70s, 80s, 90s, 00s

This essay discusses many important events of US history from the 70s to the present day



The Watergate incident was named after the office complex it took place in. Which at the time was the Democratic Party’s campaign headquarters. This began with the wiretapping of Democratic headquarters. These acts engulfed President Richard Nixon and many of his supporters in many illegal acts. A burglary also took place on June 17, 1972 by five men who were caught in the offices of the Democratic Party’s headquarters. They’re acts were later linked to a White House sponsored plan of espionage against Nixon’s political opponents. About a year later in 1973 the testimony of the White House aide Alexander Butterfield uncovered the entire investigation. On national television Butterfield told the world that Nixon had ordered a video recording system to be installed in the White House to record all conversations. Nixon refused to release the tapes; he said they were vital to national security. The U.S. District Court Judge ruled that Nixon must release the tapes to allow for further investigation. In 1974 Nixon released edited transcripts of the White House tapes. The conversations revealed a towering concern for punishing political opponents and darting the Watergate investigation. Soon after the Watergate scandal came to light, investigators discovered many further revelations that caused Nixon’s support and popularity to diminish a great deal.

President Nixon faced almost certain impeachment for his illegal acts against the Democratic Party. After these events took place Nixon’s popularity steadily eroded away. In August of 1974, three tapes disclosed that Nixon had ordered the FBI to stop investigating the Watergate break-in. The tapes also revealed that Nixon had aided in the directing of the cover up. Nixon resigned from his presidency, he was the first president to do so, he was pardoned a month later by Gerald Ford, for all the crimes he committed while he was in office.

Jimmy Carter had promised during his campaigning to reduce the defense budget and arms sales overseas, however both continued to increase heavily. Nonetheless Carter’s presidency was generally conciliatory in foreign affairs. In the year of 1977 the United States and Panama agreed on two new treaties to overlook those of the 1903 treaties about control of the Panama Canal. These treaties recognized Panamas control over the Canal Zone, and control of the Panama Canal itself. However beginning in 2000; they left the United States the right to defend the Panama Canal’s neutrality.

Carter was a very able negotiator; in 1978 he met at the presidential retreat in Camp David, Maryland with the Israeli prime minister and the Egyptian president to discuss the framework for peace between Egypt and Israel. This framework, which was agreed on by all three leaders, led to a peace treaty between the two nations and was signed in Washington D.C. in 1979. Carter also signed the second Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty with the USSR. This set specific limits on the amounts and types of strategic arms each nation could maintain.

The Islamic revolution, which took place in Iran, created the first major foreign policy problem for Carter. In 1979 angry militant Iranians who greatly opposed all western influences, especially the United States, assaulted the U.S. embassy in Tehran, which is the capital of Iran, taking 66 Americans hostage. Thirteen of the American hostages were released soon after, however for the release of the remaining hostages, Iran demanded a U.S. apology for the acts committed in support of Iran’s previous leader, his returning to the country to face trial, and the return of billions of dollars that he was said to have stashed. Negotiations between Iran and the United States did not succeed in releasing the hostages. The U.S. launched a commando raid on Tehran a few months later; this also was not successful.

The Iranian hostage crisis had played a huge part in setting the mood for foreign contact between the United States and many other Middle Eastern nations into the 00s, however there were many other events that shaped U.S. involvement in the Middle East. In 1970 during the civil war between Jordan and the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization), the United States and Israel prepare to join the side of Jordan if Syria backs the PLO. 1972, United States blocks the Egyptian President’s attempts to reach a peace agreement with Israel. During 1973 the United States airlifted military aid to Israel, which turned the tide of the war between Syria and Egypt. Between 1973-75 the United States supports Kurdish rebels in Iraq; in 1975 the governments of Iran and Iraq reach an agreement and seal the border, Iraq killed the Kurds and the United States denied them refuge. Also in 1975 the United States vetoes a Security Council resolution, which condemned Israeli, attacks on the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon. In 1979 the United States begins covert aid to a guerrilla group known as the Mujahideen, in Afghanistan six months before the Soviet invasion; over the next decade the United States provides over three billion dollars in aid and training to the Mujahideen.


