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For many years, the way Americans looked at the world was colored by the Cold War. Leaders saw each Third World war and revolution as part of the larger fight between the United States and the Soviet Union. But after 1991 with the Soviet Union gone, the United States was free of this old way of thinking, and Presidents Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama, Trump, and Biden have looked at problems around the world differently. 

President George H. W. Bush thought the job of the United States after the Cold War was to use its huge military and power to act as a police officer to protect peace. President Bill Clinton also used the military as a police force. President George W. Bush was president during the start of the fight against terrorism but both he and Barack Obama also sent America’s men and women into war as the world’s police force. 

Can this be America’s job in the world? Can we act as the police officer, trying to stop small wars, picking sides to make sure that there is justice and peace is protected? 2000 years ago, the Mediterranean World lived under the so-called Pax Romana as the armies of the Roman Empire made sure there were years of peace between old enemies who were part of the new Roman Empire. Can, or should the world now live in a time of Pax Americana? 

What do you think? Can the United States be the world’s police officer?


The Middle East had always been important for the United States. Jews who had lived through the Holocaust in Europe during World War II, went to Palestine in the Middle East and started the country of Israel which Americans have always helped. The countries of the Persian Gulf have oil the United States and the rest of the world need. During the Cold War, wars in the Middle East, like the war between neighbors Iraq and Iran were proxies for our fight with the Soviet Union. So, the Middle East has always been important to Americans. 

At the end of the Cold War, the Middle East became even more important. In 1988, Iraq had a problem. It had borrowed a lot of money during its war with its neighbor Iran. At the same time, other Arab countries had started drilling and selling more oil, which made the price of oil go down. This hurt Iraq’s economy. Iraq’s leader, Saddam Hussein, asked the other oil-producing countries for help, including Saudi Arabia and his tiny, but rich neighbor Kuwait. But in 1990, they said no, and Iraq was all alone with no supporters and owing a lot of money. Hussein ordered an attack on Kuwait. 

The attack on Kuwait was a new test for the United States after the end of the Cold War. President George H. W. Bush had a choice. On the one hand, he could get involved to protect Kuwait. This would change the job of the United States from enemy of communism to world cop. On the other, the United States could stand back and let small wars around the world happen. For many, the second choice seemed best. After all, without communism, what possible reason did the United States have to join a war?

But President Bush picked the first choice. He and his advisors talked to the leaders of 34 countries and got them to support his plan. Many were members of NATO, but the supporting countries also included some from the Middle East like Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Egypt. The Saudis had never let American soldiers into their country before, and during the Cold War Syria and Egypt had been friendly with the Soviet Union. Bush hoped that this coalition, or team of countries, would be the beginning of a “new world order” in which countries would work together to stop bullies like Saddam Hussein. For the first time, Woodrow Wilson’s dream of moral diplomacy looked like it might be coming true. 

A due date was set for Iraq to leave Kuwait. Bush first sent troops to defend Saudi Arabia in Operation Desert Shield. Congress passed a law giving President Bush the power the use the military against Iraq and the United States started bombing Iraq with the air force. The air war was the first time the United States used some of its new, high-tech weapons, including stealth bombers and laser-guided bombs. After weakening the Iraqi defenses, the United States started Operation Desert Storm, a 100-hour land war. There were more than 500,000 American soldiers and 200,000 from 27 other countries. Iraq’s army was thrown out of Kuwait and almost totally destroyed. Together, Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm are now called the First Gulf War

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President George H. W. Bush flew to the Middle East to meet the troops during the First Gulf War.

Some of President Bush’s advisors thought that the war should keep going and that America should get rid of Saddam Hussein, but General Colin Powell, the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that to do that would be “un-American.” Bush thought so too, and American soldiers left in March of 1991. Hussein stayed on as leader of Iraq, but the war showed that the United States no longer had Vietnam Syndrome and was now willing to use the military when it thought it was needed. In April 1991, United Nations Resolution 687 ended the war. But the war had long-term effects. The UN said it would keep peace in Iraq and said the world’s countries could attack Iraq again if needed. This happened in 1996 and 1998 when Hussein attacked Kurdish people living inside his own country. In the end, America attacked Iraq in 2003, when it looked like Saddam Hussein was planning to break other UN resolutions. 

