Thursday, 2 January 2014

The USA and the world: 1991-2001, the hyperpower

The USA, post-Cold War, has been described as the hyperpower (i.e. the only superpower, since the USSR no longer exists). Dominating economically and militarily the world, it acts (with or without UN consent) whenever and wherever it feels its interests are threatened; this was true especially in the years 2000 under George W. Bush.

The hyperpower status of the USA means it leads in all domains:
  • resources (the country has huge reserves of land, natural resources and energy);
  • economic (most of the world's top 100 TNCs are based in the USA);
  • finance (the dollar remains the principal currency in world trade);
  • military (the US spends a third of the world's military budget and makes use of sophisticated arms);
  • high-technology (the USA pioneered information technology which it integrated first in industry, services, finance);
  • research (60% of Nobel Prize winners are from the USA and there are half a million foreign students in the USA);
  • ideology (the free market and democracy);
  • culture (US culture has a strong influence throughout the world).

The US hegemony has not created a more stable world however; the world has become divided between those that more or less accept American domination and those that reject it. The Muslim world, for one, has largely rejected it, which explains the rise in terrorist attacks on the US and in countries seen as allies of the USA.

President George Bush (1989-93)

The 1991 Gulf War, led by George Bush Senior, was a success for the US-led coalition; Operation Desert Storm was seen as legitimate, approved by the UN and supported by most people, to free Kuwait from the Iraqi aggressor. However, Saddam Hussein continued as dictator of Iraq for the next twelve years… The Bush Administration was interventionist, as the Gulf War illustrates. The invasion of Panama in 1989 is another example.

President Bill Clinton (1993-2001)

In 1993, Bill Clinton, Democrat, became the 42nd President of the USA (up to 2001). The Clinton Administration spent less on foreign policy and defence (the USA was no longer faced with a rival country and was able to concentrate on domestic economic prosperity). Its foreign policy was essentially conciliatory, but this does not mean its power went uncontested; in 1992, al-Qaeda carried out the first of several terrorist attacks on US property and personnel (for example the 1993 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in NYC). Islamists (Islamic fundamentalists) saw the Gulf War and Clinton’s subsequent aggressive policy towards Iraq as unacceptable.

Rabin, Clinton, Arafat at the Oslo Accords signing ceremony (1993)

The USA acted as peacemaker in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (1993 Oslo Accords), which did not however prevent the second Intifada (2000-2005).

The USA contributed to resolving the conflicts in former Yugoslavia as part of NATO: in 1994 against the Bosnian Serbs (this led to the Dayton Peace Accords brokered by the USA in 1995) and in the Kosovo War in 1999 against Serbian and Montenegrin forces (the NATO intervention had not been approved by the UN).

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