Ronald Reagan was elected President in 1980 his administration was responsible for the most drastic changes in U.S. government, social policy, and economic changes in half a century. Reagan’s administration succeeded in eliminating or reducing a number of social programs, which were begun by other presidents. Reagan also lifted many restrictions on businesses and their activities.

Reagan changed the tone of United States foreign policy. Détente, which was a peaceful however strained policy of coexistence with the USSR, was de-emphasized, and the United States foreign policy was against all government movements under soviet influence. Reagan devoted a lot of his attention to reversing the affects of the Marxist Revolution in Central America and the Caribbean. After the Nicaraguan Revolution got rid of Anastasio Somoza, the United States accused the new government of aiding Marxist rebels in El Salvador. The United States cut off all aid to Nicaragua. In 1981 Reagan began to support a guerrilla movement known as the Contras. In 1982 Nicaragua signed an aid pact with the USSR. Reagan began a major campaign to overthrow the Marxists in Nicaragua by supplying training, weapons, money, and supplies to the Contras.

During Reagan’s presidency United States relations with the USSR were mellow, particularly because of the United States military build up and the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI or Star Wars). In theory, Star Wars would allow the United States to intercept enemy missiles before they could reach the their targets. The USSR saw Star Wars as a threat to their national security. The program was also controversial in the United States as many experts saw it as technically unattainable, prohibitively expensive, or both.

During the last two years of Reagan’s presidency he was flawed by the Iran-Contra affair, which was a political scandal that turned public attention to the effectiveness of Reagan’s style of managing the situation, this also damaged Reagan’s reputation. As a result of the Iranian hostage crisis, congress had marked Iran as a terrorist nation and had outlawed the sale of weapons to the Iranian government. In 1986 newspapers reported that the United States had covertly sold weapons to Iran in order to win the nations support in freeing the United States hostages who were being help by terrorists that were friendly to the Iranian government. This incident was very damaging to Reagan’s reputation and very embarrassing for him because he had taken a very strong public stance against terrorism and nations that deal with terrorists. Newspapers had also revealed that the United States had turned many profits from weapons sales to help the Contras fighting the Marxists in Central America. The turning of the profits to the Contras was a direct violation of the Boland amendment, a law that had forbidden United States military aid to the Contras. Reagan denied any knowledge of these events, he said that the weapons dealing with Iran was an attempt to open up contact with the Iranian government and had nothing to do with negotiations over the hostages.

The early 1980s was the final period of conflict between the United States and the USSR, which was mainly a result of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 to brace a Communist regime. President Ronald Reagan saw the USSR as an “evil empire-. He also believed that his rivals in Moscow respected strength over anything else, so Reagan set out to build up the American military capabilities. The Soviets originally viewed Reagan as an implacable enemy, who was willing to risk nuclear war to sabotage the Soviet system.

During the mid 1980s Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in the USSR. Gorbachev was determined to stop the increasing break down of the Soviet system and to get rid of the USSR foreign policies that were weighing the country down. Between 1986-89 Gorbachev abandoned old Soviet ways and began to improve relations with the United States and reached agreements with Reagan to eliminate an entire class of nuclear missiles that were capable of striking Asia, and Europe from the USSR and vice-versa. The Soviet government began to reduce its forces in Europe, and in 1989 pulled all its troops out of Afghanistan. That same year many communist nations in Eastern Europe began to fall and the Berlin wall that divided East and West Germany was torn down. In 1990 Germany returned to being a unified country; in 1991 the USSR fell, and Russia as well as other Soviet republics emerged as independent states. Even before these closing events took place nearly all competition that was the basis for the Cold War had disappeared.