The Gulf War was also important for other reasons. Unlike the Vietnam War, Bush’s use of the military to stop one country from attacking a smaller neighbor was popular. Americans tied yellow ribbons around trees and on their cars to show support for the soldiers. At the Super Bowl in 1991, Whitney Houston sang the National Anthem. Americans bought thousands of copies of her recording. Many people had worried about “another Vietnam,” but video on TV of laser guided bombs blowing up Iraqi radar stations and missile sites gave Americans reason to be proud of their country’s technology and power. It was the first war to be shown on cable TV, and it went so well that almost no one protested. For the military, the war was very important. The leaders of the war, like Colin Powell, had been young officers in Vietnam, taking orders from an older generation. This time, they were in charge, and they showed that the army, navy, and air force with its high-tech weapons had come a long way since the days when they lost in Vietnam.

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Whitney Houston’s rendition of The Star Spangled Banner at the Super Bowl during the First Gulf War is the only recording of that song ever to break the Top 10 charts for popular music in the United States.


As we’ve learned, the United States has been a good friend of the country of Israel ever since it was created after World War II. The mostly Muslim, Arab countries in the Middle East around Israel were upset when Jewish people moved in after World War II. Those Jewish immigrants fought with the Arabs in 1948 to create Israel. The new Jewish settlers won, and Israel became a country, but that war also meant that Israel would always be enemies with its Arab neighbors. The United States has been trying to help these enemies live in peace ever since. 

The biggest problem is what would happen to Palestinians, the people who had lived on the land that became Israel. Many had to leave their homes to escape the fighting or because they didn’t want to live in a country led by Jews. Some had decided to fight back. They joined Yasser Arafat and his Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), which carried out terrorist attacks on Israelis around the world. 

In the 1970s, America had its first success when President Jimmy Carter was able to help the leaders of Egypt and Israel make peace. They signed the Camp David Accords. 14 years later, in 1993, President Clinton helped get Yitzhak Rabin, the leader of Israel, and Yasser Arafat, leader of the PLO, to sign the Oslo Accords. This deal gave Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank more power over their land. These two areas had been controlled by Israel for many years, but most of the people who lived there were Palestinian. A year later, Clinton helped Israel and its neighbor Jordan sign a peace deal. In 2020, President Trump and his advisors helped leaders from Israel, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates agree to peace when they signed the Abraham Accords

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Yitzhak Rabin (left) and Yasser Arafat (right), shown with Bill Clinton, signed the Oslo Accords at the White House on September 13, 1993. Rabin was killed two years later by an Israeli who opposed the treaty.


As things started to get more peaceful in the Middle East, war started in the Balkans, the area in the southeastern corner of Europe. During the Cold War, the Balkans had all been part of the communist country of Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia was made up of many parts: Serbia, Kosovo, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Montenegro, and Macedonia. Many different groups of people lived in the Balkans, and they didn’t always get along. The murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand that started World War I, had taken place in the Balkans. In May 1980, the leader of Yugoslavia, Josip Broz Tito, died. Without him to hold the country together, people started to fight, and when communism ended in all of Europe in 1989, Yugoslavia fell apart. 

Bosnia and Herzegovina was the part of Yugoslavia where war started. Serbian people in Bosnia did not want Bosnia to become independent. These Bosnian Serbs got help from Serbians in Serbia and they attacked Bosnian Muslims and Croats. During the war, the Serbs started a genocide. They tried to kill all the Muslims and Croats in Bosnia. Serbian soldiers and other fighters also raped between 12,000 and 50,000 Muslim women during the war. 

