History of the United States > The 21st Century
Introduction | Early America | The Colonial Period |
Revolutionary Period and New Nation | Slavery, Civil War and Westward Expansion |
Growth and Transformation | War and Prosperity | The Great Depression and the New Deal |
World War II | Postwar America | Decades of Change | Towards the 21st Century | The 21st Century
• Bridge to the 21st Century (from: Outline of America History) (DoS) CD CD
• U.S. Foreign Policy in the 21st Century - Regional Issues (DoS eJournal, Sep 06) CD
• The Challenges of Globalization (DoS) CD
• Todays' Nuclear Equation CD
• Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports
• The Global War on Terrorist Finance (DoS) CD
• Improving Lives: Military Humanitarian and Assistance Programs (DoS) CD
• Online News Hours (PBS)
• Pew Research Center for the People and the Press
• Public Agenda Online
• Significant Events in U.S. Foreign Relations: 1900 - 2001 (DoS) CD | Multimedia version
• The U.S. & NATO: An Alliance of Purpose (DoS)
• U.S. State Department (DoS)
• America.gov (DoS)
• White House Briefing Room
• Yahoo! Full Coverage USA
• Yahoo! Nachrichten aus den USA
• Major Speeches & Texts
• Country Reports on Human Rights Practices | Germany
• Foreign Relations of the United States
• GPO Access
• National Security Strategy 2006 CD
• National Security Strategy. September 2002. English | Deutsch CD
• NATO Transformed CD
• Patterns of Global Terrorism -
Germany Country Report 2007
• Supporting Human Rights and Democracy: The U.S. Record
• THOMAS, Library of Congress guide to legislative information
• University of Michigan Documents Center
• Columbia University: U.S. Government Documents Ready Reference Collection
• U.S. Census Bureau
• Economic Report of the President
• GODORT Guide to Government Statistics
• Statistical Abstract (U.S. Census Bureau)
• American Factfinder (U.S. Census Bureau)
• Working in the 21st Century (U.S. Dep. of Labor)
George W. Bush
(White House Photo)
George W. Bush is the 43rd President of the United States. He was sworn into office on January 20, 2001 after one of the most tightly contested presidential campaigns in U.S. history. The Democratic Party candidate was former Vice President Al Gore. The final totals underscored the tightness of the election: Bush won 271 electoral votes to Gore’s 266, but Gore led him in the national popular vote 48.4 percent to 47.9 percent. The pivotal state was Florida; there, only a razor-thin margin separated the candidates and thousands of ballots were disputed. After a series of state and federal court challenges over the laws and procedures governing recounts, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a narrow decision that effectively gave the election to Bush. The Republicans maintained control of both houses of Congress by a small margin.
Smoke pours from the towers of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. (AP/WideWorld Photos Jim Collins)
Bush expected to focus on domestic issues such as education, the economy, and Social Security. But his presidency changed irrevocably on September 11, 2001, when the United States suffered the most devastating foreign attack ever against its mainland. That morning, Middle Eastern terrorists simultaneously hijacked four passenger airplanes and used two of them as suicide vehicles to destroy the twin towers of the World Trade Center. A third crashed into the Pentagon building, the Defense Department headquarters just outside of Washington, D.C. The fourth, probably meant for the U.S. Capitol, crashed into the Pennsylvania countryside as passengers fought the hijackers. The death toll, most of it consisting of civilians at the World Trade Center, was approximately 3,000, exceeding that of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.
The world community confronted the threat posed by global terrorism with an unprecedented worldwide coalition. The North Atlantic Council invoked Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, thereby classifying the 9/11 terrorist attacks as an attack on all member states, and pledged any necessary assistance. Both the U.N. General Assembly and Security Council passed by acclamation resolutions condemning the terrorist attacks on the United States.
The United States attributed responsibility for 9/11 to Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda organization. A full-scale campaign was launched against Al Qaeda and its affiliates and support structures. A total of 136 countries offered a range of military assistance to the United States. As a result of Operation Enduring Freedom, the Taliban was removed from power and the first elections in more than 40 years took place in Afghanistan.
