The Meaning Of The Monroe Doctrine (1817-1823) BY ADMIRAL A. T. MAHAN - History

The Meaning Of The Monroe Doctrine (1817-1823) BY ADMIRAL A. T. MAHAN - History

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The Meaning Of The Monroe Doctrine (1817-1823)

The formulation of the Monroe Doctrine, as distinguished from its origin, resulted, as is universally understood, from the political conditions caused by the revolt of the Spanish colonies in America. Up to that time, and for centuries previous, the name Spain had signified to Europe in general not merely the mother country, but a huge colonial system, with its special economical and commercial regulation; the latter being determined through its colonial relations, upon the narrowest construction of colonial policy then known, which was saying a great deal. Spain stood for the Spanish empire, divisible primarily into two chief components, Spain and Greater Spain—the mothercountry and the colonies. The passage of time had been gradually reversing the relative importance of the two in the apprehension of other European states.
In Sir Robert Walpole's day it was believed bymany beside himself that Great Britain could not make head against France and Spain combined. The naval power of Spain, and consequently her political weight, still received awed consideration; a relic of former fears. This continued, tho in a diminished degree, through the War of American Independence; but by the end of the century, while it may be too much to affirm that such apprehension had wholly disappeared—that no account was taken of the unwieldy numbers of ill-manned and often ill-officered ships that made up the Spanish navy—it is true that a Spanish war bore to British seamen an aspect rather commercial than military. It meant much more of prize money than of danger; and that it did so was due principally to the wealth of the colonies.

This wealth was potential as well as actual, and in both aspects it appealed to Europe. To break tn upon the monopoly enjoyed by Spain, and consecrated in international usage both by accepted ideas and long prescription, was an object of policy to the principal European maritime states. It was so conspicuously to Great Britain, on account of the preeminence which commercial considerations always had in her councils. In the days of William III the prospective failure of the Spanish royal house brought up the questions of what other family should succeed and to whom should be transferred the great inheritance won by Columbus, Cortez, and Pizarro. Thenceforth the thought of dividing this spoil of a decadent empire—the "sick man" of that day—remained in men's memory as a possible contingency of the future, even tho momentarily out of the range of practical politics. The waning of Spain's political and military prestige was accompanied by an increasing understanding of the value of the commercial system appended to her in her colonies. The future disposition of these extensive regions, and the fruition of their wealth, developed and undeveloped, were conceived as questions of universal European policy. In the general apprehension of European rulers they were regarded as affecting the balance of power.
It was as the opponent of this conception, the perfectly natural outcome of previous circumstances and history, that the Monroe Doctrine entered the field; a newcomer in form, yet having its own history and antecedent conditions as really as the conflicting European view. Far more than South America, which had seen little contested occupation, the northern continent had known what it was to be the scene of antagonistic European ambitions and exploration. There had been within her territory a balance of power, in idea, if not in achievement, quite as real as any that had existed or been fought for in Europe. Canada in the hands of France, and the mouth of the Mississippi in alien control, were matters of personal memory to many, and of very recent tradition to all Americans in active life in 1810. Florida then was still Spanish, with unsettled boundary questions and attendant evils Not reason only, but feeling, based upon experience of actual inconvenience, suffering, and loss—loss of life and loss of wealth, political anxiety and commercial disturbance—conspired to intensify opposition to any avoidable renewal of similar conditions. To quote the words of a distinguished American Secretary of State, speaking twenty years ago: "This
sentiment is properly called a 'doctrine,' for it has no prescribed sanction, and its assertion is left to the exigency which may invoke it." This accurate statement places it upon the surest political foundation, much firmer than precise legal enactment or international convention, that of popular conviction. The sentiment had existed beforehand; the first exigency which invoked its formulated expression in 1823 was the announced intention of several great powers to perpetuate by force the European system, whether of colonial tenure or balance of power, of monarchical forms in the Spanish colonies; they being then actually in revolt against the mother-country and seeking, not other political relations to Europe, but simply their own independence....

The American declaration against "the extension of the system of the allied powers to any portion of this hemisphere" was welcomed as supporting the attitude of Great Britain; for the phrase, in itself ambiguous, was understood to apply not to the quintuple alliance for the preservation of existing territorial arrangements in Europe, to which Great Britain was a party, but to the Holy Alliance, the avowed purpose of which was to suppress by external force revolutionary movements within any State—a course into which she had refused to be drawn. But the complementary declaration in the President's message, that "the American continents are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European power," was characterized in the Annual Register for 1823 as "scarcely less extravagant than that of the Russian ukase by which it was elicited" and which forbade any foreign vessel from approaching within a hundred miles of the Russian possession now known as Alaska. The British government took the same view; and in the protocol to a conference held in 1827 expressly repudiated this American claim.

There was therefore between the two countries at this moment a clear opposition of principle, and agreement only as to a particular line of conduct in a special case. With regard to the interventions of the Holy Alliances in Europe, Great Britain, while reserving her independence of action, stood neutral for the time, but from motives of her own policy showed unmistakably that she would resist like action in Spanish America. The United States, impelled by an entirely different conception of national policy, now first officially enunciated, intimated in diplomatic phrase a similar disposition. The two supported each other in the particular contingency, and doubtless frustrated whatever intervention any members of the Holy Alliance may have entertained of projecting to the other side of the Atlantic their "union for the government of the world." In America, as in Europe, Great Britain deprecated the intrusion of external force to settle internal convulsions of foreign countries; but she did not commit herself, as the United States did, to the position that purchase or war should never entail a cession of territory by an American to a European state, a transaction which would be in so far colonization. In resisting any transfer of SpanishAmerican territory to a European power, Great Britain was not advancing a general principle, but maintaining an immediate interest. Her motive, in short, had nothing in common with the Monroe Doctrine. Such principles as were involved had been formulated long before, and had controlled her action in Europe as in America.
The United States dogma, on the contrary, planted itself squarely on the separate system and interests of America. This is distinctly shown by the comments of the Secretary of State, John Quincy Adams, in a dispatch to the American minister in London, dated only two days bef ore Monroe's message. Alluding to Canning's most decisive phrase in a recent dispatch, "Great Britain could not see any start of the colonies transferred to any other power with indifference," he wrote. "We certainly do concur with her in this position; but the principles of that aversion, so far as they are common to both parties, resting only upon a casual coincidence of interests, in a national point of view selfish on both sides, would be liable to dissolution by every change of phase in the aspects of European politics. So that Great Britain, negotiating at once with the European alliance and with us concerning America, without being bound by any permanent community of principle, would still be free to accommodate her policy to any of those distributions of power and partitions of territory which for the last half century have been the ultima ratio of European arrangements."

For this reason, Adams considered that recognition of the independence of the revolted colonies, already made by the United States, in March, 1822, must be given by Great Britain also, in order to place the two States on equal terms of cooperation. From motives of European policy, from which Great Britain could not dissociate herself, she delayed this recognition until 1825; and then Canning defined his general course toward the Spanish colonies in the famous words: "I called the New World into existence to redress the balance of the Old. I resolved that, if France had Spain, it should not be Spain with the Indies." His coincidence with the policy of the United States is thus seen to be based, and properly, upon British interests as involved in the European system, but that, so far from being the Monroe Doctrine, is almost the converse of it.
Nor was it only in direction that the impulse of the two States differed. They were unequal in inherent vital strength. The motive force of the one was bound to accumulate, and that of the other to relax, by the operation of purely natural conditions. An old order was beginning to yield to a new. After three centuries of tutelage America was slipping out of European control She was reaching her majority and claiming her own. Within her sphere she felt the future to be hers. Of this sense the Monroe Doctrine was an utterance. It was a declaration of independence, not for a single nation only, but for a continent of nations, and it carried implicitly the assertion of all that logically follows from such independence. Foremost among the conditions insuring its vitality was propinquity, with its close effect upon in
terest. Policy, as well as war, is a business of positions. This maxim is perennial; a generation later it was emphasized in application, but not originated, by the peopling of the Pacific coast, the incidental discovery of gold in California, and the consequent enhanced importance of the Isthmus of Panama to the political strategy of nations. All this advanced the Monroe Doctrine on the path of development, giving broader sweep to the corollaries involved in the original proposition; but the transcendent positional interest of the United States no more needed demonstration in 1823 than in 1850, when the ClaytonBulwer5 Treaty was made, or than now, when, not the Pacific coast only, but the Pacific Ocean and the Farther East, lend increased consequence to the isthmian communications.
The case of the United States is now stronger, but it is not clearer. Correlatively, the admission of its force by others has been progressive; gradual and practical, not at once or formal. Its formulation in the Monroe Doctrine has not obtained the full legislative sanction even of the country of its origin; and its present development there rests upon successive utterances of persons officially competent to define, but not of full authority to commit the nation to their particular expressions. So, too, international acquiescence in the position now taken has been a work of time, nor can there be asserted for it the final ratification of international agreement. The Monroe Doctrine remains a policy, not a law, either municipal or international; but it has advanced in scope and in acceptance. The one progress, as the other, has been the result of growing strength—strength of numbers and of resources. Taken with position, these factors constitute national power as they do military advantage, which in the last analysis may always be resolved into two elements, force and position.
In the conjunction of these two factors is to be found the birth of the Monroe Doctrine and its development up to the present time. It is a product of national interest, involved in position, and of national power dependent upon population and resources. These are the permanent factors of the Monroe Doctrine; and it cannot be too strongly realized by Americans that the permanence of the doctrine itself, as a matter of international consideration, depends upon the maintenance of both factors. To this serious truth record is borne by history, the potent mother of national warning and national encouragement. That the doctrine at its first enunciation should not at once have obtained, either assent or influence, even in its most limited expression, was entirely natural. Altho not without an antecedent history of conception and occasional utterance by American statesmen, its moment of birth was the announcement by Monroe; and it had then all the weakness of the new-born, consequent upon a national inadequacy to the display of organized strength which had been pathetically manifested but ten years before.
After the destruction of the rule of Spain in her colonies, except in Cuba and Porto Rico, Great
Britain remained the one great nation besides the United States possest of extensive territory in America. She also was the one state that had had experience of us as an enemy, and known the weakness of our military system for offensive action. What more natural than that she should have welcomed the first promulgation of the doctrine, in its original scope directed apparently merely against a combination of Continental powers, the purposes of which were offensive to herself, and yet failed to heed a root principle which in progress of time should find its application to herself, contesting the expansion of her own influence in the hemisphere, as being part of the European system and therefore falling under the same condemnations Yet even had she seen this, and fully appreciated the promise of strength to come, it was to be expected that she should for the meantime pursue her own policy, irrespective of the still distant future. It may be advantageous to retard that which must ultimately prevail; and at all events men who head the movements of nations are not able at once to abandon the traditions of the past and conform their action to new ideas as yet unassimilated by their people.
There is, then, this distinguishing feature of the Monroe Doctrine, which classifies it among principles of policy which are essentially permanent. From its correspondence to the nature of things, to its environment, it possest from the first a vitality which insured growth and development. Under such conditions it could not remain in application at the end of a half century just what it had been in terms at the beginning. Apprehended in leading features by American statesmen, and by them embraced with a conviction which the people shared—tho probably not fully understanding it received from time to time, as successive exigencies arose to invoke assertion, definitions which enlarged its scope; sometimes consistently with its true spirit, sometimes apparently in excess of evident limitations, more rarely in defect of them....
It is vain to argue narrowly concerning what the Monroe Doctrine is, from the precise application made of it to any one particular emergency. Nor can there be finality of definition, antecedent to some national announcement, formally complete, which it is to be hoped will never be framed; but which, if it were, would doubtless remain liable to contrary interpretations, sharing therein a fate from which neither the enactments of legislatures nor the bull of a pope can claim exemption. The virtue of the Monroe Doctrine, without which it would die deservedly, is that, through its correspondeuce with the national necessities of the United States, it possesses an inherent principle of life, which adapts itself with the flexibility of a growing plan to the successive conditions it encounters. One of these conditions, of course, is the growing strength of the nation itself. As Doctor Johnson ungraciously said of taxing Americans for the first time, "We do not put a calf to the plow: we wait till he is an ox."
For these reasons it is more instructive, as to the present and future of the Monroe Doctrine, to consider its development by successive exhibitions in the past, than to strive to cage its free spirit within the bars of a definition attempted at any one moment.

Monroe Doctrine

Esta tesis se centra en como la doctrina Monroe fue el eje sobre el cual se interpretó el Segundo Imperio Mexicano en los EEUU. ¿Era el imperio de Maximiliano, o la Intervención Francesa, un riesgo para una Unión victoriosa? ¿Este episodio de la historia de México sirvió para volver re posicionar al gobierno de Washington entre las potencias de la época?

Director de tesis: Carlos Armando Preciado de Alba.

The relationship between the United States and the two nations (Haiti and the Dominican Republic) on the island of Hispaniola shows how the principle of anti-colonial imperialism has played out in the twentieth century. The island was first colonized by Spain based on Columbus’ exploration and occupation. The Spaniards decimated the native Taíno Indians and introduced African slaves to the island. France colonialized the western third of the island creating an ethnic difference between the French-Creole-speaking people of Haiti and Spanish-speaking people of Santo Domingo (later the Dominican Republic).

The United States temporarily occupied Haiti and the Dominican Republic in the first quarter of the twentieth century in order to prevent European countries from using the debts owed them to re-colonialize the two countries as well as to protect American business interests on the island. After the end of the American occupation, two dictators came to power: Raphael Trujillo, who rose to power under the American occupation and François Duvalier, who used the syncretistic folk religion of vodun to terrorized the population through his Tonton Macoute paramilitary force. After Cuban revolution under Fidel Castro in 1959, the concern of the United States was to prevent the spread of Communism in the Western Hemisphere. This became the rationale for additional interventions in the internal affairs of both countries in the second half of the twentieth century in order to prevent the Communists from overthrowing these dictators and their families.

3 Overseas Expansion

One interesting thing about America’s 19th-century Pacific expansion is that it happened during, and even before, its more famous western settlement. American missionaries and sugar planters were in Hawaii in the 1820s, a generation before the California Gold Rush or Mormon Trek to Utah. The reason is that, while oceans can be deadly in strong winds, water is normally easier to traverse than land — even the long and torturous pre-Panama Canal sea route around Cape Horn from the East Coast to the Pacific. By 1890, when the Census Bureau declared the western frontier closed, the U.S. had already laid claim to territory in the Pacific. By 1902, America controlled Hawaii, Alaska, the Philippines, Guam, Midway Island, part of Samoa and several smaller islands in the Pacific (e.g. Palmyra Atoll and Wake, Jarvis, Howland, and Baker Islands). Since its revolution and initiation of the Old China Trade routes starting in 1783, the U.S. coveted trading with Asians the way it had traditionally with Europeans. It signed a trade deal with Siam (now Thailand) in 1833 that’s still in place. In the 1850s, Commodore Matthew Perry sailed the U.S. Navy to China and Japan to increase trade in East Asia. By the turn of the 20th century, America was digging a canal shortcut between the Atlantic and Pacific and was in combat defending its interests in Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. In this chapter, we’ll cover why and how America stepped out onto this world stage.

Thirteen Factories at Guangzhou (China), 1805, Unknown Chinese Artist

Closer to home and earlier, the U.S. declared hegemony over the Western Hemisphere in the 1820s with the Monroe Doctrine, acquiescing in existing Spanish and Portuguese territories for the time being, but vowing to preclude any further colonization by any foreign power. The U.S. had control of Mexico at the end of the Mexican War in 1848 but voluntarily relinquished the country’s bottom 45% mainly because Congress didn’t want to integrate millions of Hispanic Catholics into its population. The U.S. tried twice to conquer Canada, once in 1775 (as Continental Congress) and again during the War of 1812. As the 19th century wore on, only industrialists kept the Canadian idea alive neither the government nor public had much appetite. That prospect reemerged when the U.S. acquired Alaska in 1867, but Canada extended to the Pacific by acquiring British Columbia and building a transcontinental railroad, completed in 1885. When Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of State, William Seward, purchased Alaska from Russia, critics derided him for wasting $7.2 million on an iceberg Seward’s Folly they called it. But the U.S. spent around 2¢/acre for an area roughly 1/3rd the size of the Lower 48 that later yielded gold, oil, and fishing, to say nothing of its natural beauty and parks. Alaskans are fond of saying that, if Texans feel bad about living in the second-biggest state, they could split Alaska in half so that Texas is third.

Signing the Alaska Treaty of Cessation, 1867, Emanuel Leutze

Manifest Destiny
Overseas expansion forced America to confront conflicting sides of its collective personality — one championing self-determination, the right of people to rule themselves — rooted in its own emancipation from British rule in the late 18th century the other based on its own sense of mission to spread its way of life and need for economic growth.

Nineteenth-century expansion played out under the ideological cloak of Manifest Destiny, the belief that God destined white Protestants to dominate inferior Indians, Mexicans, and Asians. Senator and historian Albert Beveridge said, “God has marked the American people as His chosen nation to finally lead in the regeneration of the world. This is the divine mission of America, and it holds for us all the profit, all the glory, all the happiness possible to man.” His message echoed a sense of mission and prerogative that traced back to 17th-century Puritans, and one that resonates with many Americans today. While religious nationalism might sound chauvinistic to some by today’s standards, keep in mind that most powerful empires believe God likes them better than others. That’s how Rome saw itself in antiquity and how imperial Japan and Germany viewed expansion in the 1930s. Fifteenth-century Europeans proclaimed their right to conquer everyone on Earth not ruled by a Christian sovereign in the Discovery Doctrine. Similar notions held true for the more innocuous United States in the 19th century. Manifest Destiny is most famously associated with America’s spread across the American frontier, but the same hopes and ambitions projected simultaneously across the Pacific Ocean. Senator Beveridge’s comments came during America’s Philippines conquest in 1900.

Hawaiians In Double-Hulled Canoes Greeting Cook’s Expedition In Kealakekua Bay (Big Island), John Webber, 1781

With their expert knowledge of currents, stars, and wind, Polynesians from Marquesas and Raiatea migrated to the Hawaiian Islands in double-hulled voyaging canoes sometime around 500 CE. They brought with them the fishing and farming techniques, language, religion, social hierarchy, tools, and outrigger canoes common to what’s now French Polynesia. Another wave from Bora Bora and Tahiti settled in the 11th century. Following the same currents, British explorer and naval captain James Cook visited Oahu and Kauai in 1778 on his Third Voyage. Some Dutch and Spanish ships might have visited Hawaii before the British, but Cook’s crew was first to make a European impact. The Hawaiian term Haole, for outsider, predates Cook, who named the Sandwich Islands for his patron, Lord Sandwich. Returning from the Pacific Northwest later that year to Maui and the Big Island (Hawaii) — this time during a military exercise rather than religious celebration — Cook, four of his men and 17 Hawaiians were killed in Kealakekua Bay when Cook tried to kidnap and ransom a chief in a dispute over a stolen lifeboat.

Lithograph Of Village Visited By Captain James Cook Near Waimea, Kauai, Based On 1778 Etching By John Webber, WikiCommons

Other Europeans, including Russians based out of Sitka, Alaska, followed for whale hunting, pineapples (especially on Lanai), and sandalwood, for perfumes/cosmetics, medicine, and furniture. New England merchants disrupted by the War of 1812 sailed around South America, traded and hunted for sea-otter furs in the Pacific Northwest, swapped guns and iron tools to Hawaiians for pork, salt, freshwater and sandalwood, then traded sandalwood and sea-otter furs to China for porcelain, silk, and tea. Hawaiian chiefs used the guns to consolidate their power and fight each other and to control the common “callous backs” responsible for sandalwood lumbering.

