After Reagan’s two terms in office, his Vice-President, George Bush, was elected President, campaigned on continuing the policies of Reagan. Unfortunately for Bush, things didn’t go smoothly. Despite some successes, domestic crises popped up during his term in office. The economic growth of the 1980’s began to slow at the end of the decade and in 1990 the country found itself in a recession. This was caused, in part, by Bush’s attempts to reduce the national debt that had become a huge problem for the country.
During the 1990’s, there were still racial unrest. In particular, a video tape of L. A. police beating an African-American man named Rodney King during a traffic stop led to the officers being brought up on charges. When they were acquitted, riots erupted.
Bush was more focused on foreign policy, where he excelled. In 1989, the United States sent troops to Panama to unseat dictator and drug-cartel kingpin Manuel Noriega from power. Then, in 1989, communist dictatorships in the Soviets former satellite nations Poland and East Germany collapsed and new democratic governments were put in their place. In Germany, the Berlin Wall—a symbol of communist oppression—was torn down, signifying the end of the Cold War to many. The collapse of the communist dictatorship in the Soviet Union followed in 1990.
The end of the Cold War was both a good and bad things for the world. In a way, the Cold War kept relative peace. As the world was divided into three major camps—American, Soviet and non-aligned—countries often stopped short of all-out war out of fear of involving the superpowers. With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990, this balance of power was ruined. In addition, weapons built by the Soviet Union may have been sold on the black market in the period between the collapse and the establishment of the new Russian republic. There is still much concern that international terrorist groups could get their hands on some of these former Soviet weapons.
In 1990, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded the neighboring country and U.S. ally, Kuwait, leading to the First Gulf War. Hussein’s government was in severe financial trouble after a costly war with its neighbor, Iran. In fact, the United States encouraged him to fight that war, supplying him with weapons of mass destruction (WMD’s) to fight the Iranians. When the Iran-Contra Affair came to light, Hussein felt betrayed by the Americans and allied himself with the Soviet Union. But by 1990, the Soviet Union was falling apart. Hussein was free to take a risk by taking over the oil-rich nation of Kuwait (Iraq isn’t a major producer of oil) to try and fix his financial problems. The United States and the United Nations demanded Hussein withdraw, but he refused.
In 1991, the United States led a United Nations coalition force into Kuwait to drive the Iraqi’s out. The Persian Gulf War (1990) did not last long. The Iraqis were expelled and Hussein was forced to agree to United Nations concessions as punishment for the war, such as paying damages to Kuwait and agreeing not to stockpile WMD’s, even subjecting to United Nations inspections to make sure he wasn’t. In the succeeding years, Hussein often refused to comply with the agreements made after the war. This would be one of the primary justifications for the United States invasion of Iraq in 2003 (the Second Gulf War).
Despite Bush’s foreign policy successes, when he was up for re-election in 1992, he was defeated by Democrat Bill Clinton. During Bush’s initial campaign in 1988, he has famously stated, “read my lips: no new taxes.” Yet, in his attempts to fix the budget problems for the federal government, he signed a Congressional tax hike. Compounded with economic problems within the country, people were looking for a change.