The U.S. has been at war for most of its existence either military or non-military. The polio war of the 19th and 20th century caused many deaths forcing the government to seek rapid interventions. The government made significant efforts to respond and succeeded after the World War II. The end of the World War II saw the beginning of other wars such as the war against racial inequality, male dominance, and the cold war. In these instances, the government achieved varying levels of success as explored in this paper.
The war against polio
In the late 19th Century and the early 20th Century, the knowledge of polio was limited. Many people in America did not understand the disease, and most attributed it to poor hygiene standards. The first reported cases were in Vermont in 1894, and they escalated as the years progressed.
The government retaliated by establishing the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (NFIP) that was commissioned by the then U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt. Prior to the World War II, the newly formed commission took the responsibility to unravel the polio mystery to Americans and find a solution to curbing polio. The media played a significant role in popularizing the agenda of NFIP in a bid to increase awareness about polio.
The next move by the government was to learn more about the polio virus. To this end, the already established NFIP instigated scientific research to create awareness of the disease. This move saw the involvement of a famous scientist Albert Sabin, who led the NFIP and supported U.S. Army Neurotropic Virus Commission in a polio study in Africa. By the end of the World War II, the U.S. had made huge strides towards combating polio.
Due to insufficient funds, the government invited independent bodies such as the March of Dimes and scientists to contribute to this research. Besides, volunteers who ran the activities of most of the NFIP local chapters joined them.
A young scientist named Jonas Salk from the University of Pittsburgh made a breakthrough in the vaccine against polio. After the initial trials in 1955, the vaccine went on to greatly aid in the reduction of fatalities associated with polio. Although the government was not the dominant force in this fight against polio, it took its coordination and the efforts of volunteers to clear the polio pandemic.
After the World War II, America was a shell of what it has become today. Most Americans lived in poverty, racial segregation was the norm of the day and America was pursuing world domination. Such scenarios formed the basis of the other non-military wars that America has fought since then.
During the World War II, African-Americans faced segregation at different levels in the army despite the well-intentioned efforts to promote democracy. The end of the war made the African-Americans more active in asking for equality. The government on its part despite the outrage of the white majority demonstrated the willingness to address the difficulties faced by the African-Americans.
In this light, the government allowed the formation of the Civil Rights Movements such as the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The organizations compelled the law and the Congress to deliberate on this matter.
The Executive Order 8802 initiated some strides that made it easy to alleviate discrimination. This order dealt with discrimination of the African-Americans in learning institutions and workplaces. The government also continued implementing civil rights bills to tackle inequality. The government further instituted the Fair Employment Practices Committee (FEPC) after the war to deal with discrimination issues in the workplaces.
The cold war
The cold war represents the American struggle to enforce its political ideology as opposed to the communist ideals of the Soviet Union. The differences in ideology between the U.S. and the Soviet Union escalated in the 1950s. The increasing tension affected the life of American citizens and influenced the actions of government.
The 1947 Executive Order 9835 issued by President Harry S. Truman is an example of government contribution to the cold war. According to this order, all of the federal employees had to undergo screening to establish their suitability to hold public office. The analysis was supposed to determine whether they were loyal to the government or not. This move was against the American ideals of freedom of speech and political participation.
Governmental agencies such as the FBI conducted several searches and background reviews on various Americans. By 1950, such efforts had led to the prosecution of more than ten prominent Americans and politicians from the communist party. The leftist organizations reduced membership since the people were afraid of the consequences that came with the membership to such parties. The courts participated in this war by making judgments that restricted the activity and speech of the communists.
The feminist war
Following women participation in the World War II, most Americans started to see the potential in women. Women activists through literature and public forums began to advocate for equal opportunity in all sectors. In response, the U.S government during the 1960s granted white women the right to vote and the right to vie for elective positions. The right to vote formed the basis upon which women elevated their influence in nearly all platforms.
Why some wars were more successful
For the fight against racial segregation, U.S. citizens were highly divided on this matter. Unlike the war on polio, the white majority in the Congress continually thwarted governmental efforts to integrate. Besides, the war against racism posed a threat to white supremacy.
Even though the cold war was a success in America, it was not as swift as they wanted. This sluggishness was attributable to the forceful measures that the U.S. used to silence its critics. Most of the people with divergent views faced several sanctions such as the freedom to express own sentiments. Gradually, they were compelled to join efforts with the USSR thus derailing this war.
The war to improve the place of women suffered the lack of majority backing because some of the women were satisfied with their role in the family set up. Besides, men were unwilling to lose their positions to women since they dominated the government and the Congress.
The fight against racial inequality and male dominance sought to achieve the values of freedom and liberty that America fought for in the World War II. The cold war on its part meant to show the world the superiority of the American ideology when compared to the Soviet-supported communist. However, all cases experienced varying levels of success because of the different backing from the government and the white majority.
Dudziak, Mary L. Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press, 2011.
Gaddis, John Lewis. The Cold War: A New History. New York: Penguin Press, 2005.
Oshinsky, David M. Polio: An American Story. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.
Romano, Renee Christine, and Leigh Raiford. The Civil Rights Movement in American Memory. Athens, Ga: University of Georgia Press, 2006.