Samuel Ruggles Was Among the First Groups of Missionaries in 1820 and Pioneer of Kona Coffee, Hawaii Gazette

By the 1820s, American planters grew coffee in the Big Island’s Kona district, with its nutrient-rich volcanic soil, and sugarcane elsewhere. Hawaiians felt Manifest Destiny’s impact when Protestant missionaries from New England led by Hiram Bingham I and Asa and Lucy Goodale Thurston set out to convert Hawaiians to Christianity, build schools, teach concepts of land ownership and money, and transfer the native language to writing, including the word Owhyee [Hawai‘i]. They discouraged nudity, hula dancing, religious music, polygamy, and even surfing because they saw all sports as a waste of time. Eventually, they even outlawed the native language they taught Hawaiians to write.

After struggling initially to develop the right technique, planters developed a sugar export economy to rival Cuban production. However, Americans, British, and Europeans (French, Germans, Russians) accidentally brought diseases that ravaged the Hawaiian population, including tuberculosis, STDs, measles, mumps, influenza, and smallpox. What transpired next was less a direct conquest than a messy, drawn-out economic and demographic infiltration complicated by the Hawaiian monarchy’s greed and manipulation of Hawaiians. The end effect, though, was simple if mostly bloodless conquest by Whites. While it’s impossible to ever nail down counterfactual history, it’s safe to say that Hawaii wouldn’t have remained independent without the American takeover, as either Britain or Japan likely would’ve colonized/conquered them.

Hawaii, 1837, Library of Congress

King Kamehameha I united the islands in 1810 and, in 1839, Kamehameha III reformed Hawaii’s traditional regime into a constitutional monarchy with a Bill of Rights, similar to England’s. Hawaii was a sovereign nation with a parliamentary democracy and ambassadors to 150 nations. Kamehameha’s Great Māhele intended to modernize the feudal land system in such a way that indigenous Hawaiians would retain rights to one-third of all property with the royalty retaining the other two-thirds. The policy failed as the aristocracy sold off land to Whites and commoners failed to file the proper claims. Foreigners ended up with most land. The growing U.S. provided a nearly insatiable sugar market, especially after the Civil War cut off California from the South and Cuba. Planters weren’t competing against each other for a limited export market, so they cooperated in building infrastructure and irrigation ditches, etc. Hawaiians lost more and more land and the Hawaiian crown became indebted to the sugar planters. Planters imported workers from China, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, and the Portuguese islands of Madeira and the Azores. A handful of Mexican vaqueros tutored natives in cattle ranching. The beleaguered Hawaiian population shrank rapidly in the mid-19th century and many young men left as sailors or to hunt whales or mine gold in California.

Queen Liliuokalani’s Household Guard Being Disarmed, Hawaii, 1893

The Bayonet Constitution of 1887 forced David Kalakaua’s monarchy to capitulate most of its power to sugar planters, virtually turning him into a figurehead. The constitution granted the franchise to property owners (mostly white) but disenfranchised most natives, Chinese, and Japanese. King Kalakaua had revived traditions like hula dancing and surfing and, according to missionaries and planters, mismanaged finances. After the Bayonet Constitution, the British pretty much gave up any hope of taking over and ceded power to the Yankees, with “Uncle Sam” promising “John Bull” (British) trade access. King Kalakaua died in 1891, passing what monarchical power was left to his sister, Queen Lili’uokalani.

Rather than simply taking over the islands, Americans had (cynically?) helped transform feudalism into a constitutional, western-style monarchy for indigenous Hawaiians and then overthrew it in the “Spirit of ’76,” complete with declarations and committees of safety like those colonial British Americans wielded against the British in the 1770s. This charade climaxed in 1893-94 when rebel “Honolulu Rifles” backed by Marines and led by U.S. Minister to the Hawaiian Kingdom John L. Stevens, Lorrin Thurston, and Sanford Dole of the famous Dole pineapples overthrew Lili’uokalani and created a republic with Dole as president. They allowed Hawaiians who pledged allegiance to the new regime to vote along with naturalized citizens (mainly Americans). Outgoing U.S. president Benjamin Harrison hoped that, with these qualifications in place, they might vote on a constitution so the coup would have some “semblance of having been the universal will of the people.” It was illegal, by American congressional law, for the U.S. to simply conquer other sovereign nations that it wasn’t at war with. The Provisional Government left the Hawaiian monarchy in place for purely ceremonial purposes.

Newly-elected president Grover Cleveland disapproved of the coup, but the junta (provisional republic) didn’t initially answer to the U.S. and refused his order to stand down. But hadn’t Minister Stevens and U.S. Marines helped them overthrow the Queen? Historian James Haley notes: “The Junta’s conscience was untroubled by the irony that they had provoked American [military] intervention by pleading that their American lives and property were in danger, but now proclaimed for themselves this new national Hawaiian identity in order to tell the United States to get lost.” In keeping with their Spirit of 󈨐 spin, the Queen was purportedly overheard vowing to behead the rebels. The image of a Polynesian woman beheading white American businessmen, though likely fake news, played into the pro-annexation crowd’s hands in Washington, D.C. Moreover, rebel-supporting congressmen outnumbered Cleveland, who was a friend of Lili’uokalani’s. President Cleveland also didn’t realize at first that, during the coup, Lili’uokalani actually capitulated to the United States, not the Honolulu Rifles (Britain and France had taken over temporarily in the past when their subjects had tried to overthrow the Hawaiians).

American annexation wasn’t a foregone conclusion. The Hawaiian Patriotic League, composed of native Hawaiians, successfully lobbied the Senate to oppose incorporation into the U.S. from 1893-1897, but the unfolding Spanish-American War context (below) foiled their efforts. Motivated by America’s need for a mid-Pacific fueling station, President William McKinley signed a congressional joint resolution — requiring only a majority vote instead of 66% required for a treaty (of annexation) — and the U.S. annexed the islands in 1898. Hawaii became a U.S. territory in 1900, with Dole as its first governor. By then, the Navy coveted the port at Pearl Harbor that planners hoped would help the U.S. protect its Asian interests.

In 1993, a century after the overthrow, Congress and President Clinton issued the Apology Resolution, formally apologizing for America overthrowing the Hawaiian Kingdom. Today, some 20% of state residents who identify as Hawai’i natives commemorate the pre-American era with the ‘Onipa’a (“steadfast”) celebration, named after a song the fallen queen wrote in captivity. Native Hawaiians are divided over whether they’d like to seek independence from the United States.

Japan & Korea
Further west, the U.S. had no pretensions of taking over Japan the way it had Hawaii. As mentioned above, the U.S. fleet of four warships under Matthew Perry sailed into Edo Harbor (Tokyo) in 1853 more in search of trade. They also hoped to build coaling stations for the steamships Japanese called the “giant, dragons puffing smoke.” There wasn’t a lot of dialog at first other than the unspoken gunboat message. Perry just presented a letter (in English) from President Millard Fillmore demanding that Japan open its ports for trade and returned in 1854 with more ships. Japanese were divided amongst themselves during the Bakumatsu era of transition and factionalism between traditional shogunate rulers and ishin shishi that wanted to expand through more Western-style imperialism. The island had been mostly closed off to the outside world for centuries, other than a small island port at Dejima opened to Dutch trade.

Gasshukoku suishi teitoku kōjōgaki (oral statement by the American Navy admiral). A Japanese print showing three men, believed to be Commander Anan, age 54 Perry, age 49 and Captain Henry Adams, age 59, who opened up Japan to the West. The text being read may be President Fillmore’s letter to Emperor of Japan. Library of Congress

Perry’s arrival ignited anti-foreign sentiment that complicated things further. Leaders didn’t want a repeat of wars with Western powers that plagued 19th-century China (below), so they complied and representatives of Tokugawa’s Shogunate reluctantly signed the Convention of Kanagawa, or U.S.-Japan Treaty of Peace and Amity, the terms of which historians in the respective countries dispute to this day. The upshot was that, through the implied threat of blunt force, the U.S. gained trade access at Shimoda and Hakodate and built a new consulate, but didn’t establish any of its own ports. Japan also opened diplomatic relations with Britain and Russia. The Meiji (Restoration) Government that seized power in 1868 embraced Western science and technology they’d learned from the Dutch and favored more international trade.

American policy toward Korea’s isolationist Joseon Dynasty (1392-1897) followed a similar pattern to nearby Japan insofar as the U.S. wanted to initiate trade without conquering or territorializing any area. However, things got more violent there in 1866 when Korea destroyed an American merchant steamer for coming too close without permission. The U.S. didn’t respond immediately, but sent a small fleet of warships in 1871 that Koreans fired on from a shore battery. In the Shinmiyangyo ten days later, U.S. forces invaded Ganghwa Island, capturing several forts and killing 243 Koreans. The two nations weren’t on speaking terms for another decade as Joseons reaffirmed their isolationism. Eventually, Japan forced Korea to open its ports to trade, after which the U.S. signed the 1882 Treaty of Peace, Amity, Commerce, and Navigation that lasted until Japan conquered Korea in 1910.

McKinley’s 1900 Campaign Motto

Sea Power
Foreign policy always connects to the domestic economy, as the late 19th century illustrates. America’s annexation of Hawaii and expansion into the Pacific connected to a major recession, the Panic of 1893. While the downturn had multiple immediate causes (stock market crash, run on gold, collapsing wheat prices, etc.), it was increasingly apparent that the U.S. was a victim of its own success, out-producing itself in both farming and manufacturing. In other words, domestic markets were glutted or saturated, with production outstripping consumption in food and goods. What the U.S. needed was access to overseas markets and William McKinley won the 1896 election for the GOP by promising farmers and factory workers foreign markets, as we saw at the end of Chapter 2. And the president came through, at least according to the re-election campaign poster at the top of this chapter. In 1900, he offered those same blue-collar workers a “full dinner pail.” McKinley and his Assistant Navy Secretary, Theodore Roosevelt, were followers of retired admiral Alfred T. Mahan, president of U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, who wrote on the importance of sea power to America’s future. Updating Manifest Destiny to Hawaii, Mahan wrote: “In our infancy, we bordered on the Atlantic only our youth carried our boundary to the Gulf of Mexico to-day maturity sees us upon the Pacific. Have we no right or call to progress in that direction?”

Alfred T. Mahan, Admiral in the U.S. Navy, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Market access required a strong Merchant Marine, which required a strong Navy, which required distant harbors for maintenance and refueling and access to key canals and chokepoints, or bottlenecks. Strong navies and merchant fleets need access, for instance, to the Suez Canal and Straits of Hormuz (Persian Gulf) and Malacca (Southeast Asia). Mahan advised that the U.S. attain Caribbean islands like Puerto Rico and Cuba to defend a canal that it would build across the Panamanian Isthmus to connect its Atlantic and Pacific navies. Such considerations also motivated the U.S. to acquire Hawaii and access to overseas harbors in Asia and Latin America.

Major Marchand Through Africa, Cover Page of 1898 Publication at the Musee de l’Armee, Paris

Economic power is only as good as the strength used to protect one’s interests, as British history demonstrates. How did the small island of England become the most powerful country in the world, with territories in Canada, Australia, India, and Southeast Asia? The Royal Navy ruled the waves. The British had naval superiority and were willing to assert influence over foreigners by subjugating them and building up their infrastructure. It’s been thus since controlling the Dardanelles and Bosporus gave Greeks and Romans access to Ukrainian wheat in Classical times and continued through the Venetians, Genoese, Dutch, Portuguese, and British in recent centuries.

By 1900, the British dominated global banking, finance, and insurance. London traders speculated on items they’d often never seen or felt, including South African gold, Malayan tin, Australian wool, Indian cotton, Jamaican sugar, Argentinian railroads, and even Peruvian guano for fertilizer. They transplanted Brazilian rubber trees to Malaya to support British Industry. As we’ll see below, their biggest racket was importing Indian and Afghan opium into China, against the Chinese government’s will. It all started with the Royal Navy. Maritime power is still important today since important dry commodities and oil can only be moved by ship, being too bulky for planes.

You can see the utility of racism in sea power’s 19th-century application and the British had plenty of it, but it was incidental to economic concerns. Other European powers did the same, if not quite as effectively. The 19th century saw the great Scramble for Africa, whereby post-Napoleonic Europeans carved up an entire continental map (other than Liberia and Sierra Leone, settled by expatriated American slaves), while simultaneously ramping up colonization in the Middle East and Asia. Competition in Central Asia (e.g. Afghanistan) was especially tight between Britain and Russia in the so-called Great Game. All this incurred hostility among local populations that carries over to today. In 1800, Whites controlled around 35% of world land by 1900, that figure jumped to 85%. Not only did the Brits control Burma, Malaya, Hong Kong, and parts of Shanghai, the Dutch held Indonesia and the French held Indochina (Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos) and shared Shanghai. Take a minute to look at this map to see the extent of colonization dating from Age of Exploration.

European Colonization, 1492-1959

Theodore Roosevelt in Hunting Suit and Tiffany Hunting Knife and Rifle, Photographed by George Grantham Baine, NYC, 1885

Teddy Roosevelt
McKinley and Teddy Roosevelt, who succeeded him as president when McKinley was killed in 1901, both wanted to expand America’s military and commercial horizons overseas. Roosevelt was a product of his era, modifying Manifest Destiny idealism with a version of Social Darwinism. While Charles Darwin didn’t coin the phrase survival of the fittest, Social Darwinists thought that the idea was implied in his theory of natural selection and used it as an excuse to rationalize policies aimed at victimizing the weak. Roosevelt didn’t take it that far, and, in fact, did much to champion the poor’s cause later in his career. But he saw history as a biological struggle between races and expected Whites to come out on top. According to prevailing ideas like Manifest Destiny and Social Darwinism, that was how both God and nature wanted it.

Roosevelt was asthmatic as a child, grew more robust as a teenager, and set out west to the Dakotas as a young man for a life of ranching and hunting. Overhearing his parents say he’d probably die young of asthma motivated him to engage in relentless physical action throughout his life. Unlike almost anyone who lived through or after the 20th-century world wars, Roosevelt saw war as a healthy enterprise, necessary to keep young males toughened up. He dreamt of war with Germany (though no clear reason had emerged yet) or perhaps with Britain to liberate Canada. He was a jingoist through and through who, true to his word, relished an opportunity to prove his own mettle on the battlefield. That gave Roosevelt the chance to one-up his father, whom he greatly admired but who’d bought a draft exemption during the Civil War. To his credit, Roosevelt resigned his post as Assistant Secretary of the Navy in 1898 and enlisted when that opportunity for combat arose.

Manuel Cuyàs Agulló, The Disembarkation of American Troops in Ponce [Puerto Rico], July 27, 1898 (1898)

While the role of Yellow Journalist newspaper owners like William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer stoking the fire has been overrated, eventually McKinley realized the Cuban conflict was an excellent pretext to acquire all of Spain’s territories in the Caribbean and Pacific. It fit perfectly with McKinley’s 1896 campaign promise to expand markets. This was an ideal case where the U.S. could stand up for freedom and expand its empire simultaneously.

“The House Hero” Cuban Cartoon Lampooning Platt Amendment

Then the USS Maine blew up in Havana Harbor, killing 266 American sailors. No one realized at the time that the boiler just exploded accidentally and the press and public naturally blamed the Spanish. Spain wasn’t a likely candidate in retrospect because they wouldn’t have wanted to lure the U.S. into the war and one of their cruisers, the Viscaya, was due to dock in New York days later. In fact, Cuban rebels hoping to frame Spain or American journalists creating a sensational story would’ve been more likely suspects than the Spanish but, in any event, it was an accident. Suspicious of their fellow Americans’ intentions, Congress only authorized war with an amendment ensuring that the U.S. didn’t use the uprising as an excuse to take Cuba for itself.

After the “Splendid Little War,” in which fewer Americans died from combat than from eating spoiled canned meat, the U.S. made Cuba a protectorate. When most Americans envisioned fully freeing the Cubans, they hadn’t realized that most rebels were black. American Commander William Rufus Shafter said, “These people are no more fit for [self-] government than gunpowder is for Hell.” In effect until 1934, the Platt Amendment allowed Cuba nominal self-rule, but the U.S. siphoned export profits, built military bases on the island, including Guantanamo Bay, and maintained control over Cuba’s choice of leadership. Simply put, the U.S. set up a puppet state in Cuba that was friendly to its interests. They dismantled Cuba’s three main representative political parties in 1899. The poster at the top of this chapter shows the McKinley administration’s pride at having put Cuba under “American rule.”

In the meantime, Roosevelt made a name for himself by forming his own cavalry regiment, the Rough Riders, and fighting in Cuba, making sure to get his troops filmed at every opportunity. The colorful group included Indians, miners, gamblers, college football players, and ranchers/cowboys among others, including former Confederate general Joseph Wheeler. In Texas, Roosevelt used the Menger Hotel bar in San Antonio as his main recruiting ground. The Rough Riders fought courageously, if recklessly, at the Battle of San Juan Hill. Roosevelt was proud that his regiment lost more than any other (89) and told a reporter that he lamented not coming home with a debilitating or disfiguring injury. His heroics helped catapult Roosevelt into the vice-presidency two years later and, then, the presidency a year after that in 1901 when William McKinley was assassinated.

Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders @ San Juan Hill, 1898

Even before American soldiers set foot on Cuban soil, the U.S. was in Puerto Rico and Spanish-held territories in the Pacific, including Guam and the Philippines. They also territorialized Hawaii two months after hostilities commenced against Spain, in June 1898, though that wasn’t a Spanish colony. Admiral George Dewey’s Asiatic Naval Squadron demolished Spain’s fleet in Manila Harbor, the Philippines, in a single day. The U.S. acquired Puerto Rico as a territory (but not a state) and allowed unlimited immigration to the mainland for its citizens. By mid-century, there were more Puerto Ricans in New York City than all of Puerto Rico. While eventually granting Puerto Ricans citizenship without full representation in Congress (commonwealth status), the U.S. built up the country’s infrastructure, including roads/bridges, sewers, and hospitals. In the meantime, American companies invested in sugar production. Mainland doctors also had virtual carte blanche to experiment on Puerto Ricans.

Across the Pacific, the post-liberation scenario was more contentious in the Philippines. Many Filipinos believed the initial spin, thinking the U.S. was only there to liberate them from Spanish control, not realizing they intended to replace the Spanish and make the islands U.S. territory. The U.S. could build bases there, per Mahan’s sea power strategy, to bolster their military presence in Asia. Realistically, most Filipinos knew that Americans would want something in the bargain and hoped at least for the protectorate status enjoyed by Cuba. But the U.S. wanted a full-blown colony, not another puppet state, at least temporarily until it trusted Filipinos to run their own democracy.

What followed was a nasty conflict in which, for the first time in its history, the U.S. found itself suppressing a colonial rebellion and fighting in the jungles of Southeast Asia. American troops struggled to distinguish who the rebel forces led by Emilio Aguinaldo were, resorting to waterboarding (then known as “the water cure”) to interrogate prisoners and the same type of reconcentration camps the Spanish used in Cuba. Meanwhile, Thomas Edison filmed fake battle scenes in New Jersey for Nickelodeon audiences anxious to see Americans in combat:

Americans didn’t mind the inauthentic footage, but some objected to American imperialism. They pointed out the obvious fact that the proverbial shoe was now on the other foot, with the U.S. playing the role of Britain in 1776. Others objected because they feared that Filipinos would become Americans if the islands were annexed. Andrew Carnegie even offered to buy the Philippines for $20 million to evict American troops and exploit the islands’ iron ore deposits. Joseph Pulitzer, who’d enthusiastically supported the war when it was selling newspapers, opposed what he called “colonialism.” Mark Twain, who joined the American Anti-Imperialist League, was the most outspoken, especially in his criticism of the Moro Massacre in which troops killed 600 Muslim villagers. One soldier wrote home to his parents in Washington state, “All we want to do is kill n*****s…beats rabbit hunting all to pieces.” In 2016, presidential candidate Donald Trump fired up voters by reviving the apocryphal tale that Americans dipped their bullets in pig blood before executing Muslim rebels (Muslims don’t eat pork). Some “smoked Yankee” (black) soldiers defected to the other side to protest the killings. Meanwhile, Filipino insurrectos mutilated and tortured Americans whenever they had the chance. Five-thousand U.S. troops died in the war, along with around 200k Filipinos. One war veteran, General Frederick Funston, wrote editorials to drum up support among the public. He penned this for the Kansas City Journal on April 22, 1899:

I am afraid that some people at home will lie awake [at] night worrying about the ethics of this war, thinking that our enemy is fighting for the right of self-government…[The Filipinos] have a certain number of educated leaders — educated, however, about the same way a parrot is…They are, as a rule, an illiterate and semi-savage people, who are waging war not against tyranny, but against Anglo-Saxon order and decency…I, for one, hope that Uncle Sam will apply the chastening rod good, hard, and plenty, and lay it on until they come into the reservation and promise to be good ‘Injuns.’

