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Side Effects of War in American History: Part I

Updated on October 2, 2012

A hotly contested issue in American politics is the role of the Iraq War and the War on Terrorism, and how it drains the resources of a country already heavily in debt. However, from past history, one can see that wars, although morally and economically harmful, usually end up promoting a good in society.

Take the Vietnam War for example. Back in the day, the Vietnam War was a hotbed of political controversy, as it was, as some would say, the first in which the population did not wish to participate in. It cost many American lives with little progress made. This discontent led to large scale protests in many areas across the country and showed the federal government that they were still a democracy and what the people say, goes. However, such protests did not merely disappear there. People began to protest in the thousands about other issues, strengthened in resolve over the success of Vietnam War protests. Many came out in force to protest and give information on issues such as environmental protection, LGBT rights, African-American rights, and many other different issues. This led to increased awareness on these subjects and the passing of groundbreaking legislation, especially on the issue of environmental protection.

World War II also had many positive effects that were generated after the war, the most prominent of which was the full recovery of the US economy from the Great Depression. The United Nations was also established as a vanguard against further conflict on the scale of WWII, and has survived up to today, promoting awareness on global issues such as poverty and starvation in areas such as Africa. Furthermore, WWII also led to the unprecedented establishment of a country without a military, given a second lease on life after their defeat in the war. Japan was a real life macroeconomics experiment, showing us how an economy might develop if military was not there to use up a large percentage of the budget. The results are rather striking; Japan's economy shot up as a result of this and the only that held it back was its limited resources as an island country.

The Spanish-American War also led to a few positive side effects. For one, it established America as a pseudo-empire, controlling "colonies" such as Cuba and the Philippines. These colonies would also show us how differently colonies may react to an empire's rule, with one, Cuba, completely rejecting American ideals while the other, the Philippines, almost completely accepted them. The other side effect would be America's establishment as the preeminent power of the western hemisphere, leading Spain down a final path of destruction.

The American Civil War also had profound positive influences on later society. The 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments outlawed slavery, created due process and equal protection clauses, and protected voting rights regardless of race, color, or anything else. And although these amendments were not entirely enforced, it was groundbreaking in a strikingly backwards society at the time. The Civil War also detailed many modern machinery that were in use at the time, and also led to many military innovations. It would be one of the last modern, large scale wars before the outbreak of World War I.


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