The border between Iraq and Kuwait had been a hot spot for tension in the past. Kuwait was originally a part of the Ottoman Empire, for nearly 200 years it was governed by Britain. In 1961 Britain granted Kuwait its independence. The Iraqi government claimed that Kuwait had once been governed as a province in southern Iraq and was rightfully theirs. There were occasional clashes on the border between the two countries and relations were sometimes very tense. Relations between the two countries bettered during the Iran-Iraq war. Kuwait helped Iraq with diplomatic backing and loans. After the war had ended in 1988, the Iraqi government began an extremely expensive program to reconstruct the country. By 1990 Iraq was in debt and owed nearly $80 billion dollars; Iraq ordered that Kuwait help with the debts and other payments. At the same time Iraq accused Kuwait of pumping oil from an oilfield that was on the Iraq-Kuwait border and was not sharing revenue. Iraq also accused Kuwait of producing an illegal amount of oil, which deflated the price of oil. Iraq’s complaints against Kuwait grew worse and worse, but they were in general about money and did not suggest anything else. By the summer of 1990 Iraq had mobilized its troops and massed them near the Kuwaiti border. Arab mediators convinced the two countries to negotiate their differences but the negotiations failed. A second negotiation session was scheduled in Baghdad but Iraq invaded Kuwait the next day.

The Iraqi attack began after midnight on August 2, 1990. About 150,000 Iraqi troops overwhelmed the tiny Kuwaiti army. By morning Iraq occupied Kuwait city, the nations capital. Iraq installed a puppet government in Kuwait. The United Nations immediately condemned the Iraqi invasion. Four days later an economic embargo was put on Iraq that stopped all trade with Iraq. By this time more than half of Kuwait’s population had fled the country, some of those who stayed formed resistance organizations. A week after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait an enormous international force gathered in Saudi Arabia.

The United States sent over 400,000 troops and Saudi Arabia, France, the United Kingdom, Kuwait, and several other Middle Eastern nations sent over 200,000 additional troops. Many other nations sent ships, air forces, and medical units to aid the troops in Saudi Arabia. Japan and Germany gave financial support to the Coalition forces. Iraq hinted that they would use chemical weapons and missile attacks if a war broke out. On November 29, Coalition forces were massing in Saudi Arabia and Iraq showing no signs of giving up or retreating, the UN Security council passed a resolution to “use any necessary means- to force Iraq from Kuwait, if Iraq occupied Kuwait after January 15, 1991. Iraq rejected the ultimatum. On January 12,1991, U.S. Congress passed a resolution allowing the president to use force. Early on the morning of January 17, 1991, Coalition forces began a massive air raid on Iraqi ground targets. The air raid had three goals: to damage or destroy Iraqi air defenses, to disrupt command and control of the Iraqi armies, and to weaken all ground forces in and around Kuwait. In an attempt to disrupt the Coalition forces, the president of Iraq Saddam Hussein ordered Scud missiles to be fired at Saudi Arabia and Israel. The Scuds failed to disrupt the Coalition. Hussein threatened the use of chemical and biological weapons; the United States said it would respond with the use of nuclear weapons. One month into the air war, the Iraqi government began negotiations with the USSR over a plan to withdraw from Kuwait. The Coalition demanded an unconditional withdrawal from Kuwait; these negotiations failed

On February 24 the Coalition launched its land offensive. This surrounded Iraqi forces in Kuwait and southern Iraq, it also allowed for Coalition forces to advance up the coastline and take Kuwait city. Few Iraqis resisted, thousands surrendered, and thousands more deserted. Iraq then focused on withdrawing its elite forces and destroying Kuwaiti infrastructure. Iraqi forces set fire to oil wells creating massive environmental damage. Two days after the Coalition launched its land offensive, Iraq announced its withdrawal from Kuwait. On February 28, the Iraqi resistance fell and Kuwait was recaptured by the Coalition. The Coalition declared a cease-fire; on March 2 the UN Security Council laid down the conditions for the cease-fire, which were accepted by Iraq. Iraqis had not achieved any of their goals in invading Kuwait; the Coalition had achieved all of their goals by launching the massive air and ground raids.