Indiana Senator Beveridge, of the Manifest Destiny quote toward the beginning of the chapter, defended American tactics on the floor of Congress: “We will not renounce our part in the mission of our race, trustee under God, of the civilization of the world…it has been charged that our conduct is cruel. Senators, it is the reverse. We are not dealing with Americans or Europeans we are dealing with Orientals.” That’s the dark side of Alfred T. Mahan’s plan, if indeed it was even necessary to conquer the islands to trade in Asia. The U.S. mostly got control by 1902 — the Moro Rebellion in the southern Philippines lasted until 1913 — but, suffice it say, there were no homecoming parties for troops. The entire episode, in fact, didn’t make it into American history textbooks until around the 1980s, and there are plenty of people today that would just as soon “flush it down the memory hole.”

“Criminals Because They Were Born Ten Years Before We Took the Philippines,” New York Journal, May 5, 1902

Roosevelt objected to the term imperialism to describe U.S. actions, preferring “large policy.” In 2010, the Texas State Board of Education proposed banning public school textbooks from using the term imperialism to describe U.S. policy in this era. That flies in the face of what happened in the Philippines, especially given the existence of an organization at the time that opposed American imperialism. Unlike the normal routine in European colonies, though, the U.S. eventually came through on its promise to grant independence to the Philippines in 1946. Like European colonizers, the U.S., under future President W.H. Taft, also built roads, bridges, schools, and ports. Later, it liberated the islands from Japanese control during World War II. The U.S. signed a binding treaty to protect the Philippines in 1951, though recently the country has started to swing its allegiance away from the U.S. toward China.

Cartoon From Judge Magazine, ca. 1900-02

Many American troops fighting in the Philippines shipped to China in 1900 to put down the Boxer Rebellion, a two-year Nativist uprising that killed 30k Chinese Christians and over 500 “foreign devil” missionaries and merchants. Westerners called the rebels boxers to describe their martial arts, though they called themselves what translates directly into “Righteous Harmony Fists.” The Boxers held Peking (now Beijing) under martial law for 55 days and ceremoniously tossed opium into the sea. Such anti-foreign sentiment could be found anywhere — the U.S. was then experiencing its own anti-Asian movement on the West Coast — but Boxers were reacting to an actual loss of Chinese sovereignty on their home soil. Some background is in order.

“China — the cake of kings and… of emperors,” Le Petit Journal, 1898, Bibliothèque nationale de France

Europeans called the parts of China they cordoned off spheres of influence. Britain pioneered the sphere idea, carving out enclaves in Hong Kong and Shanghai starting in the 1840s. Under the guise of free trade, they acquired the ports fighting Opium Wars to maintain their trafficking of South Asian drugs to the Chinese. The British were feeling the effects of a worldwide silver shortage and they needed a trade item to offset their high-volume purchases of Chinese tea, so as to not transfer too much of their coinage to East Asia. They offered up Wedgwood pottery, woolen fabrics, and fine instruments and tools (e.g. clocks), but the Chinese weren’t buying, and the Hawaiian sandalwood trade was in decline. The British had access to poppy fields in eastern India (Bengal) and Afghanistan, from which they could process opium from the latex of immature seeds. Through their British East India Company, they fueled a drug epidemic, exacerbated by some opium production within China. (The BEIC will sound familiar to students who’ve studied the American Revolution, as it was involved in the tea crisis in 1773). The BEIC, which governed India until 1858, professed ignorance as to what happened after the drugs were auctioned off in Calcutta but they, along with American shippers, used subsidiaries to import it to China through corrupt Chinese customs officials. From time to time, customs officials would engage in a fake chase of smuggling boats to make it appear they were trying to keep the opium out. The BEIC laundered the silver from opium sales back through its banks in India before returning it to China to buy tea and pocketed the surplus.

China had outlawed opium in 1729, but Britain went to war to keep their illicit drug trade alive. At the First Opium War’s (1839-42) conclusion, they acquired river deltas and five ports in the Treaty of Nanking, including Shanghai and the prized deep-water harbor of Hong Kong. They took over customs and legalized opium, helping to weaken the already crumbling Chinese empire. Qing Viceroy Lin Zexu wrote “ there is a class of foreigner that makes opium and brings it for sale, tempting fools to destroy themselves, merely in order to reap a profit ” while British Prime Minister William Gladstone later said, “ a war more unjust in its origins, a war more calculated…to cover this country with disgrace, I do not know and have not heard of. ” Eventually, the British had over 12 million peasants addicted, supplying 20% of total revenue for their government in India. Warren Delano, maternal grandfather of future president Franklin Delano Roosevelt, made his fortune in Hong Kong distributing opium from a barge. British businesses like Jardine, Matheson & Co. and HSBC (Hongkong & Shanghai Bank Corporation) set up around the opium-for-tea trade and fostered more wholesome growth in construction, retail, and real estate. However, Chinese tea production went into decline as the British established rival plantations in India.

Soon, other Western powers wanted a sphere or two for themselves, though the U.S. was content with the nearby Philippines. After the Second Opium War (1856-60), all Chinese government documents had to be written in English. By 1900, the British, Russians, Germans, and French controlled 13 of 18 Chinese provinces between them. Animated Map As China’s long-standing Qing Dynasty weakened, imperial powers moved in to slice up the country’s eastern portion that included enclaves (harbors) along the Pacific coast. The U.S. brokered an agreement called the Open Door Policy, dictating that each country could develop railroads and telephone lines in their respective sphere but had to maintain open trade with the other countries. Each sphere would maintain what we today call “most favored nation trading status” with the others. Most observers thought the whole country would be divided up, partitioned among the various powers that circled it like sharks smelling blood in the water. Unsurprisingly, some Chinese objected and fought back with the Boxer Rebellion.

Chinese Boxer (flag says, “欽令 義和團糧臺), 1900, Department of the Army, Office of the Chief Signal Officer, National Archives

The Boxer Rebellion was grounded in complications stemming from the Opium Wars and their aftermath but, as you’ll see from this brief digression, opium was causing problems in Europe as well. While Britain hoped initially to just foster an epidemic in China, opium use spread to Europe and Britain itself. The advent of the hypodermic needle made it easier for users to get morphine, a strong opium derivative, directly into the blood system. Laudanum, an opium tincture (alcoholic extract) with about 10% morphine, was generously stocked on grocery and pharmacy shelves and popular among working classes on weekends. Women couldn’t drink or smoke tobacco in Britain, but some had ornate syringe kits in their purses similar to a makeup compact and could shoot up under the table.

Earlier in the 19th century, Romantic poets like Lord Byron, John Keats, Percy Shelley, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge popularized opium, along with Thomas de Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium-Eater. By the late 19th century, Britain and Western Europe were in the throes of an epidemic as people used opium for minor ailments like stomach aches and headaches. When German pharmacists at Bayer tried to concoct a weaker opiate to gradually break addictions, they inadvertently invented a more addictive one in heroin (based on the German heroisch, for heroic or strong). At first, though, people didn’t appreciate its addictive and degenerative effects, so doctors prescribed heroin both for everyday medicinal purposes like coughs and colds and as a way to ratchet down morphine addiction.

To make a long and sordid story shorter, Christian missionaries in China trying to help addicts were passing out heroin-laced “Jesus pills,” unwittingly making the problem worse. Viceroy Lin wrote to Britain’s Queen Victoria, appealing to her Christian values to stop the opium traffic but Victoria never replied. The ensuing Boxer Rebellion was aimed not just at businessmen and opium dealers, but all foreigners, including missionaries and their converts. In fact, far more Chinese died in this uprising than did foreigners. Hardcore “iron hat” rebels thought their spirituality would shield them from bullets and distributed leaflets in the countryside that said it wouldn’t rain until foreigners left the country. After initial hesitation because she partly feared the Boxers, the Empress Dowager Cixi (Chinese Queen) supported the war on foreigners, complaining that, “foreign warships occupy our harbor, foreign armies occupy our forts, foreign merchants administer our banks, foreign gods disturb the spirits of our ancestors…is it surprising that our people are aroused?” Drought and hunger compounded their frustration, leading to the backlash.

In reaction to the Boxer Rebellion, a multi-national force of Open Door members, including European, American, and Japanese forces, put down the Boxers and quashed any hope of self-rule by the Qing Dynasty. The forces reached 100k at their peak and were led first by the British, then Germans. According to Chinese textbooks, occupying troops looted and massacred citizens in Peking (Beijing), with corpses piling up in the streets. According to British textbooks, China was only spared from being completely taken over “because European powers feared the ambitions of each other more than they wanted to rule China.”

Japan took advantage of chaos in China. Already, even before the Boxer Rebellion, Japan had fought China in the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-95) and extracted a £30-million war indemnity that China couldn’t afford. That forced China to turn to Western banks who loaned them money in exchange for mineral rights, railway contracts, and more land. At the time, the U.S. and Britain supported Japan because they wanted a strong Japan to check Russian aggression in East Asia and didn’t mind them weakening China.

All that started to change in the early 20th century as Japan asserted its power in the region. Just as the United States claimed control over the Americas with the Monroe Doctrine, Japan eventually claimed its right to do likewise in East Asia, though they went about it with more suddenness and brutality. By the 1930s, the Open Door had shut, as Japan took advantage of its close proximity to conquer most of eastern China. This caused World War II in the Pacific, triggered by the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-41).

Panama Canal Construction Workers Drilling Dynamite Holes In Bedrock & Steam Shovels Moving Rubble To Railcars, 1913, Everett Historical & Shutterstock

Panama Canal
Fighting the Spanish-American War simultaneously in the Pacific and Caribbean underscored America’s need for a canal through the Western Hemisphere’s narrowest point. Without a canal, the U.S. had to operate two separate navies, and merchant shipping between the East Coast and West Coast and Asia had to wind around Cape Horn at the southern tip of South America. Nicaragua would’ve been a good choice for a canal, with a good system of natural rivers to build on, but French investors who stood to gain from completion of a Panamanian project that they’d begun and given up on convinced U.S. Senators that Nicaraguan volcanoes posed too much danger. Colombia controlled this narrower portion of Central America where the French started building a sea-level ditch in the 1880s, and President Roosevelt manufactured a false flag incident by finding some Colombians dissatisfied with their government. At first, Colombia agreed to sell the land but when they doubled the price Roosevelt said he wasn’t about to be stopped by “Bogota jackrabbits.” The U.S. helped rebels claim independence in the area that became known as Panama. That northwest portion of Colombia had rebelled before, but this time the U.S. Navy blocked Colombia’s warships when they went to suppress the uprising. Of course, the U.S. got the Canal Zone as part of the arrangement the Navy doesn’t work for free. One journalist wrote that the U.S. had “stolen the land fair and square.” However, journalist Joseph Pulitzer (right) of the [New York] World accused the U.S. of colonial aggression and uncovered corruption in the canal’s financing, prompting Roosevelt to unsuccessfully sue him for libel. Pulitzer’s victory in the libel case was also a victory for the First Amendment right to free speech. Roosevelt boasted in his autobiography: “I took the canal and let Congress debate, and while the debate goes on, the canal does also.”

The French engineers were the same ones who dug the Suez Canal and, at first, the U.S. followed their lead of trying to build a sea-level canal. But rather than digging a ditch all the way across the isthmus like the French, the U.S. built locks and a dam that raised water to the level of man-made Gatun Lake in the middle (enlarge this detailed map). As you can see on the map below, the Atlantic entrance is actually west of the Pacific entrance. Roosevelt enlisted America’s best minds and Caribbean laborers in the biggest engineering challenge in history up until that point, and TR even became the first U.S. president to leave the country while in office when he visited the Canal Zone.

The Meaning of ’98

One hundred years ago, in April 1898, the American Century suddenly began. “Suddenly” because what happened then—the declaration of war against Spain—led to a rapid crystallization of a passionate nationalism. The American longing for national aggrandizement existed before 1898—indeed it was gathering momentum—but as the great French writer Stendhal wrote in his essay “On Love,” passion has a way of “crystallizing” suddenly, as a reaction to external stimuli. Such a stimulus, in the history of the United States, was the Spanish-American War in 1898. When it was over, in a famous (or infamous) phrase John Hay would call it “a splendid little war.” Well, as far as wars go (and many of them tend to go unexpectedly far), it was “a splendid little war.” But its consequences were not little at all. They were enormous, and one hundred years later we live with them still. So allow me to begin this essay with a brief summary of the Spanish-American War.

The island of Cuba was one of the last (and the largest remaining) Spanish colonies in the Western Hemisphere. Its political class wanted independence from Spain. It could not achieve this by itself. There was nothing very new about that. Trouble in Cuba had flared up often during the nineteenth century. But in 1895 there arose conditions resembling a civil war (or, more precisely, a guerrilla war). At first the Spanish military reacted energetically. Soon it became evident that the problem was triangular, involving not only Spain and the Cuban rebels but also the United States. For one thing, the rebels depended more and more on American support, and particularly on their abettors in Florida. (What else is new?) Perhaps more important was a surge of American public and popular opinion, which was dishonestly inflated by the novel element of the “yellow press,” the national chains of Hearst and Pulitzer newspapers, proclaiming the Cuban situation to be intolerable.

“ Intolerable” is, of course, what people think must not be tolerated, and that was the continued presence of Spain in Cuba. In late 1897 the Spanish government showed a very considerable willingness to compromise, whereby all sensible reasons for an American intervention in Cuba could be eliminated. But passion is not governed by reason, and there were many groups of people with reasons of their own. On February 15, 1898, the U.S. battleship Maine blew up in Havana Harbor. There was a large loss of American lives and an immediate clamor for war. “Remember the Maine !” One hundred years later we do not know what caused the explosion. Possibly it was the work of Cubans, hoping to incite Americans thereby for the sake of their “liberation” from Spain. (Sixty years later a Cuban leader arose whose main purpose was to declare Cuba’s “liberation” not from Spain but from the United States. Fidel Castro was not anti-Spanish but anti-American. His ancestors were Spanish-Cubans in 1898 he maintained cordial relations with Generalissimo Franco, the anti-Communist dictator of Spain, upon whose death Castro declared three days of national mourning in Cuba. Such is the irony of history—or, rather, of human nature.)

After the catastrophe, the Spanish government was willing to settle almost everything to the satisfaction of the United States, but it was too late—too late because of the inflamed state of American public opinion. President McKinley did not have the will to oppose anything like that. On April 11, 1898, he sent a message to Congress the formal declaration of war came two weeks afterward.

One week later Commodore (soon to become Admiral) George Dewey destroyed a Spanish squadron on the other side of the world, in Manila Bay. Some of his warships now raced across the southern Pacific and around the Horn to help blast another Spanish squadron out of the warm waters of Santiago Bay. Meanwhile, American troops had landed, unopposed, in Cuba and then won battles (in reality, successful skirmishes) at El Caney and San Juan Hill. Later in July Americans, again unopposed, invaded Puerto Rico. The war was over. Spain asked for peace. An armistice was signed on August 12, and the final terms were nailed down in Paris in December. American losses were minimal: a few hundred men. The United States insisted on, and got, Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Guam.

And also Hawaii, whose annexation had been—unsuccessfully—urged on two Presidents by American intriguers and filibusterers. President Cleveland, and for a while McKinley, refused the annexation. But by July 1898 the nationalist tide was too much for this President and for much of the Congress: The United States annexed Hawaii.

It was thus that one hundred years ago the United States—which, during the first century of its existence, thought of itself as the prime power in the Americas, a hemispheric power—became a world power imperiously, geographically, a world power of the first rank, with incalculable consequences.

In 1898 there were no Gallup Polls there was no such thing as public-opinion research. Still, it is possible to reconstruct the main elements of what the people of the United States thought (and perhaps felt) about these events.

That tremendous surge of national self-confidence, debouching into super-nationalism (in reality, imperialism, though most Americans would shy away from such a word), must not obscure the fact that as in every war in the history of this country, Americans were divided. On one side, which turned out to be the dominant one, were the expansionists of 1898. Of their many and increasingly vocal declarations let me cite but one or two. There was Sen. H. M. Teller of Colorado, who as early as 1893 proclaimed: “I am in favor of the annexation of Hawaii. I am in favor of the annexation of Cuba. I am in favor of the annexation of the great country lying north of us.” (He meant Canada.) The language of Sen. E. O. Wolcott of Colorado was more florid: “Who is to say that in the evolution of such a Republic as this the time has not come when the immense development of our internal resources and the marvelous growth of our domestic and foreign commerce and a realization of our virile strength have not stimulated that Anglo-Saxon restlessness which beats with the blood of the race into an activity which will not be quenched until we have finally planted our standard in that far-off archipelago which inevitable destiny has intrusted to our hands?” (He meant the Philippines.) And when the war was over, Sen. Orville H. Platt of Connecticut said: “The same force that had once guided Pilgrim sails to Plymouth Rock had impressed our ships at Manila and our army at Santiago. Upon us rested the duty of extending Christian civilization, of crushing despotism, of uplifting humanity and making the rights of man prevail. Providence has put it upon us.” On the other side of Congress were the opponents of the expansionists. There was Sen. George F. Hoar: “The Monroe Doctrine is gone.” Or Sen. Donelson Caffery: “Sir, Christianity can not be advanced by force.” What drove the expansionists was “lust of power and greed for land, veneered with the tawdriness of false humanity.”

It is at this point instructive to look at the character and the development of these divisions of American opinion. The twentieth-century terminology of “internationalists versus isolationists” does not apply. Besides the fact that “isolationism” as a category came into usage only after World War I, the expansionists of 1898 were American unilateralists, not internationalists, while their opponents were not isolationists either. What clashed were two different visions of American destiny. These were already visible well before 1898, to which I shall soon turn. More germane to the national debate of 1898 were the differing tendencies of political parties, national regions, and portions of society. With few exceptions Republicans were expansionists Democrats were not. That was already evident earlier in the 1890s, when the Republican President Benjamin Harrison and his Secretary of State, John W. Foster (grandfather of John Foster Dulles), were in favor of the forced annexation of Hawaii, whereas the Democratic President Grover Cleveland and his Secretary of State, Walter Q. Gresham, were not. These divisions were not absolute there were a few anti-imperialist Republicans. Yet it ought to be observed that the Republicans were the more nationalist party of the two, something that, by and large, remained true for most of the following century and is discernible even now. (In 1892 the Republican party platform called for “the achievement of the manifest destiny of the Republic in the broadest sense.” In 1956 the Republican party platform called for “the establishment of American air and naval bases all around the world.” The man who coined the term manifest destiny in the 1840s, John L. O’Sullivan, was a Democrat, who later condemned “wicked and crazy Republicanism.” He died in 1895.) It is significant to note that many of the opponents of the expansionists were Southern Democrats, including such unreconstructed populists as “Pitchfork Ben” Tillman—which is interesting, since forty years earlier it was the South that had proposed the acquisition of Cuba. Many, certainly the most vocal, expansionists were Protestant churchmen the hierarchy of American Catholics was, for the most part, not. The leaders of American finance and business (Andrew Carnegie, James J. Hill, J. P. Morgan, and most of Wall Street) opposed the war—at least for some time.

