The “Post-War,” 1945-2022
Allies and Enemies
John M. Lane
On September 2, 1945, the United States became the most powerful nation in recorded world history. The “British Century,” which began in 1815, was officially over. The “American Century” was underway. Two world wars had permanently weakened Britain and France; their empires would soon collapse.
The Allies had crushed Germany and Japan, both figuratively and literally, and divided Germany into occupation zones. Those zones would eventually become separate nations: the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) and the German “Democratic Republic” (East Germany). The former German capital city, Berlin, was also divided. East Berlin became the capital of East Germany, while West Berlin became an outpost of the West and the symbolic “ground zero” of the Cold War. The United States occupied Japan under the command of General MacArthur. MacArthur and his staff wrote a new, progressive constitution and established democracy. China had descended into civil war, as the Communists and the Nationalists were now free to pursue their war against each other, unencumbered by the necessity of resisting the Japanese invasion of their country.
The Soviet Union, although having lost millions of lives during the war from various causes (the killing continued after the war, as Stalin sought to wipe out all opposition, real or imagined.), had expanded its empire westward to Germany. However, the USSR had also been devastated. The economic growth and development of the USSR would never approach anything the West had or would have; however, after 1949, it did have nuclear weapons.
The Western world’s capital, indeed, the world, was no longer London; it was Washington DC. The United States, as leader of the free world, would dictate the terms of peace and the world order, dominating the world economic system, trade, monetary policy, international cooperation, and defense. It also served as headquarters for international organizations like the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and United Nations. New York City became the financial capital of the world. “In 1945, the USA had greater status and influence in the world than any other country. It held 60% of gold reserves, over 50% of the world’s wealth (but only 6% of its population), and only crumbs to the others, including the USSR. It was the beating heart of globalization and still growing, primarily because Europe and Asia were in ruins and were forced to import on a massive scale. At the Bretton Woods Conference (1944), the dollar was established as the currency for international trade, and the GATT agreement (1947) marked the start of free trade. The “American Way” became global. In 1947, Europe imported six times more from the US than it exported, and the UK acquired half of its imports from there. Coal and grain could only be purchased with the help of substantial loans from the superpower.” (Lopez et al. 182).
Dwarfing the power of the Assyrian, Persian, Babylonian, Chinese, Roman, Ottoman, Islamic, Mogul, Spanish , French and British empires; worldwide, in September 1945, the United States stood like a colossus. The only thing weakening the United States was the failure to acknowledge its history honestly. Our story continues in Part II.
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