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The Presidency of Bill Clinton: Foreign Engagements & Other Issues
In the Battle of Mogadishu (Black Hawk Down), In the African nation of Somalia, the United Nations and the USA tried to bring order to the region ravaged by famine and Civil War. George H.W. Bush initiated the USA’s involvement. In 1993, the militia of the self-proclaimed President of Somalia, Mohamed Farrah Aidid, detonated a bomb against a U.S. military vehicle, killing four soldiers. Newly elected President, Bill Clinton, deployed troops to apprehend Aidid and leaders within his regime. In the mission to arrest two of Aidid’s commanders, two American Black Hawk Helicopters were shot down with rocket propelled grenades. 18 American soldiers died in the conflict and over 1,000 Somalian militants were killed. By 1994, the USA and the UN had evacuated Somalia.
When the USSR broke apart, it brought instability to the nations in the former Soviet Union and in the Satellite Nations of Eastern Europe. Yugoslavia, which was a declared Socialist Nation, also saw massive tension in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The Communist leader of Yugoslavia, Josip Broz Tito, kept ethnic tensions from erupting into Civil War from 1943 to 1980. After he died, various ethnic groups claimed territory in Yugoslavia. The Serbs were the largest group. As the various ethnic groups sought independence from the Serbs, the Serbs tried to maintain control of the other ethnic regions. A leader named Slobodan Milosevic tried to establish a government in which each citizen had one vote. Yet, many argued this would allow the Serbs to dominate politics. Slovenia and Croatia tried to establish Republics with less ties to the entire nation. The Serbs in Slovenia and Croatia tried to rebel and support Milosevic’s plan. Various ethnic conflicts led the area into a horrific Civil War.
Ethnic cleansing began in the region of the secession of states in the former region of Yugoslavia. Serbs began to massacre various other ethnic groups to try and eliminate the other ethnicities, such as Bosnians and Croats. In 1995, Clinton urged the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to attack Milosevic's regime and Serbian strong holds. They tried to intervene to stop the ethnic cleansing and genocide. The United Nations then sent in humanitarian aid. Yet, by then, thousands of people had died in the ethnic conflicts. Later, NATO forced Serbia out of Kosovo, to protect Albanians, and reduced Milosevic’s power.
Loosely connected rebel, Muslim groups in Afghanistan, called the Mujahedeen, pursued Jihad, or Holy War, against the Communist, Soviet Union influence in their region in the 1980s. Foreigners also arrived to fight in Afghanistan against the USSR. Notorious among them was a Saudi named Osama Bin Laden, whose group eventually evolved into Al-Qaeda, the group who attacked the USA on 9/11/2001. Yet, in this time period, the USA gave aid to the rebels in Afghanistan, which included people like Osama bin Laden. While many in the USA opposed the theocracy of Muslim extremists, they wanted to take a stand against their main Cold War rival, the USSR.
During the Gulf War, Bin Laden, a leader in Al-Qaeda, did not want the USA to come to Saudi Arabia to fight against Iraq. Bin Laden was NOT an ally of Saddam. He wanted to fight Saddam without the USA’s help and his extremism taught that people who did not practice his religion should not be in Saudi Arabia, home of Mecca, a holy site in Islam. Before the Gulf War, though, the USA had helped Bin Laden and other extremists against the USSR in Afghanistan. Yet, Bin Laden and his group, Al-Qaeda, turned on the USA and started targeting America with terrorism. Al-Qaeda wickedly bombed the World Trade Center in 1993, cruelly bombed American embassies in Africa, and tragically bombed the USS Cole, an American ship, in 2000, killing 17 sailors. Bin Laden was also the mastermind of the evil 9/11 attack in 2001.
Ever since Israel became a nation in 1948, the Jews of Israel have had tension with surrounding Muslim populations. For instance, Yasir Arafat led the Palestinian Liberal Organization (PLO) to challenge Israel’s power and control of the region. This led to many military conflicts between Israel, the PLO, and other similar groups. A peace in Israel seemed possible in 1993. Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, entered into the Oslo Accords giving Palestinians control of Gaza and the West Banks. Bill Clinton played a major role in bringing the two sides together. An Israeli extremist, Yigal Amir, angry that Rabin cooperated with Arafat, assassinated Rabin in 1995. This damaged the peace process. In 2001, Ariel Sharon became Prime Minister of Israel and suicide bombings continued against the nation. To this day, the region still has tension over these issues.
On April 19th, 1995, a car bomb was detonated in the Oklahoma City Building. Over 150 people were killed and over 600 injured. Initially, many assumed that the attack was in connection with other acts of extremism and terrorism, such as the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993 by Al-Qaeda. However, it turned out that an American, Timothy McVeigh, carried out the attack. McVeigh was an anti-government fanatic. This was the worst domestic act of terrorism in American history. McVeigh was eventually executed for his evil act of terrorism.
By 1993, many nations in Europe joined the European Union. The theory was that, if the European nations coordinated their economies and had a common currency, it would stimulate the economies of those nations involved. Eventually, the European Union created a shared currency between various nations, the Euro. Many leaders in Mexico, the USA, and Canada believed they too should try to make trade in North America easier. They proposed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Many Democrats, members of Clinton’s own party, feared this would mean American jobs would move to Mexico, where companies could pay workers lower wages. Despite opposition in his own party, Bill Clinton heavily supported NAFTA. He believed lowering trade barriers between Mexico, the USA, and Canada would, in the long run, stimulate the economies of each nation.