But much of this was soon swept away. Immediately after the declaration of war the businessmen’s and financiers’ opposition crumbled (another instance of the limitations of the economic interpretation of history, or of the flag following trade the reverse is rather true). In the hot skillet of nationalist emotions, the opposition of most Catholics melted away fast. Two former Confederate generals, Joe Wheeler and Fitzhugh Lee, were now major-generals of the United States Army. Fifteen Democrats and Populists voted for the ratification of the peace treaty with Spain only two Republicans voted against it. The vote was 57 to 27 in the Senate, one above the needed two-thirds majority. William Jennings Bryan, once an anti-expansionist, urged a speedy ratification. It did not do much for him in 1900 McKinley beat him by a landslide. Less than a year later McKinley was dead, the President was now Theodore Roosevelt, and the American Century was on.

In 1898 the Spanish-American War was the culmination of a great wave of national sentiment that had begun to rise many years before. There was a change, less in the temperature of patriotism than in the national vision of the destiny of the United States, after the end of the first century of its existence. In sum, the time had come for the United States to expand not only its light and its example but its power and its institutions all around the globe. When the Chicago world’s fair opened in 1893, Chauncey M. Depew gave the speech of dedication. “This day,” he said, “belongs not to America but the world. . . . We celebrate the emancipation of man.” No one had spoken in such tones at the Centennial in 1876 in Philadelphia. But now in March 1893 the Philadelphia Press proclaimed, “Our nation stands on the threshold of a new policy as surely as it did in 1803, when Jefferson annexed Louisiana and the United States realized it must govern it.”

It is wrong to think that this rise of a national sentiment was nothing but emotional, fueled by war fever and declamatory rhetoric. What had begun to change the course of the mighty American ship of state was a change of mentality, including a powerful intellectual impulse. Its proponents included some of the most intelligent, and learned, Americans of a generation. The usage of the noun intellectual (adopted from the Russian, designating a certain kind of person) had hardly begun to appear in the American language in the 1890s, but the adjective was properly applicable to the capacities of such men as Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Cabot Lodge, Alfred Thayer Mahan, John Hay, Whitelaw Reid, and Albert J. Beveridge. Far from being provincial, they looked around the world and saw how the European powers had embarked on their imperialist expansion. For the United States to opt out from a course of spreading its influence beyond its continental boundaries would be a sickening symptom of a materialist small-mindedness.

And what were the ingredients of this philosophy—for a kind of philosophy it was. It amounted to more than a mere emulation of the other Great Powers of the present. One principal ingredient was the belief in sea power. That was the key to modern history, as Alfred Mahan wrote in his famous book The Influence of Sea Power Upon History in 1890, and it was more than coincidental that a Republican President and Congress embarked on a Big Navy program in the same year, the first substantial American military expenditure since the Civil War. There was a racial ingredient: the belief that the most advanced, indeed the ruling, people of the globe were of Anglo-Saxon and Teutonic stock. Besides the Roosevelt-Lodge-Mahan-Hay-Reid coterie of progressive imperialists, there were prestigious professors in the leading American universities whose eulogies of the Teutonic-Germanic races were influential as well as popular: John W. Burgess, for example, whose Political Science later acquired a foreword by Nicholas Murray Butler, the much-respected president of Columbia University. Very similar were the advocacies of John Fiske of Harvard. The Congregationalist minister Josiah Strong wrote as early as 1885 about the American Anglo-Saxon destined to be his brother’s keeper: “If I read not amiss, this powerful race will move . . . down upon Central and South America, or upon the islands of the sea . . . and beyond. And can any one doubt that the result of this competition of races will be ‘the survival of the fittest’?” Not many people know that Rudyard Kipling’s “Take Up the White Man’s Burden” was written for Americans even fewer are aware that in The Descent of Man Charles Darwin wrote about America: “the heir of all ages, in the foremost files of time.” Such a concordance of Darwinism and of racism and of Protestant Christianity sounds strange now. In the 1890s it was not. In 1894 Mahan wrote: “Comparative religion teaches that creeds which reject missionary enterprise are foredoomed to decay. May it not be so with nations?” Many of the shrill proposals for American imperialism in the name of Protestant Christianity were reconstructed later by historians, foremost among them Julius W. Pratt. Thus the editorial of the Christian and Missionary Alliance in April 1898: “God is stronger than either the Romish Church or the Catholic powers of Europe. We should pray not only that Cuba be free, but that these fair Eastern isles shall become scenes of gospel triumphs and the salvation of countless souls. . . .” And The Christian Standard : The time has arrived “to crack the Monroe Doctrine like a shell, and to introduce the nation to an enlarged mission. . . . The Lord has not raised up this mighty people to dwell in selfish contentment, indifferent to the wrongs and oppressions of other lands. . . . The magnificent fleets of Spain have gone down as marvellously, as miraculously, as the walls of Jericho went down.”

Such were many of the voices current in 1898. They were not necessarily what the majority of Americans thought. But such influences cannot be precisely defined. Hard and determined minorities may acquire an impact on a majority beyond numerical calculations. Still, in any event, they cannot be very influential when they represent something quite different from broader popular inclinations. The politicians knew that. So did the progressive intellects. When Captain (later Admiral) Mahan wrote that the Navy must have bases abroad, he added: “At present the positions of the Caribbean are occupied by foreign powers, nor may we, however disposed to acquisition, obtain them by means other than righteous but a distinct advance will have been made when public opinion is convinced .” (The italics are mine.) In 1890 a Republican Congress voted on seven battleships and eventually authorized the building of three first-class battleships, even though the Secretary of the Navy had asked only for two. The former Republican presidential candidate James G. Blaine wrote to President Harrison in 1891 that the United States should annex Cuba and Puerto Rico and perhaps all of the West Indian islands. In June 1896 the Washington Post editorialized: “A new consciousness seems to have come upon us—the consciousness of strength—and with it a new appetite, the yearning to show our strength. . . . Ambition, interest, land hunger, pride, the mere joy of fighting, whatever it may be, we are animated by a new sensation. We are face to face with a strange destiny. The taste of Empire is in the mouth of the people even as the taste of blood in the jungle. It means an Imperial policy, the Republic, renascent, taking her place with the armed nations.”

It was thus that in 1898 the majority of the American people took satisfaction from the pictures of the Stars and Stripes solidly planted on faraway islands and floating over the oceans, just as their ears took satisfaction from the originally somewhat odd, but soon intensely familiar, martial band music of John Philip Sousa, music with a Central European flavor, but no matter, for it was at that time that American popular music—indeed, the tuning of American ears—was changing too, from the simpler Anglo-Celtic strains to newer rhythms and melodies. It was thus that the American Dominion Over Palm and Pine came into being at the very time when Kipling in his Recessional warned America’s British cousins that their dominion over palm and pine might be short-lived: “Lest we forget!”

In an article entitled “Our Blundering Foreign Policy,” Henry Cabot Lodge wrote in March 1895: “Small states are of the past and have no future. . . . The great nations are rapidly absorbing for their future expansion and their present defense all the waste places of the earth. It is a movement which makes for civilization and the advancement of the race. As one of the great nations of the world, the United States must not fall out of the line of march.” During the war Theodore Roosevelt wrote him: “You must get Manila and Hawaii you must prevent any talk of peace until we get Porto Rico and the Philippines as well as secure the independence of Cuba.”

Would the United States have become a world power in the early twentieth century even without the Spanish-American War and the events of 1898? Probably. But the consequences of 1898 are still with us.

Was it worth it? That was the question that American opponents of the War of 1898 were asking, among them Mark Twain. Their vision of American destiny was different, but then they were overwhelmed by the great national success of the war. However—sooner rather than later—events themselves accumulated to reveal that all was not well with this acquisition of peoples in distant parts of the world. Only a few months after the “liberation” of Manila, a rebellion in the Philippines broke out against the American occupiers. Its suppression took two years and hundreds of lives. The “liberation” of Cuba from the “tyranny” of Spain led to the rule of that island by a series of native tyrants of whom the last (and still present) one has been obsessively anti-American, in one instance not unwilling to inveigle the United States into a potential nuclear war with the distant Soviet Union. Whether the acquisition of Puerto Rico and of its people by the American Republic was a definite gain is still an open question, as is the future status of that island. One may even speculate that had Hawaii remained a Pacific kingdom the tragedy at Pearl Harbor or perhaps even a Japanese-American war might not have occurred—but that carries speculation too far.

There may be another consideration, on a different level. For Spain the loss of its colonies in 1898 marked the lowest point of a decline that may have begun three hundred years earlier, with the defeat of its armada by Drake. Yet that amputation in 1898 proved to be a blessing in disguise for the Spanish spirit. Reacting against antiquated institutions and mental habits of their country, a Generation of ’98 arose, an intellectual revival that produced some of the leading minds not only of Spain but of the twentieth century: Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo, José Ortega y Gasset, and other great names in the arts. On the other side of the ocean, the rise of American arts and letters had nothing to do with the Spirit of ’98. Years later great American writers such as Henry James and Thomas Stearns Eliot chose to abandon their American citizenship and live in England. Twenty years had to pass until American arts and letters—and popular music—began to impress the world.

And yet . . . and yet . . . all in all, and for all its strident excrescences, the rising spirit of American imperialism in 1898 was not ungenerous. Not even in the short run if there was any popular hatred for Spain in 1898, it burned out instantly (as manifest in the words of the captain of the USS Texas when his men roared their approval while an ungainly Spanish war vessel sank rapidly at Santiago: “Don’t cheer, boys, the poor devils are dying!”). American rule in the Philippines, in Puerto Rico, in Cuba led to a rapid and impressive improvement of living conditions, education, institutions of self-government, sanitation under the command of the very able Brig. Gen. Leonard Wood, American Army doctors, foremost among them William Gorgas, extinguished yellow fever in Cuba within a year or two. Every foreign government expected the United States to annex Cuba. It did not do so, though an amendment proposed by Senator Platt allowed the United States to intervene there militarily, but then President Franklin D. Roosevelt abolished the Platt Amendment too. In 1946 the Philippines, one year after their American liberation from the Japanese, became fully independent. In 1959 Hawaii became the fiftieth state of the Union. Surely in the long run the record of American imperialism compares favorably with that of many other powers.

History—indeed all human thinking—depends on retrospect. And retrospect too—again, as all human thinking—has its own limitations. We may judge the past according to our standards of the present, but we ought to know that such standards are not perennial and not categorically applicable to people and events of the past. A man such as Theodore Roosevelt had his faults (who hasn’t?), but his American imperialism may still have been preferable to that of the small-minded trumpeteers of Manifest Destiny, or to the cloudy evangelical populism of William Jennings Bryan, or to the imperialism of some of Roosevelt’s foreign contemporaries—William II, for instance, the German kaiser. In The Oxford History of the American People , Samuel Eliot Morison describes William McKinley as “a kindly soul in a spineless body”—and who was our last American President with a “kindly soul”? The origins of the War of 1898—and the intentions of many of its proponents—were not simple.

And now we have to turn to its consequences to the world at large.

In the sixteenth century Spain became the greatest power in the world. In the seventeenth century it was France. In the eighteenth century France and Britain fought a series of world wars—of which the American War of Independence was but one—mainly over the inheritance of the then decaying Spanish Empire. During the nineteenth century the greatest world power was Britain. In 1823 Thomas Jefferson wrote to President James Monroe: “Great Britain is the nation which can do us [the] most harm of any one . . . and, with her on our side, we need not fear the whole world.” In 1898, seventy-five years later, this relationship was reversed.

Between 1895 and 1898 there occurred a revolution in the relationship of Great Britain and the United States, a subtle and undramatic adjustment but one that had momentous consequences. In 1895 there arose a controversy between Washington and London over a boundary question in Venezuela. After a few exchanges of notes, both sides climbed down. When, less than three years later, the United States provoked a war with Spain over Cuba, the British government sided with the United States without reservation. And not only the government in 1898 the vast majority of British public opinion and the press took our side. The global implications of this change were immense. Since 1898 there has not been a single instance when a British government opposed the United States—indeed, when a principal consideration of a British government was not the securing of American goodwill. And there was more to that. Soon after 1898 the British, for the first time in their history, were beginning to be anxious about Germany. In order to be able to respond to a German challenge, they had to secure the friendship of the United States, at almost any price. This American factor was one of the elements behind the British decision to arrive at an entente with France in 1904. Eventually this policy bore fruit: In both world wars of the twentieth century, the United States stood by Britain. This alliance brought them victory—as well as the gradual abdication of the British Empire and the continuing rise of an American one. And this went beyond and beneath governmental calculations. As early as 1898 the young Winston Churchill (he was twenty-three years old then) began to think (and write) about an ever-closer British-American alliance, perhaps even leading to an eventual confederation of the English-speaking peoples of the world. To replace the Pax Britannica with a Pax Anglo-Americana: This was the vision he pursued throughout his long life. It was not to be but that is another story, though not unrelated to the above.

But the Spanish-American War had an immediate effect on the other European powers too. At first many of them were shocked at the sight of the aggressive newcomer bullying Spain. In December 1897 Count Goluchowski, the foreign minister of the creaking old Austrian Empire, wrote that the United States now represented “a common danger to Europe . the European nations must close their ranks in order successfully to defend their existence.” They did nothing of the sort. None of them did anything to help Spain. As a matter of fact the Russians kept urging the United States to take Hawaii, in order to cause trouble between the United States and Britain (as they had done during the Civil War and even after). It did not work out that way. Less than ten years after 1898, the Russians composed their differences with Britain because of Germany. A few years later Britain, France, Russia, and the United States became allies in World War I, against Germany. Had Germany won the First or the Second World War—and those were the last attempts of a European power to become the main power in the world—the twentieth century would have been a German one. It became the American Century instead.

In 1898, for the first time, the world became round—politically and not merely geographically. Until 1898 all the Great Powers were European ones. Now two other world powers arose: the United States and Japan. What was now happening in the Far East had a direct impact on the relationship of the powers in Europe and also the reverse. Thus there were seven Great Powers now, but less than fifty years later there were only two, the United States and Soviet Russia, and less than another fifty years later the United States stood alone at the end of a century that may properly be designated the American one.

Will the twenty-first century—the third century in the history of the United States—still be the American one? We may speculate on that. Yet it behooves us to recognize that the American Century began not in 1917 or in 1945 but in 1898.


Overview Edit

Despite periods of peaceful co-existence, wars with Native Americans resulted in substantial territorial gains for American colonists who were expanding into native land. Wars with the Native Americans continued intermittently after independence, and an ethnic cleansing campaign known as Indian removal gained for European-American settlers more valuable territory on the eastern side of the continent.

George Washington began a policy of United States non-interventionism which lasted into the 1800s. The United States promulgated the Monroe Doctrine in 1821, in order to stop further European colonialism and to allow the American colonies to grow further, but desire for territorial expansion to the Pacific Ocean was explicit in the doctrine of Manifest Destiny. The giant Louisiana Purchase was peaceful, but the Mexican–American War of 1846 resulted in the annexation of 525,000 square miles of Mexican territory. [5] [6] Elements attempted to expand pro-U.S. republics or U.S. states in Mexico and Central America, the most notable being fillibuster William Walker's Republic of Baja California in 1853 and his intervention in Nicaragua in 1855. Senator Sam Houston of Texas even proposed a resolution in the Senate for the "United States to declare and maintain an efficient protectorate over the States of Mexico, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, and San Salvador." The idea of U.S. expansion into Mexico and the Caribbean was popular among politicians of the slave states, and also among some business tycoons in the Nicarauguan Transit (the semi-overland and main trade route connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans before the Panama Canal). President Ulysses S. Grant attempted to Annex the Dominican Republic in 1870, but failed to get the support of the Senate.

Non-interventionism was wholly abandoned with the Spanish–American War. The United States acquired the remaining island colonies of Spain, with President Theodore Roosevelt defending the acquisition of the Philippines. The U.S. policed Latin America under Roosevelt Corollary, and sometimes using the military to favor American commercial interests (such as intervention in the banana republics and the annexation of Hawaii). Imperialist foreign policy was controversial with the American public, and domestic opposition allowed Cuban independence, though in the early 20th century the U.S. obtained the Panama Canal Zone and occupied Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The United States returned to strong non-interventionist policy after World War I, including with the Good Neighbor policy for Latin America. After fighting World War II, it administered many Pacific islands captured during the fight against Japan. Partly to prevent the militaries of those countries from growing threateningly large, and partly to contain the Soviet Union, the United States promised to defend Germany (which is also part of NATO) and Japan (through the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security Between the United States and Japan) which it had formerly defeated in war and which are now independent democracies. It maintains substantial military bases in both.

The Cold War reoriented American foreign policy towards opposing communism, and prevailing U.S. foreign policy embraced its role as a nuclear-armed global superpower. Though the Truman Doctrine and Reagan Doctrine the United States framed the mission as protecting free peoples against an undemocratic system, anti-Soviet foreign policy became coercive and occasionally covert. United States involvement in regime change included overthrowing the democratically elected government of Iran, the Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba, occupation of Grenada, and interference in various foreign elections. The long and bloody Vietnam War led to widespread criticism of an "arrogance of power" and violations of international law emerging from an "imperial presidency," with Martin Luther King Jr., among others, accusing the US of a new form of colonialism. [7]

Many saw the post-Cold War 1990–91 Gulf War as motivated by U.S. oil interests, though it reversed the hostile invasion of Kuwait. After the September 11 attacks in 2001, questions of imperialism were raised again as the United States invaded Afghanistan to overthrow the Taliban (which harbored the attackers) and Iraq in 2003 (which the U.S. incorrectly claimed had weapons of mass destruction). The invasion led to the collapse of the Iraqi Ba'athist government and its replacement with the Coalition Provisional Authority. Following the invasion, an insurgency fought against Coalition forces and the newly elected Iraqi government, and a sectarian civil war occurred. The Iraq War opened the country's oil industry to US firms for the first time in decades [8] and many argued the invasion violated international law. Around 500,000 people were killed in both wars as of 2018. [9]

In terms of territorial acquisition, the United States has integrated (with voting rights) all of its acquisitions on the North American continent, including the non-contiguous Alaska. Hawaii has also become a state with equal representation to the mainland, but other island jurisdictions acquired during wartime remain territories, namely Guam, Puerto Rico, the United States Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands. (The federal government officially apologized for the overthrow of the Hawaiian government in 1993.) The remainder of acquired territories have become independent with varying degrees of cooperation, ranging from three freely associated states which participate in federal government programs in exchange for military basing rights, to Cuba which severed diplomatic relations during the Cold War. The United States was a public advocate for European decolonization after World War II (having started a ten-year independence transition for the Philippines in 1934 with the Tydings–McDuffie Act). Even so, the US desire for an informal system of global primacy in an "American Century" often brought them into conflict with national liberation movements. [10] The United States has now granted citizenship to Native Americans and recognizes some degree of tribal sovereignty.

