World War I, Great Depression, and World War II

At the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the United States remained neutral. Most Americans sympathized with the British and French, although many opposed intervention.[65] In 1917, the United States joined the Allies, and the American Expeditionary Forces helped to turn the tide against the Central Powers. President Woodrow Wilson took a leading diplomatic role at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 which helped to shape the post-war world. Wilson advocated strongly for the U.S. to join the League of Nations. However, the Senate refused to approve this, and did not ratify the Treaty of Versailles, which established the League of Nations.
The country pursued a policy of unilateralism, verging on isolationism.[66] In 1920, the women's rights movement won passage of a constitutional amendment granting women's suffrage. The prosperity of the Roaring Twenties ended with the Wall Street Crash of 1929 that triggered the Great Depression.

After his election as president in 1932, Franklin D. Roosevelt responded with the New Deal, a range of policies increasing government intervention in the economy, including the establishment of the Social Security system.[67] The Dust Bowl of the mid-1930s impoverished many farming communities and spurred a new wave of western migration.

The United States, effectively neutral during World War II's early stages after Nazi Germany's invasion of Poland in September 1939, began supplying material to the Allies in March 1941 through the Lend-Lease program. On December 7, 1941, the Empire of Japan launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, prompting the United States to join the Allies against the Axis powers as well as the internment of Japanese Americans by the thousands.[68] Participation in the war spurred capital investment and industrial capacity. Among the major combatants, the United States was the only nation to become richer—indeed, far richer—instead of poorer because of the war.[69]

Allied conferences at Bretton Woods and Yalta outlined a new system of international organizations that placed the United States and Soviet Union at the center of world affairs. As victory was won in Europe, a 1945 international conference held in San Francisco produced the United Nations Charter, which became active after the war.[70] The United States, having developed the first nuclear weapons, used them on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August. Japan surrendered on September 2, ending the war.
The United States and the Soviet Union jockeyed for power after World War II during the Cold War, dominating the military affairs of Europe through NATO and the Warsaw Pact, respectively. While they engaged in proxy wars and developed powerful nuclear arsenals, the two countries avoided direct military conflict. The U.S. often opposed Third World left-wing movements that it viewed as Soviet-sponsored. American troops fought Communist Chinese and North Korean forces in the Korean War of 1950–53. The House Un-American Activities Committee pursued a series of investigations into suspected leftist subversion, while Senator Joseph McCarthy became the figurehead of anticommunist sentiment.

The 1961 Soviet launch of the first manned spaceflight prompted President John F. Kennedy's call for the United States to be first to land "a man on the moon", achieved in 1969. Kennedy also faced a tense nuclear showdown with Soviet forces in Cuba. Meanwhile, the United States experienced sustained economic expansion. Amidst the presence of various white nationalist groups, particularly the Ku Klux Klan, a growing civil rights movement used nonviolence to confront segregation and discrimination. This was symbolized and led by black Americans such as Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr.. On the other hand, some black nationalist groups such as the Black Panther Party had a more militant scope.

Following Kennedy's assassination in 1963, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965 were passed under President Lyndon B. Johnson.[72][73] He also signed into law the Medicare and Medicaid programs.[74] Johnson and his successor, Richard Nixon, expanded a proxy war in Southeast Asia into the unsuccessful Vietnam War. A widespread countercultural movement grew, fueled by opposition to the war, black nationalism, and the sexual revolution. Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, and others led a new wave of feminism that sought political, social, and economic equality for women.

As a result of the Watergate scandal, in 1974 Nixon became the first U.S. president to resign, to avoid being impeached on charges including obstruction of justice and abuse of power. The Jimmy Carter administration of the late 1970s was marked by stagflation and the Iran hostage crisis. The election of Ronald Reagan as president in 1980 heralded a rightward shift in American politics, reflected in major changes in taxation and spending priorities. His second term in office brought both the Iran-Contra scandal and significant diplomatic progress with the Soviet Union. The subsequent Soviet collapse ended the Cold War.
Under President George H. W. Bush, the United States took a lead role in the UN–sanctioned Gulf War.[75] The longest economic expansion in modern U.S. history—from March 1991 to March 2001—encompassed the Bill Clinton administration and the dot-com bubble.[76] A civil lawsuit and sex scandal led to Clinton's impeachment in 1998, but he remained in office.[77] The 2000 presidential election, one of the closest in American history, was resolved by a U.S. Supreme Court decision—George W. Bush, son of George H. W. Bush, became president.[78]

On September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda terrorists struck the World Trade Center in New York City and The Pentagon near Washington, D.C., killing nearly three thousand people.[79] In response, the Bush administration launched the global War on Terror, invading Afghanistan and removing the Taliban government and al-Qaeda training camps.[80] Taliban insurgents continue to fight a guerrilla war.[81] In 2002, the Bush administration began to press for regime change in Iraq on controversial grounds.[82]

Forces led by the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, ousting Saddam Hussein.[83] In 2005, Hurricane Katrina caused severe destruction along much of the Gulf Coast, devastating New Orleans.[84] In 2008, amid a global economic recession, the first African American president, Barack Obama, was elected.[85] Major health care and financial system reforms were enacted two years later.[86] In 2011, a raid by Navy SEALs in Pakistan killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.[87] The Iraq War officially ended with the pullout of the remaining U.S. troops from the country in December 2011.[88] On the 11th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, and less than a year after the U.S. assisted in the downfall of Muammar Gaddafi,[89] two U.S. facilities were attacked in Libya resulting in the death of the first U.S. Ambassador since 1979.[90] In October 2012, Hurricane Sandy wrought severe destruction upon the shorelines of the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic United States.

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Anika Devi received her Bachelor’s degree in Media, Culture and Communication from New York University in 2012. She began freelancing for Business Solutions BD in 2010 and joined the team as a staff writer three years later. She currently serves as the assistant editor.
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