U.S. Department of State: A Reference History

By Elmer Plischke | Go to book overview

7
United States as a Superpower - The Contemporary Era Since 1945

Following World War II many changes within the United States and in world affairs produced significant modifications in the Department of State, the Foreign Service, and American diplomacy. By way of background, the population of the country grew to more than 271,700,000 by 1999 (the third largest in the world), exceeded only by China and India and projected to increase to nearly 300 million in the next quarter century. Again it sustained a shift in the balance of payments, and it became a debtor nation, the stock market surged to exceed 11,000 in the 1990s, the United States became the world's greatest financial and economic power and continued to liberalize the international economic order by promoting free trade based on the most-favored-nation principle, and Alaska and Hawaii were granted statehood. John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, and several other Presidents were attacked or shot, three Vice Presidents succeeded to the American Presidency, and several former members of Congress were appointed Secretary of State, as were the first career Foreign Service Officer and the first woman.

The United States annexed no additional territory, although in 1947 it acquired jurisdiction over Micronesia (the Mariana, Marshall, Caroline, and a few other islands in the northwest Pacific, formerly the Japanese Mandate), which it administered as a United Nations Trusteeship and most of which was later granted independence. The Philippines were granted their independence by the United States on July 4, 1946, which became the first of the postwar newly independent states.

On the making of foreign policy, to which the Department of State is a primary contributor, Assistant Secretary Harlan Cleveland declared: "The making of foreign policy is frequently like trying to nail jelly to the trunk of a tree," Under Secretary George W. Ball called the Department a "fudge factory," and

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