Led by President Bill Clinton in 1995, NATO decided to stop the fighting and attacked the Bosnian Serbs. Later that year, Clinton helped get the different groups to sign the Dayton Accords. This deal ended three and a half years of war in Bosnia. Four years later, the United States, and other NATO countries, bombed Serbia to stop the Serbian army from killing Albanian people living in Kosovo. Russia and China did not like what NATO was doing because the United Nations had never said they were ok, but in 1999 Serbian soldiers left Kosovo. 

The fighting in the Balkans helped NATO find a new job. NATO was started as a mutual defense alliance to stop the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Some people thought that after the Cold War was over, there was no need for NATO. Now, the years of planning and practicing, paid off as the militaries from the NATO countries could work together to stop genocide. The American Secretary of State at the time, Madeleine Albright, had been a child in Czechoslovakia during World War II, and understood the dangers of hate and dictatorship in Europe. She was very important in helping to give NATO a new job in the world.

The United Nations started the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) after the war. 161 people were accused of war crimes. This gave the United Nations a new job also in the years after the Cold War. Not since the Nuremberg and Tokyo war crimes trials at the end of World War II had there been an international court where leaders who had carried out genocide would have to pay for the terrible things they had done.

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Marines walk with a group of children in Kosovo during the American intervention there. American soldiers have served as peace keepers in various places. The case of Kosovo is one of the successful uses of military might to end mass murder.


Using the military in the year after the Cold War did not always turn out well. One example was in Somalia, a poor country on the east coast of Africa. The government of Somali had fallen apart, and warlords were in charge of different parts of the country. The United Nations had been sending food and medicine to Somalia, but the war lords stole the food and their soldiers had attacked the UN workers. In 1993, President Clinton sent soldiers to capture one of these leaders in the city of Mogadishu. The resulting battle went badly. A Black Hawk helicopter was shot down, and Army Rangers and other special forces soldiers spent hours battling their way through the streets. 84 soldiers were hurt and 19 died. The United States left Somalia and its people to deal with their own problems. 

Clinton and his team had Somalia in mind when they heard about a genocide in the small African nation of Rwanda in 1994. When Rwanda had been a colony of Belgium, the Belgians had given control to Tutsi tribal chiefs, even though most people in Rwanda were Hutu. After independence in 1962, fighting between Hutus and Tutsis was common and there was even a civil war in 1980. Then in 1994, the Hutu majority began to murder the Tutsi minority. President Clinton knew about the killing but chose not to send American soldiers to stop it, worrying that it would not go well, just like in Somalia. In 1998, while visiting Rwanda, Clinton said that he was sorry that he didn’t send Americans to save the lives of the 800,000 people who were killed in the genocide. In the end, the United Nations also set up a court to try criminals from Rwanda. 


When it comes to standing up for democracy and saving lives, the United States has not always done well in the past few years. Starting in 2010, there were revolutions in many countries in the Middle East. Together they are called the Arab Spring, and they show that sometimes the United States can’t do much to change the world, and that sometimes American leaders just don’t want to. 

The Arab Spring started with a revolution in Tunisia against the government and spread to other countries in the Middle East. Protests in the streets lasted for days in Morocco, Iraq, Algeria, Iran, Lebanon, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman and Sudan. In the beginning, there was hope that these popular movements would put an end to bad government and result in a chance for more people to vote. In most places, hope for positive change ended in mid-2012, as governments reacted with violence to many Arab Spring protests. There were a few countries, however, where the protests turned into civil war. In Syria, Libya and Yemen, there were years of fighting as a result of the Arab Spring protests. Only in Tunisia, the country where the Arab Spring started, did the protests end in more democracy and freedom. 

Secondary Source: Map
This map of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa shows almost all of the places the United States has been involved in since the end of the Cold War.


