U.S. Foreign Affairs Since 1898 Term Paper

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U.S. Foreign Affairs Since 1898

Why did the United States go to war in 1898 and what were the consequences of the war?

Following the advice of its founding fathers the United States had, in the first century of its existence, kept well away from foreign entanglements. After the American Civil War (1861-1865) the country experienced rapid industrial growth and felt the need for markets beyond its frontiers. There was also a desire to show its political and military muscle at the international scene. The Munroe Doctrine and manifest destiny became popular slogans in the country as more and more Americans began to believe that territorial expansion by the U.S. was both inevitable and "divinely ordained."

It was in this background that certain events unfolded in the neighboring territory of Cuba, which provided an opportunity to the U.S. To make its first imperialist move. Cuba and Puerto Rico were at that time the last vestiges of the Spanish colonial rule in Latin America and the Cubans had been struggling for independence from the Spanish for sometime. The Cuban revolt against Spain in 1895 was brutally suppressed by the Spanish under the governorship of General ("the butcher") Weyler, who unleashed a reign of terror on the Cubans by placing the peasant population in concentration camps where thousands died of disease and hunger.

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The press in the U.S. seized upon the Cuban crisis and published sensational and often exaggerated stories about the Spanish atrocities building up the public opinion to a fever pitch in favor of American intervention. Sentiments were further inflamed when a New York newspaper published a copy of a letter from Spanish Foreign Minister criticizing the American President Mckinley. ("Introduction: The World of 1898," 1998)

TOPIC: Term Paper on U.S. Foreign Affairs Since 1898 Why Did Assignment

After wide-spread unrest broke out in Havana, Cuba in 1898, the U.S. consul general asked for the dispatch of an American warship into the harbor for protection of American interests in Cuba. In response, the battleship Maine was sent. While anchored in Havana harbor the ship was destroyed by an underwater explosion on February 15, 1898 -- 266 U.S. officers and men were killed on board. Although the cause of the explosion was not established at the time, the Spanish were blamed. The U.S. President McKinley ultimately declared war on Spain on April 25, 1898 and dispatched naval ships for a blockade of Cuba. At the same time, the U.S. also engaged the Spanish naval forces in Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico.. The resultant Spanish-American War lasted less than four months (from April to August 1898) and was highlighted by two decisive American naval victories -- at Santiago Bay in Cuba, and at Manila Bay in the Philippines. (Trask, 2002)

The Consequences of the Spanish American War of 1898

The Paris peace treaty signed between Spain and the U.S. On December 10, 1898, provided for Spanish withdrawal from Cuba, leaving the island under temporary U.S. occupation. It also legitimized the U.S. occupation of Hawaii, Guam, Puerto Rico and Philippines. The War thus made the United States an Imperialist power for the first time in its history. In the aftermath of the war, the Panama Canal was constructed for linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans; it greatly facilitated U.S. commerce and military activities in the region and ensured its dominance of the seas. Another important consequence of the war was the rise of Theodore Roosevelt who went on to become the U.S. vice president in 1900 and president in 1901. (Parmet, 1993)

What were the significant issues of American foreign policy under President Theodore Roosevelt? Explain.

When Theodore Roosevelt became the President of the United States in 1901, the country had already acquired a small but fledgling empire acquired as a result of the Spanish-American War of 1898. True to his forceful nature, TR then proceeded to consolidate America's position as the pre-dominant power in the Western Hemisphere. Some of the significant foreign policy issues under President Theodore Roosevelt are discussed below:

The Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine:

The Monroe Doctrine, issued by President John Monroe in 1823 had proclaimed that the European powers should not colonize territories in the Americas nor interfere in the affairs of sovereign American nations; in return the U.S. would stay neutral in European Wars and in wars between Europeans and their colonies. The doctrine had remained the cornerstone of United States' foreign policy until then. Roosevelt felt that the Doctrine did not go far enough to assert his country's new role as the dominant power in the region. He, therefore, modified the Monroe Doctrine in 1904 by asserting that the United States had the right not only to oppose European intervention in the Western Hemisphere but also to intervene in the domestic affairs of its neighboring countries if they resorted to "chronic wrongdoing or an impotence which results in the general loosening of ties in a civilized society." In effect the Roosevelt Corollary gave the U.S. A new role of an international policeman.

Dominican Republic Crisis: Even before the formal proclamation of the Roosevelt Corollary, President Roosevelt got an opportunity to practice his policy of "speak softly but carry a big stick." The small Latin American nation of the Dominican Republic was deeply in debt to European powers such as France and Italy and was unable to service its debts. By 1903, these powers were threatening to interfere in the country to recover their debt. Roosevelt, therefore, seized control of Dominican customs collections and put in place an arrangement through which part of the revenues collected were used to pay off the foreign creditors.

Panama Canal: Perhaps the most significant achievement of Roosevelt's foreign policy was his initiative for constructing the Panama Canal. At the time Panama was part of the Columbian Republic but a separatist movement sought to break free from Columbia. Roosevelt was quick to seize his opportunity: he offered to support the separatists with the condition that Panama would cede control of a ten-mile wide strip of land to the U.S. For the building of the Canal. Although construction of the Panama Canal was completed in 1914 after TR had left power, it was instrumental in making the U.S. The dominant military power in Central America. ("Theodore Roosevelt," 2003)

Controlling the Cuban Revolt of 1806: Although Cuba was in name an independent nation, the "Platt Amendment" to its constitution dictated by the U.S. prohibited the island nation from making independent treaties with other nations, and granted the U.S. The right to intervene in its affairs, besides giving it a naval base (the Guantanamo Bay) in perpetuity. When the Cubans revolted against such U.S. domination in 1806, TR sent the marines to the island to "maintain order." (Ibid.)

Mediation in the Russo-Japanese War: Roosevelt mediated in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05) by bringing the both sides together to the Portsmouth Peace Conference in 1905 and brokered a peace agreement between the two countries. For his successful mediation, TR was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906.

Gentlemen's Agreement of 1907: Roosevelt was also instrumental in diffusing anti-Japanese sentiment in California by persuading the Japanese to voluntarily restrict immigration to the U.S.

What questions are raised about America's response to genocide and humanitarian crises? Explain.

The United States' policy of intervention (or non-intervention) in case of humanitarian crises around the world is looked at with suspicion in most countries around the world. It is generally believed that the American response to such crises is at best selective and is more often than not just a "smokescreen" for gaining strategic advantage or protecting American "national interest" such as securing of oil resources.

To some extent, of course, the hostile reaction to American response is due to its position of the sole superpower and the most powerful nation in the world -- and the conflicting expectations that are attached to the behavior of a country placed in such a position. But, it is also true that America's own history of interventions, purportedly made for "humanitarian reasons," is far from exemplary. If we look back in history, President Andrew Jackson got the "Indian Removal Act" passed by the Congress in 1830 mandating the removal of the Cherokee nation from the gold-rich areas of Georgia where they had lived for centuries, and dubbed it as a "great humanitarian gesture." (Susskind, 1999) Since then countless other "humanitarian" interferences in foreign lands by the United States' military (the Philippines in 1898, Haiti in 1915, Vietnam in the 1950s and 60s, the Congo in 1964, Granada in 1983, Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003) have been made. The local "freedom fighters" (inevitably dubbed "terrorists" by the U.S.), who fought off the "humanitarian" gesture in each case, obviously saw American moves in a completely different light.

Critics of unequal American response to genocide also quote the example of its complete inaction during the time of the horrendous genocide of around one million people in Rwanda in 1994. Even though, the scale of the massacre was predicted by various intelligence agencies before its occurrence and the… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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