Is the USA still a superpower? (since 1991)

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Classe(s) : Tle ES - Tle L - Tle S | Thème(s) : The USA and the world since the "Fourteen Points"
Corpus Corpus 1
Is the USA still a superpower? (since 1991)




> timelines and maps, p. I-III

The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 created a massive shift in the international balance of power and left the USA as the sole superpower. How has the USA been facing this challenge?

1 The USA, leader of the New World Order (1991-2001)

A The Persian Gulf Crisis

 On August 2nd, 1990, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein invaded the tiny oil-rich emirate of Kuwait. Acting to protect US political and economic interest in the Gulf region, President George H. W. Bush (1989-1993) worked to set up a global coalition in support of economic (and ultimately military) sanctions designed to free Kuwait from Iraqi control.

keyword President Bush designed a new concept in the American foreign policy: multilateralism.

 On January 17th, 1991, the USA (541,000 troops) and its allies attacked. Operation “Desert Storm” started with five weeks of airstrikes followed by four days of ground assault. Finally, Hussein had to withdraw from Kuwait.

B Clinton’s foreign policy (1993-2001)

 President Bill Clinton felt compelled* to intervene in the Balkans to stop Serbian atrocities. Specifically, US air strikes forced Milosevic, the Serbian leader, to attend peace talks at Dayton, Ohio.

 In his second term, Clinton helped to conclude the Good Friday Agreement, a peace accord between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland (1998). In the Middle East, he kept the Oslo process (1993) on track, which established a Palestinian “authority”.

2 The US supremacy challenged (since 2001)

A 9/11 raids on the symbols of US financial and military might

 On September 11th, 2001, 19 militants of the Islamic extremist group al-Qaeda hijacked* four airliners. Two of the planes were flown into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, a third one hit the Pentagon just outside Washington DC, and the fourth plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania.

 Al-Qaeda’s motif would be to contest US imperialism, especially in Muslim zones such as Saudi Arabia or Palestine.

B George W. Bush damaged the image of the USA
through the world

 As a response to the 9/11 attacks, the USA led a coalition under UN mandate, to attack the Taliban regime hosting al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.

 President George W. Bush reasserted his anti-terrorist stance* at his State of the Union address in January 2002. He listed the “axis of Evil” countries (“rogue states*”) that posed a threat to the USA and the world, including Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and North Korea.

 In 2003, the Bush Administration launched the Iraq War on the suspicion that Iraq held weapons of mass destruction (no evidence of this was found) and that it supported al-Qaeda (there was nothing to support this claim). The UN did not approve the invasion. The number of deaths is estimated about half a million.

 People captured during these wars were sent to Guantanamo camp in Cuba. Detainees were not entitled to any of the international protections. Torture occured and dishonoured the USA.

C A withdrawal of US forces

 Since 2008, President Obama’s foreign policy has been lessening US involvement in the Middle East. Obama organized the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq (2011) and Afghanistan (2014).

 But disengagement seems as difficult to manage as interventionism: the widespread Arab Spring has precipitated civil wars in Libya and Syria, and new fronts have been opened in the “War on Terror” such as Mali and Yemen.

  • to compel = forcer, imposer
  • a stance = une position
  • rogue states = États voyous
  • to hijack = détourner (un avion)