America on Global Affairs 1880-1929 United States of America set its ride to become a competitive- further a dominant, power since the Monroe Doctrine of 1823. To its advantage, America was far away from the European dominance over the world and on its own accord, geared towards industrialization, which was its root stand to become a Great Power. The U. S evolved from a continentally isolated country to a Great Power, a nation stronger than the others in Europe in such a small period of time from the end of the Civil War to the early twentieth century.
However, there are different interpretations of how this Great Power became an eager expansionist nation. Territorial expansion, the notion of expansionism, was always part of American history from its beginning. Expanding to the west and acquiring land for the ever growing nation seems like an inherited characteristic from its European ancestors. As Paul Kennedy argues in his essay The United States as New Kid on the Block, 1840-1940, the country was growing at a lightning speed and catalyzed the country to become an expansionist nation due to its booming production.
His argument upon the connection between the national economy and the foreign affairs as United States became a world power gives a succinct interpretation from industrialist point of view. “The hyper productivity of American factories and farms caused a widespread fear that even its enormous domestic market might soon be unable to absorb these goods” (p. 276) and pressed the government to enable overseas marketing with other nations as well as secure the trade. U. S government had to take actions in order to keep its economy and as “the consequences of this commercial transformation” (p. 76) influenced its international relations. On the other hand, a prominent historian Gail Bederman of University of Notre Dame gives a rather interesting interpretation of American expansionism by connecting the imperialist impulse among the American politicians to the American manhood. His approach to explain the expansionist ideology does not coincide with what Kennedy argues. His interpretation of why America became an expansionist or imperialist power aligns with Theodore Roosevelt and his famous ideology of “Strenuous Life” and “White Man’s Burden”.
As Bederman presents, Theodore Roosevelt evolved from being called from an effeminate leader to an exemplary leader to carry out the duty of man and from this evolvement Theodore Roosevelt sought the country to take on the glorious task to civilize the inferior, the uncivilized, and the backward. Roosevelt desired for imperial dominance and this “intrinsically related to his views about male power”. (p. 293) Roosevelt’s wish to bring about the best civilized race and the racial superiority brought the expansionist move. On the foreign affairs, yet another interpretation emerges from Louis A.
Perez as he places the catalytic event the sinking of Maine, to the Spanish American War. Through his essay, Perez gives an explanation of how America is an expansionist nation by questioning the sinking of Maine which catalyzed American people to want expansionism. According to Perez, the destruction of Maine “had immediate repercussions and lasting implications” on the foreign affairs. (p. 279) Following the destruction, the relationship between the U. S and the Spain totally deteriorated. Perez argues that the U. S was “propelled to war by an agitated citizenry”. p. 281) From Perez’s essay, it is clear the public was the driving force in the American involvement in foreign affairs. Yet in a way, Perez’s argument coincides with Kennedy’s. Kennedy argues that the business leaders pressed the government to take actions in order to save the blood flow of the American economy as to people pressed the government to take action in Perez’s argument. In conclusion, Kennedy displays an overarching drive for why America became an expansionist power while Bedermen and Perez present detailed interpretations by analyzing specific factors.
It is evident that the American society had sheer influence on the U. S. foreign affairs. The society was blooming with huge production and industrialization which had to be maintained and forced the government to step outside the continent to make trading with other countries possible. Along the way to enable trading, spread capitalism, expansionist moves took place due to common beliefs which were possibly fueled by Theodore Roosevelt and the sinking of Maine. And it was “white” man’s duty to become the dominant nation and help those inferior such as the Philippines.