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The Birth of NAFTA

It has its share of ardent supporters, who see it as a force for positive economic and social change, as well as die-hard opponents, who lament the loss of jobs and the damage done to some small towns and cities. Whatever the sentiment, it is hard to deny the tremendous effect the North America Free Trade Agreement has had on its three participants. It is now the largest trading bloc in the world,  covering 475 million people and accounting for more than $20 trillion (that’s trillion with a T) in trade each year. Given the entrenched interests and widespread concerns of either American cultural hegemony or cheap Mexican labor, it is not surprising that the road to an agreement was long and tortuous.   Read more

The Berlin Wall Is Built — August 13, 1961

On August 13, 1961, Berlin woke up to a shock:  the East German Army had begun construction on the infamous Berlin Wall.  The Wall was initially constructed in the middle of Berlin, and expanded over the following months. It entirely cut off West Berlin from the surrounding East Germany, prohibiting East Germans to pass into West Germany.  However, American military cars were sometimes able to pass through and, in the words of Charles K. Johnson, “poke around.”  The Wall would quickly become a symbol of the Cold War and separated families for a generation. In 1987, President Ronald Reagan demanded “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” Two years later, the Wall officially fell, leading to the eventual reunification of East and West Berlin. Read more

The Search for Peace in Southern Africa – Oil, Angola, and the Proxy Wars

During the Cold War, the United States and the USSR engaged in a zero-sum game throughout the globe; while mutually assured destruction prevented the two nuclear superpowers from fighting a hot war, they did conduct an extensive war of proxies on nearly every continent. In the 1970s, just as Saigon – and American influence in the region – was falling, a new hotspot emerged in oil-rich Angola. After many years of conflict, Angola had gained its independence in 1975. That led to a fight for dominance among the three nationalist movements:  the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), founded in 1956; the National Front for the Liberation of Angola (FNLA), established in 1961; and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), founded in 1966. The U.S. supported the FNLA in an attempt to counterbalance the growing number of Cuban troops, which supported the MPLA. Read more