1700s–1800s: Indian Wars and Manifest Destiny Edit

Yale historian Paul Kennedy has asserted, "From the time the first settlers arrived in Virginia from England and started moving westward, this was an imperial nation, a conquering nation." [11] Expanding on George Washington's description of the early United States as an "infant empire", [12] Benjamin Franklin wrote: "Hence the Prince that acquires new Territory, if he finds it vacant, or removes the Natives to give his own People Room the Legislator that makes effectual Laws for promoting of Trade, increasing Employment, improving Land by more or better Tillage providing more Food by Fisheries securing Property, etc. and the Man that invents new Trades, Arts or Manufactures, or new Improvements in Husbandry, may be properly called Fathers of their Nation, as they are the Cause of the Generation of Multitudes, by the Encouragement they afford to Marriage." [13] Thomas Jefferson asserted in 1786 that the United States "must be viewed as the nest from which all America, North & South is to be peopled. [. ] The navigation of the Mississippi we must have. This is all we are as yet ready to receive.". [14] From the left Noam Chomsky writes that "the United States is the one country that exists, as far as I know, and ever has, that was founded as an empire explicitly". [15] [16]

A national drive for territorial acquisition across the continent was popularized in the 19th century as the ideology of Manifest Destiny. [17] It came to be realized with the Mexican–American War of 1846, which resulted in the cession of 525,000 square miles of Mexican territory to the United States, stretching up to the Pacific coast. [5] [6] The Whig Party strongly opposed this war and expansionism generally. [18]

President James Monroe presented his famous doctrine for the western hemisphere in 1823. Historians have observed that while the Monroe Doctrine contained a commitment to resist colonialism from Europe, it had some aggressive implications for American policy, since there were no limitations on the US's actions mentioned within it. Historian Jay Sexton notes that the tactics used to implement the doctrine were modeled after those employed by European imperial powers during the 17th and 18th centuries. [19] From the left historian William Appleman Williams described it as "imperial anti-colonialism." [20]

The Indian Wars against the indigenous peoples of the Americas began in the colonial era. Their escalation under the federal republic allowed the US to dominate North America and carve out the 48 contiguous states. This can be considered to be an explicitly colonial process in light of arguments that Native American nations were sovereign entities prior to annexation. [21] Their sovereignty was systematically undermined by US state policy (usually involving unequal or broken treaties) and white settler-colonialism. [22] The climax of this process was the California genocide. [23] [24]

1800s: Filibustering in Central America Edit

In the older historiography William Walker's filibustering represented the high tide of antebellum American imperialism. His brief seizure of Nicaragua in 1855 is typically called a representative expression of Manifest destiny with the added factor of trying to expand slavery into Central America. Walker failed in all his escapades and never had official U.S. backing. Historian Michel Gobat, however, presents a strongly revisionist interpretation. He argues that Walker was invited in by Nicaraguan liberals who were trying to force economic modernization and political liberalism. Walker's government comprised those liberals, as well as Yankee colonizers, and European radicals. Walker even included some local Catholics as well as indigenous peoples, Cuban revolutionaries, and local peasants. His coalition was much too complex and diverse to survive long, but it was not the attempted projection of American power, concludes Gobat. [25]

1800s–1900s: New Imperialism and "The White Man's Burden" Edit

A variety of factors converged during the "New Imperialism" of the late 19th century, when the United States and the other great powers rapidly expanded their overseas territorial possessions.

  • The prevalence of overt racism, notably John Fiske's conception of "Anglo-Saxon" racial superiority and Josiah Strong's call to "civilize and Christianize," – were manifestations of a growing Social Darwinism and racism in some schools of American political thought. [27][28][29]
  • Early in his career, as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Theodore Roosevelt was instrumental in preparing the Navy for the Spanish–American War[30] and was an enthusiastic proponent of testing the U.S. military in battle, at one point stating "I should welcome almost any war, for I think this country needs one." [31][32][33]

Roosevelt claimed that he rejected imperialism, but he embraced the near-identical doctrine of expansionism. [ citation needed ] When Rudyard Kipling wrote the imperialist poem "The White Man's Burden" for Roosevelt, the politician told colleagues that it was "rather poor poetry, but good sense from the expansion point of view." [34] Roosevelt proclaimed his own corollary to the Monroe Doctrine as justification, [35] although his ambitions extended even further, into the Far East. Scholars have noted the resemblance between U.S. policies in the Philippines and European actions in their colonies in Asia and Africa during this period. [36]

Industry and trade were two of the most prevalent justifications of imperialism. American intervention in both Latin America and Hawaii resulted in multiple industrial investments, including the popular industry of Dole bananas. If the United States was able to annex a territory, in turn they were granted access to the trade and capital of those territories. In 1898, Senator Albert Beveridge proclaimed that an expansion of markets was absolutely necessary, "American factories are making more than the American people can use American soil is producing more than they can consume. Fate has written our policy for us the trade of the world must and shall be ours." [37] [38]

American rule of ceded Spanish territory was not uncontested. The Philippine Revolution had begun in August 1896 against Spain, and after the defeat of Spain in the Battle of Manila Bay, began again in earnest, culminating in the Philippine Declaration of Independence and the establishment of the First Philippine Republic. The Philippine–American War ensued, with extensive damage and death, ultimately resulting in the defeat of the Philippine Republic. [39] [40] [41] According to scholars such as Gavan McCormack and E. San Juan, the American counterinsurgency resulted in genocide. [42] [43]

The maximum geographical extension of American direct political and military control happened in the aftermath of World War II, in the period after the surrender and occupations of Germany and Austria in May and later Japan and Korea in September 1945 and before the independence of the Philippines in July 1946. [44]

Stuart Creighton Miller says that the public's sense of innocence about Realpolitik impairs popular recognition of U.S. imperial conduct. [45] The resistance to actively occupying foreign territory has led to policies of exerting influence via other means, including governing other countries via surrogates or puppet regimes, where domestically unpopular governments survive only through U.S. support. [46]

The Philippines is sometimes cited as an example. After Philippine independence, the US continued to direct the country through Central Intelligence Agency operatives like Edward Lansdale. As Raymond Bonner and other historians note, Lansdale controlled the career of President Ramon Magsaysay, going so far as to physically beat him when the Philippine leader attempted to reject a speech the CIA had written for him. American agents also drugged sitting President Elpidio Quirino and prepared to assassinate Senator Claro Recto. [47] [48] Prominent Filipino historian Roland G. Simbulan has called the CIA "US imperialism's clandestine apparatus in the Philippines". [49]

The U.S. retained dozens of military bases, including a few major ones. In addition, Philippine independence was qualified by legislation passed by the U.S. Congress. For example, the Bell Trade Act provided a mechanism whereby U.S. import quotas might be established on Philippine articles which "are coming, or are likely to come, into substantial competition with like articles the product of the United States". It further required U.S. citizens and corporations be granted equal access to Philippine minerals, forests, and other natural resources. [50] In hearings before the Senate Committee on Finance, Assistant Secretary of State for Economic Affairs William L. Clayton described the law as "clearly inconsistent with the basic foreign economic policy of this country" and "clearly inconsistent with our promise to grant the Philippines genuine independence." [51]

1918: Wilsonian intervention Edit

When World War I broke out in Europe, President Woodrow Wilson promised American neutrality throughout the war. This promise was broken when the United States entered the war after the Zimmermann Telegram. This was "a war for empire" to control vast raw materials in Africa and other colonized areas, according to the contemporary historian and civil rights leader W. E. B. Du Bois. [52] More recently historian Howard Zinn argues that Wilson entered the war in order to open international markets to surplus US production. He quotes Wilson's own declaration that

Concessions obtained by financiers must be safeguarded by ministers of state, even if the sovereignty of unwilling nations be outraged in the process. the doors of the nations which are closed must be battered down.

In a memo to Secretary of State Bryan, the president described his aim as "an open door to the world". [53] Lloyd Gardner notes that Wilson's original avoidance of world war was not motivated by anti-imperialism his fear was that "white civilization and its domination in the world" were threatened by "the great white nations" destroying each other in endless battle. [54]

Despite President Wilson's official doctrine of moral diplomacy seeking to "make the world safe for democracy," some of his activities at the time can be viewed as imperialism to stop the advance of democracy in countries such as Haiti. [55] The United States invaded Haiti on July 28, 1915, and American rule continued until August 1, 1934. The historian Mary Renda in her book, Taking Haiti, talks about the American invasion of Haiti to bring about political stability through U.S. control. The American government did not believe Haiti was ready for self-government or democracy, according to Renda. In order to bring about political stability in Haiti, the United States secured control and integrated the country into the international capitalist economy, while preventing Haiti from practicing self-governance or democracy. While Haiti had been running their own government for many years before American intervention, the U.S. government regarded Haiti as unfit for self-rule. In order to convince the American public of the justice in intervening, the United States government used paternalist propaganda, depicting the Haitian political process as uncivilized. The Haitian government would come to agree to U.S. terms, including American overseeing of the Haitian economy. This direct supervision of the Haitian economy would reinforce U.S. propaganda and further entrench the perception of Haitians' being incompetent of self-governance. [56]

In the First World War, the US, Britain, and Russia had been allies for seven months, from April 1917 until the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia in November. Active distrust surfaced immediately, as even before the October Revolution British officers had been involved in the Kornilov Affair, an attempted coup d'état by the Russian Army against the Provisional Government. [57] Nonetheless, once the Bolsheviks took Moscow, the British government began talks to try and keep them in the war effort. British diplomat Bruce Lockhart cultivated a relationship with several Soviet officials, including Leon Trotsky, and the latter approved the initial Allied military mission to secure the Eastern Front, which was collapsing in the revolutionary upheaval. Ultimately, Soviet head of state V.I. Lenin decided the Bolsheviks would settle peacefully with the Central Powers at the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. This separate peace led to Allied disdain for the Soviets, since it left the Western Allies to fight Germany without a strong Eastern partner. The Secret Intelligence Service, supported by US diplomat Dewitt C. Poole, sponsored an attempted coup in Moscow involving Bruce Lockhart and Sidney Reilly, which involved an attempted assassination of Lenin. The Bolsheviks proceeded to shut down the British and U.S. embassies. [58] [59]

Tensions between Russia (including its allies) and the West turned intensely ideological. Horrified by mass executions of White forces, land expropriations, and widespread repression, the Allied military expedition now assisted the anti-Bolshevik Whites in the Russian Civil War, with the US covertly giving support [60] to the autocratic and antisemitic General Alexander Kolchak. [61] Over 30,000 Western troops were deployed in Russia overall. [62] This was the first event that made Russian–American relations a matter of major, long-term concern to the leaders in each country. Some historians, including William Appleman Williams and Ronald Powaski, trace the origins of the Cold War to this conflict. [63]

Wilson launched seven armed interventions, more than any other president. [64] Looking back on the Wilson era, General Smedley Butler, a leader of the Haiti expedition and the highest-decorated Marine of that time, considered virtually all of the operations to have been economically motivated. [65] In a 1933 speech he said:

I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I suspected I was just part of a racket at the time. Now I am sure of it. I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street . Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents. [66]

1941–1945: World War II Edit

The Grand Area Edit

In an October 1940 report to Franklin Roosevelt, Bowman wrote that “the US government is interested in any solution anywhere in the world that affects American trade. In a wide sense, commerce is the mother of all wars.” In 1942 this economic globalism was articulated as the “Grand Area” concept in secret documents. The US would have to have control over the “Western Hemisphere, Continental Europe and Mediterranean Basin (excluding Russia), the Pacific Area and the Far East, and the British Empire (excluding Canada).” The Grand Area encompassed all known major oil-bearing areas outside the Soviet Union, largely at the behest of corporate partners like the Foreign Oil Committee and the Petroleum Industry War Council. [67] The US thus avoided overt territorial acquisition, like that of the European colonial empires, as being too costly, choosing the cheaper option of forcing countries to open their door to American business interests. [68]

Although the United States was the last major belligerent to join the Second World War, it began planning for the post-war world from the conflict's outset. This postwar vision originated in the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), an economic elite-led organization that became integrated into the government leadership. CFR's War and Peace Studies group offered its services to the State Department in 1939 and a secret partnership for post-war planning developed. CFR leaders Hamilton Fish Armstrong and Walter H. Mallory saw World War II as a “grand opportunity” for the U.S. to emerge as "the premier power in the world." [69]

This vision of empire assumed the necessity of the U.S. to “police the world” in the aftermath of the war. This was not done primarily out of altruism, but out of economic interest. Isaiah Bowman, a key liaison between the CFR and the State Department, proposed an “American economic Lebensraum.” This built upon the ideas of Time-Life publisher Henry Luce, who (in his “American Century” essay) wrote, “Tyrannies may require a large amount of living space [but] freedom requires and will require far greater living space than Tyranny.” According to Bowman's biographer, Neil Smith:

Better than the American Century or the Pax Americana, the notion of an American Lebensraum captures the specific and global historical geography of U.S. ascension to power. After World War II, global power would no longer be measured in terms of colonized land or power over territory. Rather, global power was measured in directly economic terms. Trade and markets now figured as the economic nexuses of global power, a shift confirmed in the 1944 Bretton Woods agreement, which not only inaugurated an international currency system but also established two central banking institutions—the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank—to oversee the global economy. These represented the first planks of the economic infrastructure of the postwar American Lebensraum. [70]

1947–1952 Cold War in Western Europe: "Empire by invitation" Edit

Prior to his death in 1945, President Roosevelt was planning to withdraw all U.S. forces from Europe as soon as possible. Soviet actions in Poland and Czechoslovakia led his successor Harry Truman to reconsider. Heavily influenced by George Kennan, Washington policymakers believed that the Soviet Union was an expansionary dictatorship that threatened American interests. In their theory, Moscow's weakness was that it had to keep expanding to survive and that, by containing or stopping its growth, stability could be achieved in Europe. The result was the Truman Doctrine (1947) regarding Greece and Turkey. A second equally important consideration was the need to restore the world economy, which required the rebuilding and reorganizing of Europe for growth. This matter, more than the Soviet threat, was the main impetus behind the Marshall Plan of 1948. A third factor was the realization, especially by Britain and the three Benelux nations, that American military involvement was needed. [ clarification needed ] Geir Lundestad has commented on the importance of "the eagerness with which America's friendship was sought and its leadership welcomed. In Western Europe, America built an empire 'by invitation'" [71] At the same time, the U.S. interfered in Italian and French politics in order to purge elected communist officials who might oppose such invitations. [72]

Post-1954: Korea, Vietnam and "imperial internationalism" Edit

Outside of Europe, American imperialism was more distinctly hierarchical “with much fainter liberal characteristics.” Cold War policy often found itself opposed to full decolonization, especially in Asia. The United States decision to colonize some of the Pacific islands (which had formerly been held by the Japanese) in the 1940s ran directly counter to America's rhetoric against imperialism. General Douglas MacArthur described the Pacific as an “Anglo-Saxon lake.” At the same time, the U.S. did not claim state control over much mainland territory but cultivated friendly members of the elites of decolonized countries—elites which were often dictatorial, as in South Korea, Indonesia, and South Vietnam.

In South Korea, the U.S. quickly allied with Syngman Rhee, leader of the fight against the People's Republic of Korea that proclaimed a provisional government. There was a lot of opposition to the division of Korea, including rebellions by communists such as the Jeju uprising in 1948. This was violently suppressed and led to the deaths of 30,000 people, the majority of them civilians. North Korea invaded South Korea in June 1950, starting the Korean War. [73] [74] With National Security Council document 68 and the subsequent Korean War, the U.S. adopted a policy of "rollback" against communism in Asia. John Tirman, an American political theorist has claimed that this policy was heavily influenced by America's imperialistic policy in Asia in the 19th century, with its goals to Christianize and Americanize the peasant masses. [75]

In Vietnam, the U.S. eschewed its anti-imperialist rhetoric by materially supporting the French Empire in a colonial counterinsurgency. Influenced by the Grand Area policy, the U.S. eventually assumed military and financial support for the South Vietnamese state against the Vietnamese communists following the first First Indochina war. The US and South Vietnam feared Ho Chi Minh would win nationwide elections. They both refused to sign agreements at the 1954 Geneva Conference arguing that fair elections weren't possible in North Vietnam. [76] [77] Beginning in 1965, the US sent many combat units to fight Viet Cong and North Vietnamese soldiers in South Vietnam, with fight extending to North Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. During the war Martin Luther King Jr. called the American government "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today." [78]

American exceptionalism is the notion that the United States occupies a special position among the nations of the world [79] in terms of its national credo, historical evolution, and political and religious institutions and origins.

Philosopher Douglas Kellner traces the identification of American exceptionalism as a distinct phenomenon back to 19th-century French observer Alexis de Tocqueville, who concluded by agreeing that the U.S., uniquely, was "proceeding along a path to which no limit can be perceived". [80]

Former President Donald Trump has said that he does not "like the term" American exceptionalism because he thinks it is "insulting the world." He told tea party activists in Texas, "If you're German, or you're from Japan, or you're from China, you don't want to have people saying that." [81]

As a Monthly Review editorial opines on the phenomenon, "In Britain, empire was justified as a benevolent 'white man's burden.' And in the United States, empire does not even exist 'we' are merely protecting the causes of freedom, democracy and justice worldwide." [82]

Journalist Ashley Smith divides theories of the U.S. imperialism into five broad categories: (1) "liberal" theories, (2) "social-democratic" theories, (3) "Leninist" theories, (4) theories of "super-imperialism", and (5) "Hardt-and-Negri" theories. [83] [ clarification needed ]

There is also a conservative, anti-interventionist view as expressed by American journalist John T. Flynn:

The enemy aggressor is always pursuing a course of larceny, murder, rapine and barbarism. We are always moving forward with high mission, a destiny imposed by the Deity to regenerate our victims, while incidentally capturing their markets to civilise savage and senile and paranoid peoples, while blundering accidentally into their oil wells. [84]

A "social-democratic" theory says that imperialistic U.S. policies are the products of the excessive influence of certain sectors of U.S. business and government—the arms industry in alliance with military and political bureaucracies and sometimes other industries such as oil and finance, a combination often referred to as the "military–industrial complex." The complex is said to benefit from war profiteering and looting natural resources, often at the expense of the public interest. [85] The proposed solution is typically unceasing popular vigilance in order to apply counter-pressure. [86] Chalmers Johnson holds a version of this view. [87]

Alfred Thayer Mahan, who served as an officer in the U.S. Navy during the late 19th century, supported the notion of American imperialism in his 1890 book titled The Influence of Sea Power upon History. Mahan argued that modern industrial nations must secure foreign markets for the purpose of exchanging goods and, consequently, they must maintain a maritime force that is capable of protecting these trade routes. [88] [89]

A theory of "super-imperialism" argues that imperialistic U.S. policies are not driven solely by the interests of American businesses, but also by the interests of a larger apparatus of a global alliance among the economic elite in developed countries. The argument asserts that capitalism in the Global North (Europe, Japan, Canada, and the U.S.) has become too entangled to permit military or geopolitical conflict between these countries, and the central conflict in modern imperialism is between the Global North (also referred to as the global core) and the Global South (also referred to as the global periphery), rather than between the imperialist powers.

