Many often consider the United States the world’s superpower, the only nation that remains dominant in almost all sectors of the international arena – from politics to social development. The US is also seen as the only country to possess a military capability that can truncate any potential power that threatens world peace. However, the US did not hold this role and prominence in the international community before the Second World War as the US had remained under isolation after the First World War. The US had been leery to join the war efforts due to their experiences in the previous World War and the wars that had ravaged the US prior to its independence. Regardless of this hesitance, many factors had led to the US’ rise to supremacy that change the US entirely to the international arena. The war had opened the eyes of the United States that the country’s presence is necessary to usher its own brand of governance that would foster international stability and world order.
Prior to the Second World War, the United States was seen as a reluctant nation to press on other nation’s business because of the possibilities that it would just incur losses that may impact the country. This brought the rise to isolationists, who had argued that the government should spend on the matters pertaining to the state and not for other nations. However, opposing this side are the interventionists who argued that the US should stand up to the task of aiding other nations oppressed by others and help them attain their freedoms like how they fought their war against the Europeans. Intervention, this group claim, would also benefit the US in the long run as it would open partnerships and agreements that would boost the country’s power. By the time of the Second World War, many US lawmakers and leaders saw the war as a ‘good war’ that would both impose the role of America as a world leader and reshape the world in the US image. Franklin D. Roosevelt himself had stated that the war is crucial as it would enable world peace and stability to ensue which is why it is crucial the US enter the war. The Europeans had seen the Americans, throughout the war, as an important asset as the US supplied the war effort financially and materially since the Europeans were still in disarray after the First World War. Leadership had easily fallen to the American hands, enabling them to exercise power in undermining the Axis hold in Asia, especially in the areas of the Philippines, Australia and even in Japan as the Americans had managed to enter Japan undeterred through the use of its naval, air and ground commands. In Europe, America had led several assaults in Germany, enabling them to trap the Germans and Italians long enough to liberate France and the neighboring countries of Germany to neutralize the German threat effectively.
With the victory of the Allies secured against the Axis Powers in 1945, the US now utilized its position as the de-facto leader of the Allied Forces to identify and reshape the reconstruction efforts, as well as how the nations see the country. In terms of its identification and reshaping the reconstruction efforts to benefit the US, the US had used its untarnished financial capacity to provide stimulus plans for Europe in exchange of several concessions that would benefit the US and reaffirm the world order under America’s image. One notable example of a stimulus plan that enabled America to reshape the international arena is the Marshall Plan of 1948 or the European Recovery Program, designed to rebuild the European economy under American ideals and prevent the spread of Communism in the region. With the Marshall Plan accepted by the Europeans, it would give the US some power to determine how the Europeans and several Communist countries would use the aid and to influence their economies. On the other hand, the US had used its considerable influence from the Second World War to reshape the views of other nations to the country and see it as the model nations to look up to in the international arena. With the Europeans still on recovery, as well as several parts of the Asian region, it is only the US who could stand a chance against threats like the Soviet Union. This caused many nations to turn to the US for assistance and had rallied against them for the sake of US-advocated justice. Others had even acquiesced to US assistance in redesigning their constitutions and guidance .
While the US image is cemented in the minds of the international community, the American leaders then turned to the orchestration of international institutions that would sustain America’s position as a world leader and the stability resulting from the war. The American leaders had advocated the idea of making an “open world” through the creation of multilateral institutions such as the United Nations and the Bretton Woods institutions (IMF and the IBRD). Under this open world, the US aims to create a rule-based global order that all nations could cooperate into to sustain their common interests and the current sustainability each nation enjoys. For this open world to happen, American leaders believed that three pillars must be established to sustain its power: collective security, economic multilateralism, and political self-determination. Under these three, an international law accepted by all and leadership of the great powers would sustain the balance of power and the universal organization (which the international institutions would stand for) developed for peace and security to open the world. As the aftermath of the World War had triggered European weakness and the impending Soviet-US conflict, the idea of the “One World” had been damaged as Harry Truman had advocated a narrower “Free World” community. Under this concept of international institution leadership, the US would retain a consensual leadership like in their position in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Essentially, the containment of possible threats had also been included in the plans of American leaders for international institutions .
The creation of international institutions such as the UN, IMF, IBRD and the NATO all reflected the American society that is bound by its own values. These institutions reflected American fondness over democracy for all nations – as seen in the UN and NATO functions and a free-market capitalism that would sustain democracy, peace and security. These institutions also show their common identity in terms of their location, creating a framework to allow various identities (in the form of member countries) to abide by the common ground set by the institution and act as one community pushing for one ideal. International institutions also mirror US society’s concept of politics as US society is active in ensuring that leaders are consistent with the policies decided upon by members to ensure sustainability. Finally, these international institutions reflect American society’s vision of equal rights and freedoms for all as the these institutions would recognize the importance of each other’s rights and freedoms and would respect their rules and beliefs to the extent that it is not against the common norm. If these freedoms and rights are threatened, these institutions, like the US society, would fight to defend and preserve these shared and crucial values .
With the immense influence of the Americans throughout and after the Second World War, the American public had seen the impact of the war to their idea of a ‘just world order’ influenced in two ways. The first impact is that the war affected their idea as to how world order would be sustained with the leadership of the US and its cooperation with the other countries. The question on how conflicting ideologies and leadership styles is raised by some Americans as it may not be beneficial for the American national interests and security concerns. In addition to this, since there is the lack of common ground as to how world order would be sustained, many had implied the possible consequences of lacking a firm leadership to sustain the world order. Many had believed that the world order would easily crumble once demobilization is done throughout the world and may result into a newer form of depression and terror that may destroy mankind. Others had expressed concern that the world order would also bring in economic depression in the extent that further losses may be incurred to sustain the current status quo. Finally, the second impact of the war to American understanding of the just world order is the fact that the Americans play a crucial role in sustaining this status quo. Some Americans and even politicians had seen that the US could no longer hide itself from its own shores as the entire globe now sees the country as the bringer of peace and order. With the financial, military and political capabilities of the US, the US, for Americans, can bring forth the age of peace that all nations envision for the world .
The Second World War had changed the United States in several key aspects that enabled the country to gain the dominance it now enjoys in the international community. The War had allowed the US to show its capacity to serve as the leader for the Allies to stop the growing violence caused by the Axis Powers and sustain the war effort for peace. Once the war is done, it had enabled the US to utilize its power to influence fellow nations in advocating its own ideals to sustain peace, and enforce strategies to deter potential threats. The War had also enabled the US to create international institutions that would allow all members to be bound into common values and fight for democracy. Eventually, the US public had shown while the possibilities of further conflict may ensue after the Second World War, the necessity of US presence in the international community is crucial to sustain the world order the world now enjoys today.
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