Reagan and George H.W. Bush Years: 1980–1992



The decade of the 1980s became known as the Reagan Era. This was a period in which political conservatism, increased defense spending, and economic reforms led to an economic boom in the United States. President Reagan made his mark on the international arena by helping end the Cold War. Under President Bush, the United States led an international coalition to liberate Kuwait after its invasion by Iraq. The decade was not untouched by scandal, however. Reagan and members of his administration violated U.S. law by selling arms to terrorists and using the profits to fund anticommunist groups in Central America.

At A Glance

  • Ronald Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter in the 1980 presidential election, ushering in a new era of American conservatism.
  • Ronald Reagan's economic policies, often referred to as Reaganomics, included tax cuts and fewer regulations on the economy.
  • The Strategic Defense Initiative was a plan for a defense system to protect the United States from Soviet nuclear attack. Wildly expensive and technologically impossible, the system was never completed.
  • The Iran-Contra affair involved members of the Reagan administration violating a ban on selling weapons to Iran and using proceeds from the sales to support anticommunist activities in Nicaragua.
  • Tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union thawed during the Reagan administration, as the Soviet government embraced political restructuring and a new policy of openness.
  • The Cold War ended in 1991 with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union's collapse led to a new era of postcommunism.
  • The Persian Gulf War began when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990 and the United States led an international military intervention in the Middle East.
  • The invention of the Internet and the World Wide Web provided Americans and people around the world with unprecedented ways to communicate and access information, further hastening globalization.