Political debate after September 11, 2001 Edit

Following the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the idea of American imperialism was re-examined. In November 2001, jubilant marines hoisted an American flag over Kandahar and in a stage display referred to the moment as the third after those on San Juan Hill and Iwo Jima. All moments, writes Neil Smith, express U.S. global ambition. "Labelled a War on Terrorism, the new war represents an unprecedented quickening of the American Empire, a third chance at global power." [90]

On October 15, 2001, the cover of Bill Kristol's Weekly Standard carried the headline, "The Case for American Empire". [91] Rich Lowry, editor in chief of the National Review, called for "a kind of low-grade colonialism" to topple dangerous regimes beyond Afghanistan. [92] The columnist Charles Krauthammer declared that, given complete U.S. domination "culturally, economically, technologically and militarily", people were "now coming out of the closet on the word 'empire ' ". [11] The New York Times Sunday magazine cover for January 5, 2003, read "American Empire: Get Used To It". The phrase "American empire" appeared more than 1000 times in news stories during November 2002 – April 2003. [93]

Academic debates after September 11, 2001 Edit

In 2001–2010 numerous scholars debated the "America as Empire" issue. [94] Harvard historian Charles S. Maier states:

Since September 11, 2001 . if not earlier, the idea of American empire is back . Now . for the first time since the early Twentieth century, it has become acceptable to ask whether the United States has become or is becoming an empire in some classic sense." [95]

Harvard professor Niall Ferguson states:

It used to be that only the critics of American foreign policy referred to the American empire . In the past three or four years [2001–2004], however, a growing number of commentators have begun to use the term American empire less pejoratively, if still ambivalently, and in some cases with genuine enthusiasm. [96]

French Political scientist Philip Golub argues:

U.S. historians have generally considered the late 19th century imperialist urge as an aberration in an otherwise smooth democratic trajectory . Yet a century later, as the U.S. empire engages in a new period of global expansion, Rome is once more a distant but essential mirror for American elites . Now, with military mobilisation on an exceptional scale after September 2001, the United States is openly affirming and parading its imperial power. For the first time since the 1890s, the naked display of force is backed by explicitly imperialist discourse. [97]

A leading spokesman for America-as-Empire is British historian A. G. Hopkins. [98] He argues that by the 21st century traditional economic imperialism was no longer in play, noting that the oil companies opposed the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. Instead, anxieties about the negative impact of globalization on rural and rust-belt America were at work, says Hopkins:

These anxieties prepared the way for a conservative revival based on family, faith and flag that enabled the neo-conservatives to transform conservative patriotism into assertive nationalism after 9/11. In the short term, the invasion of Iraq was a manifestation of national unity. Placed in a longer perspective, it reveals a growing divergence between new globalised interests, which rely on cross-border negotiation, and insular nationalist interests, which seek to rebuild fortress America. [99]

Conservative Harvard professor Niall Ferguson concludes that worldwide military and economic power have combined to make the U.S. the most powerful empire in history. It is a good idea he thinks, because like the successful British Empire in the 19th century it works to globalize free markets, enhanced the rule of law and promote representative government. He fears, however, that Americans lack the long-term commitment in manpower and money to keep the Empire operating. [101]

The U.S. dollar is the de facto world currency. [102] The term petrodollar warfare refers to the alleged motivation of U.S. foreign policy as preserving by force the status of the United States dollar as the world's dominant reserve currency and as the currency in which oil is priced. The term was coined by William R. Clark, who has written a book with the same title. The phrase oil currency war is sometimes used with the same meaning. [103]

Many – perhaps most – scholars [ who? ] have decided that the United States lacks the key essentials of an empire. For example, while there are American military bases around the world, the American soldiers do not rule over the local people, and the United States government does not send out governors or permanent settlers like all the historic empires did. [104] Harvard historian Charles S. Maier has examined the America-as-Empire issue at length. He says the traditional understanding of the word "empire" does not apply, because the United States does not exert formal control over other nations or engage in systematic conquest. The best term is that the United States is a "hegemon." Its enormous influence through high technology, economic power, and impact on popular culture gives it an international outreach that stands in sharp contrast to the inward direction of historic empires. [105] [106]

World historian Anthony Pagden asks, Is the United States really an empire?

I think if we look at the history of the European empires, the answer must be no. It is often assumed that because America possesses the military capability to become an empire, any overseas interest it does have must necessarily be imperial. . In a number of crucial respects, the United States is, indeed, very un-imperial. America bears not the slightest resemblance to ancient Rome. Unlike all previous European empires, it has no significant overseas settler populations in any of its formal dependencies and no obvious desire to acquire any. . It exercises no direct rule anywhere outside these areas, and it has always attempted to extricate itself as swiftly as possible from anything that looks as if it were about to develop into even indirect rule. [107]

In the book Empire (2000), Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri argue that "the decline of Empire has begun". [108] [109] Hardt says the Iraq War is a classically imperialist war and is the last gasp of a doomed strategy. [110] They expand on this, claiming that in the new era of imperialism, the classical imperialists retain a colonizing power of sorts, but the strategy shifts from military occupation of economies based on physical goods to a networked biopower based on an informational and affective economies. They go on to say that the U.S. is central to the development of this new regime of international power and sovereignty, termed "Empire", but that it is decentralized and global, and not ruled by one sovereign state: "The United States does indeed occupy a privileged position in Empire, but this privilege derives not from its similarities to the old European imperialist powers, but from its differences." [111] Hardt and Negri draw on the theories of Spinoza, Foucault, Deleuze and Italian autonomist Marxists. [112] [113]

Geographer David Harvey says there has emerged a new type of imperialism due to geographical distinctions as well as unequal rates of development. [114] He says there have emerged three new global economic and political blocs: the United States, the European Union, and Asia centered on China and Russia. [115] [ verification needed ] He says there are tensions between the three major blocs over resources and economic power, citing the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the motive of which, he argues, was to prevent rival blocs from controlling oil. [116] Furthermore, Harvey argues that there can arise conflict within the major blocs between business interests and the politicians due to their sometimes incongruent economic interests. [117] Politicians live in geographically fixed locations and are, in the U.S. and Europe, [ verification needed ] accountable to an electorate. The 'new' imperialism, then, has led to an alignment of the interests of capitalists and politicians in order to prevent the rise and expansion of possible economic and political rivals from challenging America's dominance. [118]

Classics professor and war historian Victor Davis Hanson dismisses the notion of an American Empire altogether, with a mocking comparison to historical empires: "We do not send out proconsuls to reside over client states, which in turn impose taxes on coerced subjects to pay for the legions. Instead, American bases are predicated on contractual obligations — costly to us and profitable to their hosts. We do not see any profits in Korea, but instead accept the risk of losing almost 40,000 of our youth to ensure that Kias can flood our shores and that shaggy students can protest outside our embassy in Seoul." [119]

The existence of "proconsuls", however, has been recognized by many since the early Cold War. In 1957, French Historian Amaury de Riencourt associated the American "proconsul" with "the Roman of our time." [120] Expert on recent American history, Arthur M. Schlesinger, detected several contemporary imperial features, including "proconsuls." Washington does not directly run many parts of the world. Rather, its "informal empire" was one "richly equipped with imperial paraphernalia: troops, ships, planes, bases, proconsuls, local collaborators, all spread wide around the luckless planet." [121] "The Supreme Allied Commander, always an American, was an appropriate title for the American proconsul whose reputation and influence outweighed those of European premiers, presidents, and chancellors." [122] U.S. "combatant commanders . have served as its proconsuls. Their standing in their regions has usually dwarfed that of ambassadors and assistant secretaries of state." [123]

Harvard Historian Niall Ferguson calls the regional combatant commanders, among whom the whole globe is divided, the "pro-consuls" of this "imperium." [124] Günter Bischof calls them "the all powerful proconsuls of the new American empire. Like the proconsuls of Rome they were supposed to bring order and law to the unruly and anarchical world." [125] In September 2000, Washington Post reporter Dana Priest published a series of articles whose central premise was Combatant Commanders' inordinate amount of political influence within the countries in their areas of responsibility. They "had evolved into the modern-day equivalent of the Roman Empire's proconsuls—well-funded, semi-autonomous, unconventional centers of U.S. foreign policy." [126] The Romans often preferred to exercise power through friendly client regimes, rather than direct rule: "Until Jay Garner and L. Paul Bremer became U.S. proconsuls in Baghdad, that was the American method, too". [127]

Another distinction of Victor Davis Hanson—that US bases, contrary to the legions, are costly to America and profitable for their hosts—expresses the American view. The hosts express a diametrically opposite view. Japan pays for 25,000 Japanese working on US bases. 20% of those workers provide entertainment: a list drawn up by the Japanese Ministry of Defense included 76 bartenders, 48 vending machine personnel, 47 golf course maintenance personnel, 25 club managers, 20 commercial artists, 9 leisure-boat operators, 6 theater directors, 5 cake decorators, 4 bowling alley clerks, 3 tour guides and 1 animal caretaker. Shu Watanabe of the Democratic Party of Japan asks: "Why does Japan need to pay the costs for US service members' entertainment on their holidays?" [128] One research on host nations support concludes:

At an alliance-level analysis, case studies of South Korea and Japan show that the necessity of the alliance relationship with the U.S. and their relative capabilities to achieve security purposes lead them to increase the size of direct economic investment to support the U.S. forces stationed in their territories, as well as to facilitate the US global defense posture. In addition, these two countries have increased their political and economic contribution to the U.S.-led military operations beyond the geographic scope of the alliance in the post-Cold War period . Behavioral changes among the U.S. allies in response to demands for sharing alliance burdens directly indicate the changed nature of unipolar alliances. In order to maintain its power preponderance and primacy, the unipole has imposed greater pressure on its allies to devote much of their resources and energy to contributing to its global defense posture . [It] is expected that the systemic properties of unipolarity–non-structural threat and a power preponderance of the unipole–gradually increase the political and economic burdens of the allies in need of maintaining alliance relationships with the unipole. [129]

Increasing the "economic burdens of the allies" was one of the major priorities of former President Donald Trump. [130] [131] [132] [133] Classicist Eric Adler notes that Hanson earlier had written about the decline of the classical studies in the United States and insufficient attention devoted to the classical experience. "When writing about American foreign policy for a lay audience, however, Hanson himself chose to castigate Roman imperialism in order to portray the modern United States as different from—and superior to—the Roman state." [134] As a supporter of a hawkish unilateral American foreign policy, Hanson's "distinctly negative view of Roman imperialism is particularly noteworthy, since it demonstrates the importance a contemporary supporter of a hawkish American foreign policy places on criticizing Rome." [134]

Annexation is a crucial instrument in the expansion of a nation, due to the fact that once a territory is annexed it must act within the confines of its superior counterpart. The United States Congress' ability to annex a foreign territory is explained in a report from the Congressional Committee on Foreign Relations, "If, in the judgment of Congress, such a measure is supported by a safe and wise policy, or is based upon a natural duty that we owe to the people of Hawaii, or is necessary for our national development and security, that is enough to justify annexation, with the consent of the recognized government of the country to be annexed." [135]

Prior to annexing a territory, the American government still held immense power through the various legislations passed in the late 1800s. The Platt Amendment was utilized to prevent Cuba from entering into any agreement with foreign nations and also granted the Americans the right to build naval stations on their soil. [136] Executive officials in the American government began to determine themselves the supreme authority in matters regarding the recognition or restriction of independence. [136]

When asked on April 28, 2003, on Al Jazeera whether the United States was "empire building," Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld replied, "We don't seek empires. We're not imperialistic. We never have been." [137]

However, historian Donald W. Meinig says imperial behavior by the United States dates at least to the Louisiana Purchase, which he describes as an "imperial acquisition—imperial in the sense of the aggressive encroachment of one people upon the territory of another, resulting in the subjugation of that people to alien rule." The U.S. policies towards the Native Americans, he said, were "designed to remold them into a people more appropriately conformed to imperial desires." [138]

Writers and academics of the early 20th century, like Charles A. Beard, in support of non-interventionism (sometimes referred to as "isolationism"), discussed American policy as being driven by self-interested expansionism going back as far as the writing of the Constitution. Many politicians today do not agree. Pat Buchanan claims that the modern United States' drive to empire is "far removed from what the Founding Fathers had intended the young Republic to become." [139]

Andrew Bacevich argues that the U.S. did not fundamentally change its foreign policy after the Cold War, and remains focused on an effort to expand its control across the world. [140] As the surviving superpower at the end of the Cold War, the U.S. could focus its assets in new directions, the future being "up for grabs," according to former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Paul Wolfowitz in 1991. [141] Head of the Olin Institute for Strategic Studies at Harvard University, Stephen Peter Rosen, maintains:

A political unit that has overwhelming superiority in military power, and uses that power to influence the internal behavior of other states, is called an empire. Because the United States does not seek to control territory or govern the overseas citizens of the empire, we are an indirect empire, to be sure, but an empire nonetheless. If this is correct, our goal is not combating a rival, but maintaining our imperial position and maintaining imperial order. [142]

In Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, the political activist Noam Chomsky argues that exceptionalism and the denials of imperialism are the result of a systematic strategy of propaganda, to "manufacture opinion" as the process has long been described in other countries. [143]

Thorton wrote that "[. ]imperialism is more often the name of the emotion that reacts to a series of events than a definition of the events themselves. Where colonization finds analysts and analogies, imperialism must contend with crusaders for and against." [144] Political theorist Michael Walzer argues that the term hegemony is better than empire to describe the U.S.'s role in the world. [145] Political scientist Robert Keohane agrees saying, a "balanced and nuanced analysis is not aided . by the use of the word 'empire' to describe United States hegemony, since 'empire' obscures rather than illuminates the differences in form of governance between the United States and other Great Powers, such as Great Britain in the 19th century or the Soviet Union in the twentieth". [146]

Since 2001, [147] Emmanuel Todd assumes the U.S.A. cannot hold for long the status of mondial hegemonic power, due to limited resources. Instead, the U.S.A. is going to become just one of the major regional powers along with European Union, China, Russia, etc. Reviewing Todd's After the Empire, G. John Ikenberry found that it had been written in "a fit of French wishful thinking." [148]

Other political scientists, such as Daniel Nexon and Thomas Wright, argue that neither term exclusively describes foreign relations of the United States. The U.S. can be, and has been, simultaneously an empire and a hegemonic power. They claim that the general trend in U.S. foreign relations has been away from imperial modes of control. [149]

Cultural imperialism Edit

Some critics of imperialism argue that military and cultural imperialism are interdependent. American Edward Said, one of the founders of post-colonial theory, said,

. so influential has been the discourse insisting on American specialness, altruism and opportunity, that imperialism in the United States as a word or ideology has turned up only rarely and recently in accounts of the United States culture, politics and history. But the connection between imperial politics and culture in North America, and in particular in the United States, is astonishingly direct. [150]

International relations scholar David Rothkopf disagrees and argues that cultural imperialism is the innocent result of globalization, which allows access to numerous U.S. and Western ideas and products that many non-U.S. and non-Western consumers across the world voluntarily choose to consume. [151] Matthew Fraser has a similar analysis but argues further that the global cultural influence of the U.S. is a good thing. [152]

Nationalism is the main process through which the government is able to shape public opinion. Propaganda in the media is strategically placed in order to promote a common attitude among the people. Louis A. Perez Jr. provides an example of propaganda used during the war of 1898, "We are coming, Cuba, coming we are bound to set you free! We are coming from the mountains, from the plains and inland sea! We are coming with the wrath of God to make the Spaniards flee! We are coming, Cuba, coming coming now!" [136]

In contrast, many other countries with American brands have incorporated themselves into their own local culture. An example of this would be the self-styled "Maccas," an Australian derivation of "McDonald's" with a tinge of Australian culture. [153]

Chalmers Johnson argued in 2004 that America's version of the colony is the military base. [157] Chip Pitts argued similarly in 2006 that enduring U.S. bases in Iraq suggested a vision of "Iraq as a colony." [158]

While territories such as Guam, the United States Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, and Puerto Rico remain under U.S. control, the U.S. allowed many of its overseas territories or occupations to gain independence after World War II. Examples include the Philippines (1946), the Panama Canal Zone (1979), Palau (1981), the Federated States of Micronesia (1986), and the Marshall Islands (1986). Most of them still have U.S. bases within their territories. In the case of Okinawa, which came under U.S. administration after the Battle of Okinawa during the Second World War, this happened despite local popular opinion on the island. [159] In 2003, a Department of Defense distribution found the United States had bases in over 36 countries worldwide, [160] including the Camp Bondsteel base in the disputed territory of Kosovo. [161] Since 1959, Cuba has regarded the U.S. presence in Guantánamo Bay as illegal. [162]

By 1970, [ needs update ] the United States had more than one million soldiers in 30 countries, [ citation needed ] was a member of four regional defense alliances and an active participant in a fifth, had mutual defense treaties with 42 nations, was a member of 53 international organizations, and was furnishing military or economic aid to nearly 100 nations across the face of the globe. [163] In 2015 the Department of Defense reported the number of bases that had any military or civilians stationed or employed was 587. This includes land only (where no facilities are present), facility or facilities only (where there the underlying land is neither owned nor controlled by the government), and land with facilities (where both are present). [164]

Also in 2015, David Vine's book Base Nation, found 800 U.S. military bases located outside of the U.S., including 174 bases in Germany, 113 in Japan, and 83 in South Korea. The total cost: an estimated $100 billion a year. [165]

According to The Huffington Post, "The 45 nations and territories with little or no democratic rule represent more than half of the roughly 80 countries now hosting U.S. bases. . Research by political scientist Kent Calder confirms what's come to be known as the "dictatorship hypothesis": The United States tends to support dictators [and other undemocratic regimes] in nations where it enjoys basing facilities." [166]

One of the earliest historians of American Empire, William Appleman Williams, wrote, "The routine lust for land, markets or security became justifications for noble rhetoric about prosperity, liberty and security." [167]

Max Boot defends U.S. imperialism, writing, "U.S. imperialism has been the greatest force for good in the world during the past century. It has defeated communism and Nazism and has intervened against the Taliban and Serbian ethnic cleansing." [168] Boot used "imperialism" to describe United States policy, not only in the early 20th century but "since at least 1803." [168] [169] This embrace of empire is made by other neoconservatives, including British historian Paul Johnson, and writers Dinesh D'Souza and Mark Steyn. It is also made by some liberal hawks, such as political scientists Zbigniew Brzezinski and Michael Ignatieff. [170]

Scottish-American historian Niall Ferguson argues that the United States is an empire and believes that this is a good thing: "What is not allowed is to say that the United States is an empire and that this might not be wholly bad." [171] Ferguson has drawn parallels between the British Empire and the global role of the United States in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, though he describes the United States' political and social structures as more like those of the Roman Empire than of the British. Ferguson argues that all of these empires have had both positive and negative aspects, but that the positive aspects of the U.S. empire will, if it learns from history and its mistakes, greatly outweigh its negative aspects. [172]

Another point of view implies that United States expansion overseas has indeed been imperialistic, but that this imperialism is only a temporary phenomenon, a corruption of American ideals, or the relic of a past era. Historian Samuel Flagg Bemis argues that Spanish–American War expansionism was a short-lived imperialistic impulse and "a great aberration in American history," a very different form of territorial growth than that of earlier American history. [173] Historian Walter LaFeber sees the Spanish–American War expansionism not as an aberration, but as a culmination of United States expansion westward. [174]

Historian Victor Davis Hanson argues that the U.S. does not pursue world domination, but maintains worldwide influence by a system of mutually beneficial exchanges. [119] On the other hand, Filipino revolutionary General Emilio Aguinaldo felt as though American involvement in the Philippines was destructive: "The Filipinos fighting for Liberty, the American people fighting them to give them liberty. The two peoples are fighting on parallel lines for the same object." [175] American influence worldwide and the effects it has on other nations have multiple interpretations.

Liberal internationalists argue that even though the present world order is dominated by the United States, the form taken by that dominance is not imperial. International relations scholar John Ikenberry argues that international institutions have taken the place of empire. [148]

International relations scholar Joseph Nye argues that U.S. power is more and more based on "soft power," which comes from cultural hegemony rather than raw military or economic force. This includes such factors as the widespread desire to emigrate to the United States, the prestige and corresponding high proportion of foreign students at U.S. universities, and the spread of U.S. styles of popular music and cinema. Mass immigration into America may justify this theory, but it is hard to know whether the United States would still maintain its prestige without its military and economic superiority., [176] In terms of soft power, Giles Scott-Smith, argues that American universities: [177]

acted as magnets for attracting up-and-coming elites, who were keen to acquire the skills, qualifications and prestige that came with the ‘Made in the USA’ trademark. This is a subtle, long-term form of ‘soft power’ that has required only limited intervention by the US government to function successfully. It conforms to Samuel Huntington’s view that American power rarely sought to acquire foreign territories, preferring instead to penetrate them — culturally, economically and politically — in such a way as to secure acquiescence for US interests. [178] [179]

The Right and Wrong of the Monroe Doctrine

Among the magical words that hypnotize men’s minds and keep them from asking intelligent questions, the Monroe Doctrine has a sovereign charm in American politics. Secretary Hay has coupled the mention of this Doctrine with the Golden Rule. Let us venture to ask a few straight questions, and not be afraid to go wherever the honest answer to our questions may carry us.

