What were the short and long term effects of World War II?



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brettd's profile pic

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World War II, in the short term, reduced the number of effective empires in the world to two: the US and the Soviet Union.  The war bankrupted the British and occupied the French, with of course, Germany and Japan being completely defeated.  The American economy boomed both during and after the war, as the jobs and wealth it created took us out of the Great Depression and heavily industrialized the country.

In the long term, the economy remained healthy in the US and the middle class greatly expanded, but the Cold War struggle between the two remaining superpowers would dominate world affairs for half a century, divide countries in Europe and Asia, launch civil wars in dozens of places around the world and begin a very expensive nuclear and conventional arms race.  The atomic bomb invented during World War II could not be uninvented, and in the modern day nuclear proliferation is still a problematic leftover from World War II.

pohnpei397's profile pic

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The main short term effect of World War II was to destroy the power of many countries that had previously been relatively strong.  Before WWII, Japan was strong and had an empire.  Before WWII, Germany was a major power.  France was a major power with an overseas empire.  The UK was as well.  After WWII, all of those countries were significantly weakened.  Japan, Germany, and parts of France were devastated physically.  Japan lost its empire immediately.  France and the UK had their economies severely weakened by the war.  In the short term, these changes in the fortunes of nations were the most important effect of the war.

In the long term, there were at least two major effects.  One was that WWII led to the Cold War.  Because the US and the USSR were the only two major powers left in the world, and because their political and economic systems were antithetical to one another, they entered into a decades-long rivalry a few years after WWII ended.  The second major effect of WWII was to make the US the world’s dominant economic power.  All of the countries that had once been competitors to the US were devastated by the war.  The US homeland was not touched by the war and many things about the war (particularly the scientific and engineering advances that came with it) helped the US economy grow.

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