Protests against Libya’s dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, began in Libya in 2011 and after a few days, the protesters controlled most of Benghazi, the country’s second-largest city. Gaddafi got his army ready to attack Benghazi, saying that he would kill everyone in the city. To protect the people from Gaddafi, the United Nations Security Council voted to create a no-fly zone over Libya, which meant that Gaddafi couldn’t fly any of his airplanes or helicopters. The UN also voted for “all necessary measures” to protect civilians. 

Two days later, France, the United States and the United Kingdom started bombing Gaddafi’s army. A group of 27 countries from Europe and the Middle East soon joined the attack. President Obama gave a speech and explained America’s role as the world’s cop. “For generations, the United States of America has played a unique role as… an advocate for human freedom.”  He said that America knows that there are risks and costs to using the military, so we don’t want to, but that sometimes when American values are under attack “we have a responsibility to act.” For Obama, the possibility of thousands of people being killed in Libya by an angry dictator was an attack on American values. 

The air attacks did not end the war. It took five more months before fighters defeated Gaddafi’s army and ended his 42 years of rule. After the government fell the civil war continued between many groups within Libya. Fighting didn’t stop until 2020. Over 10,000 Libyans died in the fighting and tens of thousands had to leave their country to escape. 

In 2012 American ambassador J. Christopher Stephens and two other Americans were killed in an attack in the city of Benghazi. The attack became a big political scandal for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama. Republicans in Congress spent a lot of time looking at the events and trying to find out if Clinton or Obama had done anything wrong that might have caused their deaths. They never found anything, but the scandal was in the news for years and reminded Americans that Obama and his team failed to plan for what would happen after Gaddafi lost power. Obama said that not making plans for Libya after Gaddafi was the “worst mistake” he made as president. It also hurt Clinton when she ran for president in 2016. 

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Airmen from the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri prepare B-2 Spirit stealth bombers for an attack on Libya. The modern air force has the ability to send bombers around the world on long missions. Some have criticized the United States for using its military to strike from a distance, separating Americans from the actual fighting.


Protests in Syria started in 2011 as part of the Arab Spring after the unfair actions of the government secret police. For example, they arrested children for writing slogans against the government. When protests started, about 3,000 people were arrested. As more people started to protest, the government became more violent. In July, the army used tanks to kill protesters. By the end of the year, the people who didn’t like the government had organized their own army and started taking control of land. Their goal was to get rid of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. 

Battles between the government’s soldiers and the rebel Free Syrian Army got worse. Hundreds of people were killed in a single day, and many were trying to escape the fighting. By mid-2012, the peaceful protests of 2011 had turned into a civil war. The Syrian Civil War is still going on. The United States doesn’t like the government of Bashar al-Assad, both because he won’t allow free elections and because of the way he has attacked his own people.

However, Iran, Iraq, and Russia are helping the government. American presidents Obama and Trump both said they do not want to use our military to fight in Syria. The United States has helped the anti-government soldiers with money and weapons, but even in 2013 when it was clear that Assad had used chemical weapons against his own people, Congress did not give President Obama permission to send American soldiers into Syria. After that, Obama worked on trying to get Assad to give up the rest of his chemical weapons. This effort was partly successful, with Assad agreeing to turn over his chemical weapons to an international group that would get rid of them. He turned over some, but not all his chemical weapons. 

The United States had not totally stayed out of the fighting in Syria. In 2014, American aircraft bombed terrorists from Iraq that had moved into Syria and some government forces as well. America also sent a small number of special forces soldiers into Syria to fight terrorists. 

Russia, on the other hand, has sent its planes in Syria and are trying to help Assad and the government army. Some Americans are worried about this since it seems like Russia is winning a new sort of proxy war. President Trump promised not to get involved in the Syrian Civil War as part of his America First plan but ordered a bombing attack against Assad’s army when it was clear that they had once again used chemical weapons against civilians.

International organizations have said that everyone in the war, including the government, the people fighting against Assad, Russia, terrorists, and the United States have violated human rights violations. There have been many times when people tried to find a peace agreement but so far they have all failed. 