First, what was the substance of the original Monroe Doctrine in 1823, when it was promulgated? The Spanish American colonies had then revolted, and we had recognized their independence. There was a boundary question between the United States and Russia. We were a young republic, trying a great experiment in the eyes of a critical and unfriendly world. A “Holy Alliance,” organized at the instance of Russia, with a really beautiful programme for the good order of Europe, threatened to be turned into an instrument of mischief and oppression, and even to help Spain recover her possessions in America. It is likely that, as in many other instances of human alarm, nothing dangerous would have happened. But our government naturally felt nervous, and raised its cry of warning in the form of the Monroe Doctrine. This was merely a declaration, made by the President in his message to Congress, to the effect that the United States would hold it unfriendly in the European powers to take any aggressive action in this continent. Important as the subject now seems, it involved no vote in Congress, nor the careful discussion that an actual vote generally involves. It is doubtful whether many Americans who read Monroe’s Message gave serious thought to the passages which were destined to give his name prominence. But Americans would have generally agreed in their disinclination to see monarchies set up in the New World, or to suffer any kind of undemocratic system to be brought over here from Europe.

It is noteworthy that the bare statement of the attitude of the United States, without any show of force or preparation for war, was sufficient to secure respectful treatment from the European powers. President Monroe did not feel called upon to ask appropriations for an increase in the navy in order to “back up” his doctrine. The United States did not possess a formidable navy till it had to build one in the period of the Civil War.

It should also be remarked that England, doubtless for commercial reasons, forwarded our government in its attitude in behalf of the independence of the South American republics. Few would have dreamed at that time that the Monroe Doctrine would ever be used as a menace against England.

See now what enormous political changes have come about within eighty years. Except Russia, there is not an autocratic government left of all the nations who composed the short-lived Holy Alliance. All the others, even Austria and Spain, have adopted constitutional methods. Their people have everywhere been given more or less democratic representation. Spain does not contemplate winning back her colonies. We possess by amicable purchase the very territory over which there was once risk of a boundary dispute with Russia. So far from fearing the extension of autocratic and oppressive governments from Europe to America, the European governments are daily brought to face new demands on the part of their people in the direction of democratic experiments. Autocratic militarism all over the world stands on the defensive. It is becoming recognized as economically and politically intolerable. A great international court has been established on purpose to put an end to war between the nations. It has begun to be used and respected.

Meanwhile the world has become one in geography and international relations. We are practically nearer to the shores of Europe than we are to South America. We have larger and closer interests with China and Japan than we have with Chili and Guatemala.

Let us try now to find what European power, if any, threatens to bring the methods of oppression and tyranny to our continent, or in any way to menace the welfare of the United States. Russia, as we have observed, is out of the question, having voluntarily withdrawn from this continent. She allowed her proud flag to be hauled down in Alaska without the slightest loss of honor.

England is our best friend in all the world. Let us never admit jealousy or suspicion between us. For three thousand miles our territory and the Dominion of Canada march together. By mutual consent neither of us has a ship of war upon the Great Lakes. Let us see to it that we never put warships there. We are obviously safer without them. Like two strong men, dwelling on adjacent farms, we are mutually safeguarded, not by building suspicious fences against each other and purchasing weapons in view of the possibility of our wishing to fight, but rather by assuming that we shall never be so foolish as to injure each other. If we ever disagree, we do not purpose to degrade ourselves by fighting. So far as England is concerned, we may venture boldly to declare that the United States does not need a fort nor a battleship. We contemplate her time-honored naval station at Halifax as complacently as travelers view the collection of ancient armor in the Tower of London. Moreover, as regards the Monroe Doctrine, the last thing which England. could possibly attempt, with her own popular constitution, would be to abridge the liberties of Americans, either North or South.

Summon now the Republic of France, and interrogate her as to her designs and ambitions touching the affairs of America. Probably few Americans could name her cis-Atlantic possessions, so inconspicuous are they. They are costing the French treasury a steady outgo. No intelligent nation would take the gift of them, especially of Martinique, with its tempestuous volcanoes. France has had little experience with American colonies cheerful enough to stir her to desire the risk of a disagreement with the United States for the sake of gaining more territory. Nevertheless, we must admit that we had rather live under the rule of France than in most of the states of South or Central America. From no point of view does France threaten to establish a tyranny over any of the populations in the New World.

We hear of Italians in South America. They have emigrated to the Argentine Republic. Does this fact make the slightest demand upon the United States to build iron ships to guard against the friendly government of Victor Emmanuel? On the contrary, the more Italians in the Argentine Republic the better we like it. They are more enterprising and industrious than either the Spaniards or the natives, and there is plenty of room for all who wish to go there. Is it conceivable that Italy, saddled with ruinous debt and with a fearful burden of European militarism, should undertake a war of conquest in South America? If this were conceivable, does any one suppose that Italian rule down there, supposing it to prevail, would be less enlightened, or less righteous, than Spanish-American rule has been under the delusive name of “republic”? The people of the United States cannot know Italy, or her political conditions, and feel the slightest apprehension, that she is capable of extending to our continent methods of government inimical to our peace.

No other nation in Europe remains, about whose designs in our continent the American people have the need to lose a wink of sleep, except Germany. If the plain truth were told by the alarmists, Germany is very nearly the one power in Christendom on whose account we are called upon to pay a naval “insurance fund” of a hundred millions of dollars a year. The talk about a “German peril” would be laughable, if millions of poor people did not need the money which such incendiary talk costs us or worse yet, if this ceaseless talk about possible war with a great nation were not irritating to every one concerned, and naturally provocative of ill feeling.

Why indeed should we imagine mischief from Germany? To hear certain speakers and writers, one would suppose that Germany—instead of being a land of arts and laws, of universities and free institutions, with a vast network of world-wide trade—was overrun, as of old, by barbarous hordes breathing violence and robbery. Germany, in fact, has no quarrel or enmity against the kindred people of the United States. Germany is richer every day by reason of the prosperity of our country. The export and import trade between the United States and Germany amounted in 1903 to over three hundred and ten millions of dollars, more than double our whole trade with South America in the same year, — a half more than our trade with all Asia. The boasted “open door” into the Chinese Empire only allowed the passage both ways of about forty-five millions of dollars’ worth of products, — less than one sixth of our trade with Germany. 1 Does any one think that Germany would lightly quarrel with the source of so much bread and butter? For what possible use? She could not conquer and enslave us, nor does she wish to. We have no boundary lines on the planet to make friction between us. We may say again stoutly, as in the case of England, we are safer from any possible attack from Germany without a ship or a fort than we are with the largest navy that Captain Mahan could desire. For in the one case we should be sure to avoid needless disputes, and should be more than willing on both sides to put any a question that might ever arise between us to arbitration whereas in the other case, standing with loaded guns as it were, some trifling explosion of an angry man’s temper might involve the two nations in strife.

It may be asked whether there is not grave risk that Germany may endeavor to plant colonies in South America, or to interfere in some way with the affairs of the South American people. We hardly need more than to repeat the paragraph touching this kind of contingency on the part of Italy. Germans are doubtless coming in considerable numbers into the temperate countries of South America. They are a most desirable kind of immigrant. Wherever they go a higher civilization goes with them. Life and property are safer. A more efficient type of government is demanded. All this is surely for the interest of the United States. We can only be glad for any influences which will tone up the character of the south and Central American states. If they were all Germanized, the whole world, including the United States, would be permanently richer. In fact, the ties of trade and friendship between us and a possible Germanized state in South America would normally tend to be close than they seem likely to be with the Spanish-American peoples.

Neither is there the slightest evidence that Germany would ever threaten to introduce tyrannical forms of government into South America, or to oppress the native peoples. Indeed, so far as it is good for the United States to govern the Philippine Islands for the betterment of their people, the same argument holds in favor of any reasonable method, for example, through purchase or by the final consent of the people, for the extension of German law and political institutions into ill-governed South American states. I do not care to press this argument, which is only valid for those Americans who believe in our colonial experiment. But the argument is far stronger for possible German colonies than it is for the United States, inasmuch as South America is a natural and legitimate field for German immigration, being largely a wilderness, while no large number of Americans will ever care to settle in the Philippine Islands. The time may naturally come when Germany would have the same kind of interest in the welfare of her people beyond the seas that England has in that of the Englishmen in South Africa. There can be no good reason why the United States should look upon such an interest with jealousy or suspicion. For we are unlikely to have any legitimate colonial interest in the southern half of our continent.

Meanwhile, the whole history of colonial settlements goes to show the futility of holding colonies with which the home government is not bound by the ties of good will. Thus Canada and Australia uphold the British Empire, because they possess practical freedom while England has to spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year, badly needed by her own poor people, merely in order to keep her hold over India. All precedents go to show that the Empire of Germany would only weaken herself, in case she should endeavor to meddle in South America, against the interests and the good will of the people there.

Let us ask another question, hitherto too little considered. On what ground of right is the United States justified in continuing to assert the Monroe Doctrine? We may warn trespassers off our own land. Have we the right to bar our neighbors from lands to which we have no shadow of a title? Suppose that we may do this as the stronger people, for the sake of humanity, to protect weaker people from oppression. It is surely a dangerous concession to permit a single state, however civilized it deems itself, to assume the right to become a knight-errant, to adjust wrongs in the world, and incidentally to be sheriff, judge, and jury on its own motion. But grant this concession for a moment in favor of the United States. While it may have been true eighty years ago that the American people were filled with sympathy for the republics which revolted from Spain, it would be hypocrisy to claim to-day that our people are seriously concerned over the troubles of their South American neighbors. We are rather apt to say that they are unfit to govern themselves. The United States to-day holds eight millions of people on the other side of the globe, very like the South Americans, on the distinct ground that they are not yet fit for independence. Our own course, therefore, bars us from sensitiveness over the perils which South America suffers from the bare possibility of the interference of European states.

Moreover, we have shown that there is no state in Europe which has a mind to do any wrong to South America. So far as the promise of higher civilization goes, the planting of bona fide colonies in the vast areas of our southern continent signifies a good to humanity.

We must fall back upon a totally different line of reasoning in order to find the only legitimate defense of our Monroe Doctrine. The argument is this: that a nation has the right to safeguard herself against the menace of aggression. Concede that this might have been a sound argument when the Monroe Doctrine was first proclaimed. Our government saw a peril in the setting up of a European system of despotism on this continent. We have made it clear, however, that this peril which disturbed out fathers appears to have vanished forever. No one can show what actual danger to our liberties is threatened by any governmental system that European powers can set up in South America. Let us not even imagine that we are in fear of such a chimerical peril. We have no fear that Germany wishes to harm us while she stays at home in Europe. We have no more ground for fear if Germany were by some magic to fill South America as full of sturdy German people as Canada is now full of friendly English, Scotch, and Frenchmen. The better civilized our neighbors are, the less peril do they threaten to our liberties.

Let us then disabuse our minds of any fear of European aggression, to injure American liberties.

But it may be urged that the European governments, as was shown in the late Venezuelan episode, may prove disagreeable in their efforts to collect debts due to their subjects, or, on occasion, in safe-guarding the rights of their colonists in the disorderly South American states. The condition of these states, it is urged, offers points of serious friction between us and our European neighbors. The class of issues here raised stands quite aside from the original intent of the Monroe Doctrine. Here is the need of new international law, of the services of the Hague Tribunal, very likely of the establishment of a permanent Congress of Nations. How far ought any nation to undertake by warships and armies to collect debts for venturesome subjects who have speculated in the tumultuous politics of semi-civilized peoples? How far is the real welfare of the world served by punitive expeditions dispatched in the name of missionaries, travelers, and traders, who have chosen to take their own lives in their hands in the wild regions of the world? There is no call for a Monroe Doctrine on these points. The issue is international, not American. The question is not so much whether France and England may send a fleet to take the customs duties of a dilapidated South American port, as it is, what course ought any government to take when wily promoters ask its assistance in carrying out their schemes in Bogota or Caracas, or Pekin or again (an equally pertinent question), what remedy, if any, international law ought to give when one of our own cities or states defaults its bonds held in Paris or Berlin.

Grant that it is uncomfortable to our traders in South America to see European sheriffs holding ports where we wish to do business. We evidently have no right to protest against other nations doing whatever we might do in like circumstances. If we can send armored ships to South America, all the others can do so. If we like to keep the perilous right to collect debts, we must concede it to others. We may not like to see strangers, or even our own neighbors, taking liberties and quarreling in the next field to our own. But who gives us the right forcibly to drive them out of a field which we do not own? The rule here seems to be the same for the nation as for the individual.

In other words, whatever the Monroe Doctrine historically means, it no longer requires us to stand guard with a show of force to maintain it. In its most critical form, when it meant a warning against despotism, it only needed to be proclaimed, and never to be defended by fighting ships. In the face of governments practically like our own, the time has come to inquire whether there remains any reasonable issue under the name of the Monroe Doctrine, over which the American people could have the least justification for a conflict of arms with a European government. The interests of the United States in South America are not different from those of other powers, like England and Germany. They are substantially identical interests they are all obviously involved together with the improvement of material, political, and moral conditions in the South American states.

We have sought so far such an interpretation of the Monroe Doctrine as may honorably go in company of the Golden Rule, or, in other words, of international justice. There remains, however, a possible new definition of the Doctrine, which should be fairly faced. There is an idea in the air that the United States holds a certain protectorate or suzerainty over the whole continent of America. A manifest destiny is thought to be working in favor of the dominion or suzerainty of a single power from the Arctic Ocean to Patagonia. Porto Rico is ours. Cuba is almost ours. Many believe that Canada will some time desire to be with us. No people to the south of us shows stable promise of what we call good government. The new canal at Panama affords additional reasons for our control of the continent. Boundless resources are yet to be developed in the virgin continent. We are the people who can provide the brains, the capital, and the political security requisite for the exploitation of practically a seventh of the surface of the earth.

The new Monroe Doctrine comes thus to mean, frankly, that we want, or at least may some time want, all America for ourselves. We give due notice in advance of our claim of preëmption. What else does the Monroe Doctrine mean, that there should be the pretense of a necessity to fight for it? What else does our President mean by his not of repeated warning to the republics of South and Central America that they must “behave themselves”?

Few persons seriously expect that South Americans are ready to “behave themselves” to order, to pay their foreign debts, and keep their promises punctually, and to make no disturbances to the inconvenience of their neighbors. If Europe must not be suffered to discipline them, must we not give them their lessons? The recent movement to assume a receivership at San Domingo, to collect and pay Dominican taxes for the benefit of bond-holders both at home and abroad, brings the new doctrine into practical effect. Here and nowhere else looms up the need of new battleships and a hundred millions of dollars a year for the navy. It is in regard to South America, and for the extension of the Monroe Doctrine to a control over the continent, that we discover in the political horizon all manner of colossal foreign responsibilities and the possibilities of friction and war.

The new Monroe Doctrine may kindle one’s imagination it may stir the ambition of our people it may tempt some of them with a glamour of power and wealth. We may fancy that we would like to be the suzerain power on the continent, with United States officials in authority in every Spanish and Portuguese American capital. The stern ancient question presses: What right has the United States to assume a protectorate, and much less any form of sovereignty, over South America? The South American governments are as independent as our own. There are no traditions common between us to constitute us an acknowledged Lord Protector over them. On the contrary, our conduct toward Colombia and the Philippines, and the extraordinary utterances of some of our public men, seem to have already produced a certain nervousness among our Spanish-American neighbors.

Neither does international law, which has never in the past given the Monroe Doctrine any clearly acknowledged footing, admit the right of the United States to mark off the American continent as its own preserve, and to stand, like a dog in the manger, to warn other friendly peoples from entering it.

Moreover, the millions of the plain American people, who toil and pay the taxes to the tune of about forty dollars a year for every average family, have no valid interests whatever in spending the money or the administrative ability of the country in dubious enterprises beyond the seas, at the behest of ambitious capitalists or politicians, who aim to open markets and run satrapies by the use of national battleships. The people, who need indefinite services for the expansion of their welfare and happiness at home, have never even been asked to consider, much less to approve, a policy which threatens to dissipate the activities of their government over the length of the continent. The new Monroe Doctrine is a menace to the interests of every American workingman. It is the old story. The few usurp the power of the many to work their own ends.

In short, so far as we are good friends of the South American peoples, so far as we are friends of our kinsmen over the seas on the continent of Europe, so far as our intentions in South America are honestly humane and philanthropic, we have no need whatever of the Monroe Doctrine any longer. On the side of our common humanity all our interests are substantially identical. On the other hand, so far as we purpose to exploit the continent for our own selfish interests, so far as we aim at the extension of our power, so far as we purpose to force our forms of civilization and our government upon peoples whom we deem our “inferiors,” our new Monroe Doctrine rests upon no grounds of justice or right, it has no place with the Golden Rule, it is not synonymous with human freedom, it depends upon might, and it doubtless tends to provoke jealousy, if not hostility and war.

Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine

A developing crisis in the Dominican Republic, where the government stopped payments on its debts of more than $32 million to various nations, caused President Theodore Roosevelt to reformulate the Monroe Doctrine. First advanced in May 1904 and later expanded in his annual message to Congress in December, Roosevelt stated what would become known as his corollary (logical extension of) the Monroe Doctrine. This change in policy was deemed necessary because of a desire to avoid having European powers come to the Western Hemisphere for the purpose of collecting debts. It was feared that those nations might come as earnest creditors, but remain as occupying powers. This prospect was especially unwelcome at this time when the United States was pushing full steam ahead with the construction of the canal in Panama. Defensive interests demanded that the Caribbean be kept as an “American lake.” Roosevelt felt that the United States had a “moral mandate” to enforce proper behavior among the nations of Latin America, stating:


America's seldom expressed but widely shared antagonism toward Europe's monarchical governments broke loose at the first news of the revolutions that, beginning in France during February 1848, swept rapidly across Germany and the whole continent. The U.S. minister in Paris recognized France's provisional government. Senator Edward Hannegan of Indiana reported a joint resolution from the Committee on Foreign Relations that offered the country's congratulations to the people of France. The absence of any obligations to France assured the resolution's overwhelming approval.

By 1849, the spontaneous uprising of one European people after another diverted attention from France to Hungary, where the Magyar patriots were engaged in a heroic struggle against Austrian rule. That summer, while the American people applauded the successive Hungarian triumphs, Secretary of State John M. Clayton dispatched Ambrose Dudley Mann as a special agent to report on the progress of the revolution and offer the nation's encouragement. After winning momentary success under their eloquent leader, Lajos Kossuth, the Hungarians suffered disaster at the hands of Russian troops brought to the aid of the Austrian emperor. Early in 1850 Cass proposed a resolution demanding that the administration sever diplomatic relations with Austria. Clay, a realist since his stint as secretary of state under John Quincy Adams, turned his ridicule on Cass's proposal. There was, he told the Senate on 7 January, no relationship between the Michigan senator's premises and his conclusions. His resolution offered nothing to the Hungarians. Why, Clay asked, single out Austria? Hungary lost its independence struggle to Russian, not Austrian, forces. The country's very greatness, Clay cautioned, "draws after it great responsibilities … to avoid unnecessary wars, maintaining our own rights with firmness, but invading the rights of no others." The Senate tabled Cass's resolution.

Meanwhile, the exiled Kossuth languished under detention in Turkey. But in September 1851, Webster, now secretary of state, with the cooperation of U.S. minister George Perkins Marsh, secured the release of Kossuth and fifty of his Magyar associates. Congress passed a resolution inviting Kossuth to visit the United States, while the president dispatched the USS Mississippi, already in the Mediterranean, to carry him to England. After a triumphal stop in England, he proceeded to the United States. Upon his arrival in New York City on 5 December, announced by the booming of cannon, Kossuth received the city's greatest ovation since the visit of Lafayette a quarter century earlier. New York experienced a Magyar-mania epidemic. Soon the Kossuth craze spread from the Atlantic to the Great Lakes. American orators used the occasion of his presence to express sympathy for the oppressed of Europe. Whigs — largely realists — were not amused they resented both the cleverness of Kossuth's appeal to the country's idealist sentiment, as well as the approval his words apparently received. What troubled Kossuth's realist critics especially was his open quest for diplomatic, economic, and even military assistance to rekindle the Hungarian independence movement. For them, such appeals exceeded the bounds of acceptable international behavior.

