why do you think others view the United States as evil when we are also the most desirable country in the world for immigrants?
- The flashpoints for major wars change as conditions change. For 1,000 years, European wars were fought over the border regions between states. In the 19th Century, colonial expansion led to wars, and former colonies served as proxies in the “cold” war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union well into the 20th Century. More recently, it has been the Middle East. But with the rapid development of fracking, the West is less and less dependent on the Middle East for Oil. If renewables ever become scalable, this will be even more true. Where do you think the next flash point for war might occur? Over what (land, natural resources, people)?
This reading is an excerpt from Certell’s Common Sense Government eBook. Certell offers curriculum materials and eBooks free of charge for use by students and teachers. Click Here to download the Common Sense Government materials.
Spencer Platt, Getty Images. (Sept. 2001), Too Much Music: The 9/11 Terrorist Attacks [Photograph]. Retrieved from https://www.cntraveller.in/story/9-11-14-pictures-day-changed-world/