The war has led to a major refugee crisis. About half of all the people of Syria have lost or left their homes. Millions have moved to Lebanon, a country next to Syria which has caused problems there. Millions have tried to move to Europe. While some European leaders have welcomed Syrian refugees, others have not. Anti-immigrant feelings have been a growing political problem in Germany, France, and the United Kingdom because of the large number of refugees trying to escape the civil war in Syria and other conflicts associated with the Arab Spring. President Obama was welcoming to the first Syrian refugees, but President Trump tried to stop all Syrians from moving to America.

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A destroyed neighborhood in the Syrian city of Raqqa. The war has been especially deadly for civilians.


NOTE: This text was written before Russia’s 2022 Invasion of Ukraine.

While the United States has attacked weaker countries, no president has tried to go head-to-head with powerful countries like Russia or China. When Russia attacked its small neighbor Georgia in 2008, President George W. Bush said, “Such an action is unacceptable in the 21st Century,” and that Russia needed to stop. President Bush thought about using the military to protect Georgia but decided not to because he didn’t want to start a war with Russia. 

The problem the United States has now with Russia is not just that it has nuclear weapons, but also that its new leader, Vladimir Putin, is a nationalist who thinks Russia needs to show that it is still a strong country after the end of the Cold War. He said the fall of the Soviet Union was a “disaster” and as a former Soviet spy, he wants to do all he can to make Russia strong again. After getting his country to change its constitution so that he could stay president forever, he started working to make other countries fear and respect Russia like they feared the Soviet Union. 

Some Americans think it is good for our country to play the role of the world’s police officer. For these people, the thing that is most upsetting is Russia’s actions in Ukraine. Ukraine was once an important part of the Soviet Union, but since 1991 it has been independent. In that time there have been leaders of Ukraine who think it is better for Ukraine to be closer to Russia, and others who think Ukraine should be more friendly with the democracies of Western Europe. Ukraine is split between people who speak the Ukrainian language, and those who speak Russian. In 2014, Ukrainians who wanted a closer connection with the West protested in the capital city of Kyiv when the president said he would not be signing a trade deal with the European Union. That president, Viktor Yanukovych, had to quit, run away to Russia, and the new president was more friendly toward Europe. 

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Vladimir Putin meeting with President Obama in 2012. A series of American presidents have been unable to control Putin’s aggressive actions.

After Yanukovych lost power, Putin sent Russian soldiers into Crimea, a peninsula that had been a part of Ukraine since 1954 but had been part of Russia before that. Putin said that the land should be part of Russia. Since most of the people in Crimea liked Russia and spoke Russian, his army was able to take over and set up a new government that took orders from Putin. 

Western leaders, including President Obama, hated what Putin did. Many thought it was just like what Saddam Hussein had done to Kuwait. But even though they talked a lot about how bad Putin was, the United States did nothing to stop the Russian leader. People said that Obama was a bad president because he did not stop Putin, but the truth was that Obama was in a bad situation. It was like President Truman who had to let communists take over China in 1949. Attacking Russia was as crazy sounding as attacking China seemed in the 1940s.

Putin didn’t stop with Crimea. He sent his soldiers into Eastern Ukraine where many Ukrainians speak Russian. In 2014, a Russian missile was used to shoot down a Malaysian Airlines flight as it flew over Ukraine. Russia’s government said they don’t know what happened, but American leaders blame Russia’s army inside Ukraine. But just like what happened when Putin sent his army into Crimea, Americans complained, but did not use their military against Russia. 

Instead, the United States and its European friends set up sanctions against Russian businesses and top government leaders. Sanctions are rules that limit what a person or business can do with their money. For example, they might not be able to use American banks, or buy from American companies. These sanctions were one reason the Russian economy fell apart in 2015. Putin wanted to help Donald Trump become president in 2016 because Trump said he would end the sanctions. As president, Donald Trump tried to get Russia to do more of the things America wanted by being more friendly with Putin. He met with him in both Washington, DC and Russia, but Putin never backed down. Trump’s way of working with Russia, as well as meetings he had with North Korean dictator Kim Jung-un, were used by Democrats to claim that Trump liked dictators. In Biden’s first year as president, he gave up Trump’s way of working with Russia and restarted sanctions. 


