The Cold War affected America both while it lasted and after it ended. During the more than 40 years it lasted, the Cold War brought American soldiers into two wars that no side won, changed the political climate and kept many citizens terrified of nuclear disaster. Since the end of the Cold War, Americans have faced a new world order that has precipitated global terrorism and uncertainty.
As long as it lasted, the Cold War kept American life off balance to one degree or another. Times like the Cuban missile crisis had Americans terrified of imminent nuclear war. Fallout shelters and bomb drills were common. America became involved in unpopular military conflicts in Korea and Vietnam in the name of stopping the spread of communism. The red scare and McCarthyism changed the face of politics in America. When the Cold War ended in the late 1980s, many Americans did not realize the world's geopolitical landscape was shifting. America no longer fears the Soviet Union in the same way, but the enemy has become less defined. Small countries have obtained nuclear weapons or the capacity to make them, and these often radical countries are more of a threat than the Soviet Union had been. Americans have been affected by global terrorism, even within the nation's boundaries.