Congress voted to invite Kossuth to Washington, D.C. The Hungarian accepted with alacrity the success of his mission in America hinged on his acceptance by an administration that was determined to offer him nothing. On 23 December, Webster acknowledged privately the need for caution in dealing with Kossuth: "We shall treat him with respect, but shall give him no encouragement that the established policy of the country will be in any degree departed from." Two days later, Webster admitted that Kossuth's presence in Washington would be embarrassing. Upon Kossuth's arrival, Webster privately outlined his course of action: "I shall treat him with all personal and individual respect, but if he should speak to me of the policy of 'intervention,' I shall 'have ears more deaf than adders.'" At the White House on 31 December, Kossuth, despite Webster's request, could not resist the temptation to make a lengthy plea for American aid. President Millard Fillmore reminded the Hungarian leader that U.S. policy on intervention had been uniform since the Republic's founding. At subsequent dinners hosted by the Websters and the president, Kossuth's scarcely concealed anger embarrassed all who attended.

At a congressional banquet in Kossuth's honor, Webster expressed his hope to see the American model established upon the Lower Danube. He toasted Hungarian independence but refused to offer what Kossuth needed: something tangible for the Hungarian cause. On 9 January 1852, Clay received Kossuth in his chamber. Clay assured the Hungarian leader that the United States could not transport men and arms to eastern Europe in sufficient quantity to be effective against Russia and Austria. Such an attempt, he added, would depart from the country's historic policy of nonintervention. "Far better is it for ourselves, for Hungary, and for the cause of liberty," Clay concluded, "that, adhering to our wise, pacific system … , we should keep our lamp burning brightly on this western shore as a light to all nations, than to hazard its utter extinction amid the ruins of fallen and falling republics in Europe." Kossuth soon returned to Europe, suffering the disillusionment of those who expect too much of sentiment.

The Philippine-American War

The Philippine-American War was an armed conflict that resulted in American colonial rule of the Philippines until 1946.

Learning Objectives

Analyze the Philippine-American War

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The Philippine-American War was part of a series of conflicts in the Philippine struggle for independence, preceded by the Philippine Revolution (1896) and the Spanish-American War.
  • The conflict arose from the struggle of the First Philippine Republic to gain independence following annexation by the United States.
  • The war and U.S. occupation changed the cultural landscape of the islands. Examples of this include the disestablishment of the Catholic Church as the Philippine state religion and the introduction of the English language as the primary language of government and business.
  • The United States officially took control of the Philippines in 1902. In 1916, the United States promised some self-government, a limited form of which was established in 1935. In 1946, following World War II, the United States gave the territory independence through the Treaty of Manila.

Key Terms

  • Philippine Revolution of 1896: An armed conflict in which Philippine revolutionaries tried to win national independence from Spanish colonial rule. Power struggles among the revolutionaries and conflict with Spanish forces continued throughout the Spanish-American War.
  • Battle of Manila: The battle that began the Philippine-American War of 1899.
  • American Anti-Imperialist League: A U.S. organization that opposed American control of the Philippines and viewed it as a violation of republican principles. The group also believed in free trade, the gold standard, and limited government.

The Philippine-American War, also known as the “Philippine War of Independence” or the “Philippine Insurrection” (1899–1902), was an armed conflict between the United States and Filipino revolutionaries. The conflict arose after the Philippine Revolution of 1896, from the First Philippine Republic’s struggle to gain independence following annexation by the United States.

The conflict arose when the First Philippine Republic objected to the terms of the Treaty of Paris, under which the United States took possession of the Philippines from Spain after the Spanish-American War.

The Battle of Manila: The Battle of Manila, February 1899.

Fighting erupted between U.S. and Filipino revolutionary forces on February 4, 1899, and quickly escalated into the 1899 Battle of Manila. On June 2, 1899, the First Philippine Republic officially declared war against the United States. The war officially ended on July 2, 1902, with a victory for the United States. However, some Philippine groups led by veterans of the Katipunan continued to battle the American forces. Among those leaders was General Macario Sakay, a veteran Katipunan member who assumed the presidency of the proclaimed “Tagalog Republic,” formed in 1902 after the capture of President Emilio Aguinaldo. Other groups, including the Moro people and Pulahanes people, continued hostilities in remote areas and islands until their final defeat a decade later at the Battle of Bud Bagsak on June 15, 1913.

Impact and Legacy

Filipino soldiers: Filipino soldiers outside Manila in 1899.

The war with and occupation by the United States would change the cultural landscape of the islands. The war resulted in an estimated 34,000 to 220,000 Philippine casualties (with more civilians dying from disease and hunger brought about by war) the disestablishment of the Roman Catholic Church as the state religion and the introduction of the English language in the islands as the primary language of government, education, business, and industry, and increasingly in future decades, of families and educated individuals.

Under the 1902 “Philippine Organic Act,” passed by the U.S. Congress, Filipinos initially were given very limited self-government, including the right to vote for some elected officials such as a Philippine Assembly. But it was not until 14 years later, with the passage of the 1916 Philippine Autonomy Act (or “Jones Act”), that the United States officially promised eventual independence, along with more Philippine control in the meantime over the Philippines. The 1934 Philippine Independence Act created in the following year the Commonwealth of the Philippines, a limited form of independence, and established a process ending in Philippine independence (originally scheduled for 1944, but interrupted and delayed by World War II). Finally in 1946, following World War II and the Japanese occupation of the Philippines, the United States granted independence through the Treaty of Manila.

American Opposition

Some Americans, notably William Jennings Bryan, Mark Twain, Andrew Carnegie, Ernest Crosby, and other members of the American Anti-Imperialist League, strongly objected to the annexation of the Philippines. Anti-imperialist movements claimed that the United States had become a colonial power by replacing Spain as the colonial power in the Philippines. Other anti-imperialists opposed annexation on racist grounds. Among these was Senator Benjamin Tillman of South Carolina, who feared that annexation of the Philippines would lead to an influx of nonwhite immigrants into the United States. As news of atrocities committed in subduing the Philippines arrived in the United States, support for the war flagged.

I’d like to review U.S. presidential doctrines throughout history. I think it important to understand just how consistent and unbashfully public American leaders have been about their quest for empire.

Monroe Doctrine (1823)

The Monroe Doctrine was expressed during President Monroe’s seventh annual message to Congress, December 2, 1823. The statement articulated United States’ policy on the new political order developing in the rest of the Americas and the role of Europe in the Western Hemisphere.

In the discussions to which this interest has given rise and in the arrangements by which they may terminate the occasion has been judged proper for asserting, as a principle in which the rights and interests of the United States are involved, that the American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers.

We owe it, therefore, to candor and to the amicable relations existing between the United States and those powers to declare that we should consider any attempt on their part to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere as dangerous to our peace and safety.

It is impossible that the allied powers should extend their political system to any portion of either continent without endangering our peace and happiness nor can anyone believe that our southern brethren, if left to themselves, would adopt it of their own accord.

American leaders wanted to increase their influence and trading ties to the south and European mercantilism posed an obstacle to the United States’ economic expansion.

In the late 1800s, U.S. economic and military power enabled the nation to take on the role of regional policeman. The doctrine’s greatest extension came with Theodore Roosevelt’s Corollary, which inverted the original meaning of the doctrine and came to justify unilateral U.S. intervention in Latin America.

Roosevelt Corollary (1904)

In 1904, Theodore Roosevelt issued a corollary to the Monroe Doctrine that significantly altered America’s foreign policy. Roosevelt’s annual message to Congress, December 6, 1904:

To the Senate and House of Representatives:

It is not true that the United States feels any land hunger or entertains any projects as regards the other nations of the Western Hemisphere save such as are for their welfare. All that this country desires is to see the neighboring countries stable, orderly, and prosperous. Any country whose people conduct themselves well can count upon our hearty friendship. If a nation shows that it knows how to act with reasonable efficiency and decency in social and political matters, if it keeps order and pays its obligations, it need fear no interference from the United States. Chronic wrongdoing, or an impotence which results in a general loosening of the ties of civilized society, may in America, as elsewhere, ultimately require intervention by some civilized nation, and in the Western Hemisphere the adherence of the United States to the Monroe Doctrine may force the United States, however reluctantly, in flagrant cases of such wrongdoing or impotence, to the exercise of an international police power.

If every country washed by the Caribbean Sea would show the progress in stable and just civilization which with the aid of the Platt amendment Cuba has shown since our troops left the island, and which so many of the republics in both Americas are constantly and brilliantly showing, all question of interference by this Nation with their affairs would be at an end. Our interests and those of our southern neighbors are in reality identical. They have great natural riches, and if within their borders the reign of law and justice obtains, prosperity is sure to come to them. While they thus obey the primary laws of civilized society they may rest assured that they will be treated by us in a spirit of cordial and helpful sympathy. We would interfere with them only in the last resort, and then only if it became evident that their inability or unwillingness to do justice at home and abroad had violated the rights of the United States or had invited foreign aggression to the detriment of the entire body of American nations. It is a mere truism to say that every nation, whether in America or anywhere else, which desires to maintain its freedom, its independence, must ultimately realize that the right of such independence can not be separated from the responsibility of making good use of it.

In asserting the Monroe Doctrine, in taking such steps as we have taken in regard to Cuba, Venezuela, and Panama, and in endeavoring to circumscribe the theater of war in the Far East, and to secure the open door in China, we have acted in our own interest as well as in the interest of humanity at large. There are, however, cases in which, while our own interests are not greatly involved, strong appeal is made to our sympathies. Ordinarily it is very much wiser and more useful for us to concern ourselves with striving for our own moral and material betterment here at home than to concern ourselves with trying to better the condition of things in other nations.

We continue steadily to insist on the application of the Monroe Doctrine to the Western Hemisphere.

This is Roosevelt’s famous “big stick diplomacy.” – As in, do what we say or I’ll beat you with a stick!

Truman Doctrine (1948)

The Truman Doctrine was an American foreign policy whose stated purpose was to counter Soviet geopolitical expansion during the Cold War. It was announced to Congress by President Harry S. Truman on March 12, 1947, and further developed on July 4, 1948, when he pledged to contain threats in Greece and Turkey.

Here are the key lines from Truman’s speech:

The very existence of the Greek state is today threatened by the terrorist activities of several thousand armed men, led by Communists, who defy the government’s authority at a number of points

One of the primary objectives of the foreign policy of the United States is the creation of conditions in which we and other nations will be able to work out a way of life free from coercion. This was a fundamental issue in the war with Germany and Japan. Our victory was won over countries which sought to impose their will, and their way of life, upon other nations.

To ensure the peaceful development of nations, free from coercion, the United States has taken a leading part in establishing the United Nations, The United Nations is designed to make possible lasting freedom and independence for all its members. We shall not realize our objectives, however, unless we are willing to help free peoples to maintain their free institutions and their national integrity against aggressive movements that seek to impose upon them totalitarian regimes. This is no more than a frank recognition that totalitarian regimes imposed on free peoples, by direct or indirect aggression, undermine the foundations of international peace and hence the security of the United States.

I believe that it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.

I believe that we must assist free peoples to work out their own destinies in their own way.

The seeds of totalitarian regimes are nurtured by misery and want. They spread and grow in the evil soil of poverty and strife. They reach their full growth when the hope of a people for a better life has died. We must keep that hope alive.

The free peoples of the world look to us for support in maintaining their freedoms.

If we falter in our leadership, we may endanger the peace of the world — and we shall surely endanger the welfare of our own nation.

Of course, the Truman was lying to the world about his true intentions. Please read The Cruelty Behind the Truman Doctrine.

Eisenhower Doctrine (1957)

President Dwight D. Eisenhower announced the Eisenhower Doctrine in January 1957. The Eisenhower Administration’s decision to issue this doctrine was motivated in part by an increase in Arab hostility toward the West, and growing Soviet influence in Egypt and Syria following the Suez Crisis of 1956.

The Middle East has abruptly reached a new and critical stage in its long and important history. In past decades many of the countries in that area were not fully self-governing. Other nations exercised considerable authority in the area and the security of the region was largely built around their power. But since the First World War there has been a steady evolution toward self-government and independence. Our country supports without reservation the full sovereignty and independence of each and every nation of the Middle East. The evolution to independence has in the main been a peaceful process. But the area has been often troubled. Persistent crosscurrents of distrust and fear with raids back and forth across national boundaries have brought about a high degree of instability in much of the Mid East. Just recently there have been hostilities involving Western European nations that once exercised much influence in the area. Also the relatively large attack by Israel in October has intensified the basic differences between that nation and its Arab neighbors. All this instability has been heightened and, at times, manipulated by International Communism.

The reason for Russia’s interest in the Middle East is solely that of power politics. Considering her announced purpose of Communizing the world, it is easy to understand her hope of dominating the Middle East.

The Middle East provides a gateway between Eurasia and Africa.
It contains about two thirds of the presently known oil deposits of the world and it normally supplies the petroleum needs of many nations of Europe, Asia and Africa

Under these circumstances I deem it necessary to seek the cooperation of the Congress. Only with that cooperation can we give the reassurance needed to deter aggression, to give courage and confidence to those who are dedicated to freedom and thus prevent a chain of events which would gravely endanger all of the free world.

The action which I propose would have the following features.
It would, first of all, authorize the United States to cooperate with and assist any nation or group of nations in the general area of the Middle East in the development of economic strength dedicated to the maintenance of national independence. It would, in the second place, authorize the Executive to undertake in the same region programs of military assistance and cooperation with any nation or group of nations which desires such aid.

It would, in the third place, authorize such assistance and cooperation to include the employment of the armed forces of the United States to secure and protect the territorial integrity and political independence of such nations, requesting such aid, against overt armed aggression from any nation controlled by International Communism.

Thus the United Nations and all friendly governments, and indeed governments which are not friendly, will know where we stand.

The U.S. feared that the growing nationalism and independence of third world nations would combine with international communism and threaten Western interests. The U.S. saw the Middle East as being critical for future foreign policy regarding the United States and its allies as the region contains a large percentage of the world’s oil reserves.

Kennedy Doctrine (1961)

In his Inaugural address on January 20, 1961, President Kennedy presented the American public with a blueprint upon which the future foreign policy initiatives of his administration would later follow and come to represent. It is in this address that one begins to see the Cold War, us-versus-them mentality that came to dominate not only the Kennedy administration, but future ones as well.

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

And just because the Cuban subject is very dear to me, here are Kennedy’s thoughts on the relationship between the Monroe Doctrine and the subject of Cuba. Kennedy made the following comments at an August 29, 1962 news conference:

The Monroe Doctrine means what it has meant since President Monroe and John Quincy Adams enunciated it, and that is that we would oppose a foreign power extending its power to the Western Hemisphere. And that’s why we oppose what is being–what’s happening in Cuba today. That’s why we have cut off our trade. That’s why we worked in the OAS and in other ways to isolate the Communist menace in Cuba. That’s why we’ll continue to give a good deal of our effort and attention to it.

Johnson Doctrine (1965)

The Johnson Doctrine builds off of the Kennedy and Eisenhower doctrines in that it opposes communism in the Western Hemisphere. It also parallels the Monroe Doctrine, with an emphasis on denouncing outside (in this case communist) interference in the Americas. On May 2, 1965, Johnson reported on the situation in the Dominican Republic:

The American nations cannot, must not, and will not permit the establishment of another Communist government in the Western Hemisphere. This was the unanimous view of all the American nations when, in January 1962, they declared, and I quote: ‘The principles of communism are incompatible with the principles of the inter-American system.’

This is what our beloved President John F. Kennedy meant when, less than a week before his death, he told us: ‘We in this hemisphere must also use every resource at our command to prevent the establishment of another Cuba in this hemisphere.’

This is and this will be the common action and the common purpose of the democratic forces of the hemisphere. For the danger is also a common danger, and the principles are common principles.

Nixon Doctrine (1969)

The Nixon doctrine was announced from the Oval Office in an address to the nation on the War in Vietnam on November 3, 1969. Nixon said:

Well, in accordance with this wise counsel, I laid down in Guam three principles as guidelines for future American policy toward Asia:

First, the United States will keep all of its treaty commitments.

Second, we shall provide a shield if a nuclear power threatens the freedom of a nation allied with us or of a nation whose survival we consider vital to our security.

Third, in cases involving other types of aggression, we shall furnish military and economic assistance when requested in accordance with our treaty commitments. But we shall look to the nation directly threatened to assume the primary responsibility of providing the manpower for its defense…

The defense of freedom is everybody’s business—not just America’s business.

Carter Doctrine (1980)

The Carter Doctrine was a policy proclaimed by the President’s State of the Union Address on January 23, 1980:

The region which is now threatened by Soviet troops in Afghanistan is of great strategic importance: It contains more than two thirds of the world’s exportable oil. The Soviet effort to dominate Afghanistan has brought Soviet military forces to within 300 miles of the Indian Ocean and close to the Straits of Hormuz, a waterway through which most of the world’s oil must flow. The Soviet Union is now attempting to consolidate a strategic position, therefore, that poses a grave threat to the free movement of Middle East oil.

Let our position be absolutely clear: An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.

Reagan Doctrine (1985)

Reagan first explained the doctrine in his 1985 State of the Union Address:

We cannot play innocents abroad in a world that’s not innocent nor can we be passive when freedom is under siege. Without resources, diplomacy cannot succeed. Our security assistance programs help friendly governments defend themselves and give them confidence to work for peace. And I hope that you in the Congress will understand that, dollar for dollar, security assistance contributes as much to global security as our own defense budget.

We must stand by all our democratic allies. And we must not break faith with those who are risking their lives—on every continent, from Afghanistan to Nicaragua—to defy Soviet-supported aggression and secure rights which have been ours from birth.

The Sandinista dictatorship of Nicaragua, with full Cuban-Soviet bloc support, not only persecutes its people, the church, and denies a free press, but arms and provides bases for Communist terrorists attacking neighboring states. Support for freedom fighters is self-defense and totally consistent with the OAS and U.N. Charters

Notice the line about securing the “rights which have been ours from birth”. Truly revealing!

Clinton Doctrine (1999)

The Clinton Doctrine is not a clear statement in the way that many other doctrines were. However, in a February 26, 1999, speech, President Bill Clinton said the following, which was considered the Clinton Doctrine:

It’s easy, for example, to say that we really have no interests in who lives in this or that valley in Bosnia, or who owns a strip of brushland in the Horn of Africa, or some piece of parched earth by the Jordan River. But the true measure of our interests lies not in how small or distant these places are, or in whether we have trouble pronouncing their names. The question we must ask is, what are the consequences to our security of letting conflicts fester and spread. We cannot, indeed, we should not, do everything or be everywhere. But where our values and our interests are at stake, and where we can make a difference, we must be prepared to do so. And we must remember that the real challenge of foreign policy is to deal with problems before they harm our national interests.

No conspiracies theories needed. Our rulers have always been very honest and very public about their intentions.

I’ll leave you with the words of Admiral Alfred T. Mahan. In 1900, Mahan gave us the bold truth about governments and national interests:

The first law of states, as of men, is self-preservation – a term which cannot be narrowed to the bare tenure of a stationary round of existence.

Self-interest if not only a legitimate, but fundamental cause for national policy one which needs no cloak of hypocrisy. As a principle it does not require justification in general statement,

Not every saying of Washington is as true now as it was when uttered, and some have been misapplied but it is just as true now as ever that it is vain to expect governments to act continuously on any other ground then national interest. They have no right to do so, being agents and not principles.

The Problem of Asia and Its Effect Upon International Policies

Watch the video: The Monroe Doctrine 1823 (September 2022).

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