To make it easier to learn history, we have looked at America’s military actions after the Cold War in two categories: acting like a police officer and fighting terrorism. Everything you just learned, including American actions in the Middle East, the Balkans, Africa and Ukraine, is only the first part of the story. In the next lesson we’ll learn about the War on Terror. The Cold War seems simple compared to what America has to deal with today! The Cold War had a simple goal: stop communism. Since the Cold War ended, America has had many goals and many enemies. 

In 1990 when President George H. W. Bush started the First Gulf War and got the Iraqis out of Kuwait, it seemed that the new job for the United States might be world’s police officer. When Bill Clinton led NATO’s fight to end genocide in the Balkans that job seemed to be set. But then the United States did not stop genocide in Rwanda or the civil war in Syria, and won’t even think about fighting Russia, which means we have some interesting questions to answer. 

Should we try to be the world’s police officer? Or should we use President Trump’s motto of America First. Russia and China both have nuclear weapons, so could we be the world’s police officer even if we wanted to? What do we have to do for other countries as a democracy and the world’s most powerful military and economy? 

What do you think? Should the 21st Century be an age of Pax Americana? Can, or should the United States be the world’s police officer?



BIG IDEA: After the Cold War ended, the United States has taken on the role of the world’s police officer, preventing genocide and maintaining international law. While Americans have been successful in some conflicts, we have also faced limitations to the extent of our power, most notably in the Middle East and with Russia.

After the end of the Cold War, many people were not sure what the United States’ new role in the world should be.  President George H. W. Bush helped define that role in 1991 by using the military to stop Saddam Hussein from annexing Kuwait into Iraq.  He organized a coalition of nations and won United Nations approval for the First Gulf War.  It was a successful operation, was hugely popular at home, and ended Vietnam Syndrome.

Presidents Carter, Clinton and Trump helped negotiate peace treaties between Israel and its Arab and Palestinian neighbors. President Clinton also guided NATO’s use of the force to end genocide in the Balkans in two separate wars against Serbia.

The United States was unsuccessful in bringing peace to Somalia and refused to intervene in Rwanda to stop a genocide.

In 2010 a series of revolutions and protests in the Middle East and North Africa known as the Arab Spring produced multiple conflicts. The United States used air power in Libya to prevent Muammar Gaddafi from carrying out mass murder, but did not prepare for chaos in that nation after his fall. Americans have provided funding and weapons to rebels in Syria, but have not been fully committed to the civil war there, although Russia has. Congress voted not to participate in the war during the Obama Administration and Trump’s America First policy was popular specifically because many Americans are fearful of involvement in another Middle Eastern conflict.

Russian president Vladimir Putin has caused Americans many problems. He invaded the small nation of Georgia, and invaded the much larger neighbor of Ukraine. The United States has protested and imposed sanctions, but has not used military force against this nuclear-armed enemy.



Saddam Hussein: Dictator of Iraq from 1979 until 2003. He was a strong Arab nationalist and led his nation during the Iran-Iraq War as well as the First Gulf War and the American invasion of Iraq after 9/11.

Colin Powell: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the First Gulf War and later Secretary of State under George W. Bush at the start of the War on Terror.

Madeleine Albright: Secretary of State under Bill Clinton in the 1990s. She was the first woman to hold the position and a strong advocate of military intervention in the Balkans to prevent genocide.

Vladimir Putin: President of Russia. He believes that Russia should rebuild its power in the world and has led his nation in attacks on neighbors Georgia and Ukraine, as well as ordered the interference in American and other European nations’ elections.


Genocide: Mass murder in an attempt to eliminate and entire population of people. The Holocaust of Jews in Europe during World War II is one example.