In September 2002, President Bush warned Iraq that unless it fully cooperated with United Nations weapons inspectors, the United States would lead a coalition to ensure disarmament and to eliminate the possibility for it to transfer weapons of mass destruction (WMD) to terrorist groups. In March 2003, the United States and a coalition of 30 countries launched “Operation Iraqi Freedom,” a war effort to disarm Iraq and change its regime. The Iraqi regime under Saddam Hussein fell on April 9, 2003. Despite disagreement on military action in Iraq, there is broad international support for reconstruction and democracy-building initiatives in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The challenges of postwar reconstruction in both countries are serious.
To coordinate the fight against domestic terrorist attack, the Bush administration introduced new laws under the USA Patriot Act, which broadened the search, seizure, and detention powers of the federal government. A new Department of Homeland Security, which consolidated 22 federal agencies, was also established.
By 2004, with the United States facing a violent insurgency in Iraq and considerable foreign opposition to the war there, the country appeared as sharply divided as it had been four years earlier. To challenge President Bush, the Democrats nominated Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts in that year's election. The organizational tempo of the campaign was as frenetic as its rhetorical pace. Both sides excelled at getting out their supporters; the total popular vote was approximately 20 percent higher than it had been in 2000. Bush won by 51 percent to 48 percent, with the remaining 1 percent going to Ralph Nader and a number of other independent candidates. President Bush was sworn in for a second term on January 20, 2005. His administration continued to face many challenges.
Global terrorism remains a serious threat. There are important challenges to be faced in Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition, the full impact of globalization is making itself felt in full force. The U.S. economy is becoming a fast-moving, innovative and novel economy -- and Americans are having to adjust to these changes. There are increasing numbers of older Americans who are facing the economic [income, job and pension] and health consequences of a 21st century economy. There is also a need to shift to new forms of energy and accompanying technologies.
The long-term effects of events and trends occurring at the beginning of the 21st century have yet to be fully understood. In the past, the United States has thrived on such challenges. From its origins as a set of obscure colonies hugging the Atlantic coast, the United States has undergone a remarkable transformation into what political analyst Ben Wattenberg has called "the first universal nation," a population of almost 300 million people representing virtually every nationality and ethnic group on the globe. It is also a nation where the pace and extent of change – economic, technological, cultural, demographic, and social – is unceasing. The United States is often the harbinger of the modernization and change that inevitably sweep up other nations and societies in an increasingly interdependent, interconnected world.
About the USA > German-American Relations
About the USA > U.S. Government
• Rebuilding and Resilience: Five Years After 9/11 (DoS eJournal, Aug 06)
• The 9/11 Commission Report National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States CD
• America Attacks (NYT Learning Network)
• America Responds (PBS)
• CNN: War Against Terror - Complete Coverage
• Covering the Attacks - Front Page Galleries (Poynter.org)
• Database of September 11 Victims (Washington Post)
• Gemeinsam gegen den Terror (U.S. Embassy Berlin) CD
• Interactive Publishing's Digital Archive
• Nine Eleven History Dot Net
• Portraits of Grief (New York Times)
• September 11 Digital Archive
• The September 11th Sourcebooks (National Security Archive)
For High School Students
• Conversations with History (University of California)
• Future State - US Department of State for Youth
• New York Times Learning Network - Student Connections
• United Nations Cyber Schoolbus
• American Politics: Then and Now (MarcoPolo Education)
• A Biography of America (Annenberg Media)
• Freedom - A History of US (PBS)
• Justice Learning - Civic Education in the Real World (NPR & NYT Learning Network)
• New York Times Learning Network - Teacher Connections
• NewsHours Extra - Teacher Resources (PBS)
• Almanac of Policy Issues
• USA.gov - Official U.S. Government Web Portal
• Political Advocacy Groups: A Directory of United States Lobbyists
• GODORT Public Policy Issues and Groups
• Center for Media and Democracy's List of Think Tanks
Texts are abridged from U.S. State Department IIP publications and other U.S. government materials. What kind of information materials are available?
CD: These documents are available in fulltext format on the About the USA CD-ROM. Teachers: Request a copy for classroom use.
L: Selected documents are available in German as well as other languages, including Arabic, Chinese, French, Spanish, Persian and Turkish.
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