On April 2, 1991, the Security Council laid out strict demands for ending the sanctions that were left unresolved after the fighting. Iraq would have to accept liability for all damages, destroy its chemical and biological weapons as well as its ballistic missiles, halt any nuclear weapons programs, and accept international inspections. Iraq resisted and said that its withdrawal from Kuwait was good enough and that it did not need to comply with the UN. The UN maintained its economic embargo on Iraq after the war; several other countries enforced their own sanctions on Iraq. In 1995 the UN changed sanctions on Iraq to allow them to sell oil for food and medicine if it set some of the revenue aside to pay for damages of the war; this plan was originally rejected by Iraq but then accepted in 1996.

The United States had become very involved with foreign affairs during the 90s because of what its leaders had learned through history, they learned that it was better to stop a problem at its source, before it escalated into something dangerous like Hitler’s Nazi Germany in WWII. The United States also refused to give into the policy of appeasement, the Persian Gulf War was an example of how serious the United States really was with its new policies of preemptive action.

By the end of the 90s the United States had experienced several different terrorist attacks on its embassies and attacks on its own soil. In 1993, a Palestinian terrorist cell that was running out of New Jersey attacked the World Trade Center in New York City. This set the stage for future attacks and introduced Americans to the terror that had been taking place around the world for many years. The United States government acted quickly and knew that they had to identify and capture the culprits before they could act once again. The only way these attacks can be prevented would be to stop them at their source, the Middle East. The UN needs to send inspectors to countries suspected of containing illegal biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons. Terrorists have a very difficult time operating in a nation that is under heavy inspection. This attack on the World Trade Center was only a taste of what is to come in the next few years.

The United States public had protested the U.S. invasion on Iraq, however it protected the U.S. economy and brought some order and control to the Middle East in a time of turmoil. If the United States is ever able to eliminate or even reduce terrorist activity in the Middle East the world would be a much safer place. Terrorism will most likely never be completely eliminated; it is simply impossible to keep tabs on every suspicious organization throughout the world and the views they have on the United States.


The United States may never succeed in winning the war against terrorism, there will always be people against freedom and democracy no matter what the U.S. does to try and prevent it. People of America have always been extremely vulnerable to terrorist attacks because of the open-ended travel system that could be easily used by terrorists; as a nation our government puts trust in its citizens, as we put trust in our government, terrorists take this trust and exploit it by lying, hiding, stealing, etc. The rights we are entitled to, as a citizen of the United States cannot be taken away because these rights are the foundation of this country so, alternative ways of uncovering terrorist activity must be created that don’t involve the removal of some rights and freedoms.

After the events of September 11, 2001, investigations were launched to find out who really was at fault for these attacks. This was similar to the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. The United States needed someone to point a finger at. The Army, Navy, and President, as well as many individuals, were all candidates, no one knew who really was at fault. The same thing took place during the investigations of 9/11 the U.S. needed someone to point their finger at. The President, Osama Bin Laden, and the F.B.I. were all candidates in this situation.

Osama Bin Laden was extremely angered at the United States presence in the Persian Gulf War, who he considers an enemy of Islam. Bin Laden led criticism of the Saudi Monarchy, this caused the Saudi government to revoke his citizenship; this caused all of his belongings to be left in Saudi Arabia. Bin Laden traveled to Sudan where he set up training camps and strengthened Al-Qaeda. In 1996 the United States was pressuring Sudan to expel Bin Laden, he went into hiding in Afghanistan, where he issued several calls for a holy war against the United States and its presence in the Middle East. He denounced all U.S. activity in the Middle East and therefore developed a hatred for the country.

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