Russian Sanctions: Restrictions on Russian business dealings implemented by Congress after the Russian invasion of Crimea and Ukraine in 2014. They negatively impacted the Russian economy and are one reason Russia interfered in the American election in 2016. Sanctions were established again in 2021 as punishment for cyber-hacking.

America First: President Trump’s foreign policy. He generally has advocated isolationism, but has used the military to intervene in some cases, such as in Syria.


The Balkans: Region in southeastern Europe made up of many small nations. It marks the boundary between Christian Europe and the Muslim Middle East and has traditionally been a source of conflict throughout history. World War II started there and it was the site of intense civil wars following the collapse of Yugoslavia at the end of the Cold War.

Serbia: Christian Slavic nation in the Balkans. It is the center and largest nation to be formed after the fall of Yugoslavia at the end of the Cold War and was the aggressor in the wars during the 1990s against its neighbors Bosnia and Kosovo.

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Independent nation that was formed in the Balkans after the fall of Yugoslavia at the end of the Cold War. It was the site of intense civil war and genocide as Christian Serbs murdered Muslims. The war concluded with the Dayton Accords in 1995.

Kosovo: Independent nation that was formed in the Balkans after the fall of Yugoslavia at the end of the Cold War. Its population is primarily ethnic Albanian and the United States led NATO in a bombing campaign to prevent Serbia from carrying out mass murder.

Somalia: Nation in the east of Africa. The government failed there and the United States has tried at various times to provide humanitarian aid. In 1992, American soldiers carried out a failed mission in which 19 American soldiers died trying to protect UN workers.

Rwanda: Small nation in east-central Africa that was the site of genocide in 1994. President Bill Clinton and the United States was criticized for not intervening to stop the massacre.

Libya: Arab nation in North Africa. For many years it was ruled by dictator Muammar Gaddafi until he was overthrown during a revolution that grew out of the Arab Spring. Airstrikes by American, French and other nations protected civilians during the revolution and weakened Gaddafi’s forces.

Syria: Arab nation at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea. It borders both Iraq and Israel and is the site of the worst civil war that resulted from the Arab Spring protests. The United States has been reluctant to become fully involved in the conflict.

Ukraine: Nation in the far east of Europe bordering Russia. It was an important part of the Soviet Union but is not torn between pro-European and pro-Russian factions. Crimea was a part of this nation until Russia invaded and it is the site of ongoing Russian intervention.

Crimea: Peninsula in the south of Ukraine jutting out into the Black Sea. It was part of Russia until 1954 and was retaken by force by Russian forces in 2014 under the direction of Vladimir Putin. The United States protested and implemented sanctions against Russia, but took no military action to stop Russia’s move to annex the territory.


The First Gulf War: Conflict in 1990 between Iraq and an American-led international coalition after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. It was the first major test of American foreign policy after the Cold War.

Arab Spring: A series of protests and uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East beginning in 2010 focused on the overthrow of corrupt, dictatorial regimes. Most of the uprisings have turned into violent civil wars with only Tunisia have converted to a democracy.

2011 Airstrikes in Libya: Attacks by American and 26 other nations on Libyan government forced under the command of Gaddafi in order to stop the slaughter of civilians during the Libyan Civil War.

Benghazi Attack: Murder of Ambassador J. Christopher Stephens and two other Americans in 2012 in Libya. The event was a major embarrassment for President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and hurt her 2016 presidential campaign.

Syrian Civil War: Ongoing war within Syria between government forces, anti-government opposition forces, terrorist groups, Americans, Russians, Iranians, and a variety of other players. The war has resulted in an enormous humanitarian crisis and millions of refugees.


Camp David Accords, Oslo Accords & Abraham Accords: Peace agreements between Israel and its Arab neighbors that were negotiated with help from American presidents.

Dayton Accords: Peace agreement signed in 1995 that ended the civil war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. President Bill Clinton was influential in the negotiations and American airstrikes against the Serbian military helped convince Serbians to negotiate.

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