Rdgs Seminar in US History
Rdgs Seminar in US History HIST 6393
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This 10 page Class Notes was uploaded by Mr. Branson Mitchell on Saturday September 19, 2015. The Class Notes belongs to HIST 6393 at University of Houston taught by Robert Buzzanco in Fall. Since its upload, it has received 52 views. For similar materials see /class/208356/hist-6393-university-of-houston in History at University of Houston.
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Date Created: 09/19/15
Brandon Todd HIST 6393 Fall 2006 Dr Buzzanco Building the American Empire Ever since the overthrow of its colonial masters in 1776 the United States has promoted itself as an antiimperialist nation This would seem only natural coming from a country that had been under the boot of the British crown for a hundred years However the roots ofAmerica s antiimperialism do not stem from sympathy for nations with similarities to the past history ofthe US Anti imperialism in US foreign policy exists solely as a product ofthe effect of imperialism on the American economy Colonies of European imperial powers were closed offto America as a market for American goods and all resources and trade went to and from the colony s European master Beginning in the early 20th century the US began advocating freedom for colonial nations and open markets in places like China Looking back at over two hundred years ofAmerican foreign policy the question can be raised as to whetherthe US itself could be considered an imperialist power On the surface the answer would appear to be that the US is not and has never been an imperialist nation After all the US has never had expansive colonial territories and has always been in favor of open markets everywhere Digging below the surface the answer is not so clear The MerriamWebster Dictionary de nes imperialism as the policy practice or advocacy of extending power and dominion of a nation especially by direct territorial acquisitions or by gaining indirect control over the political or economic life of other areas broady the extension or imposition of power authority or in uence The rst part of this de nition would not seem apply to the US The US possessed few colonies and has always supported the liberation of European colonies and the opening of markets It could possibly be argued that in its rst one hundred years the US would be considered an imperialist nation by virtue oftheir westward expansion extending its power and dominion by direct territorial acquisitions However since the acquisition ofthose territories involved the acquisition of largely unpopulated land either purchased or won through fighting with a European imperial nation the United States was extending its power but not gaining power over another nation1 The second aspect of the de nition of imperialism conforms more closely with US foreign policy in the past century While the US had no physical colonies American economic and military power held in uence over many third world countries especially in Latin America In Europe the US emerged as a dominant force following the first and second World Wars as the rest of Europe struggled to rebuild after being ravaged by ghting that left the US largely untouched Rebuilding efforts were made possible by American dollars leaving nations indebted to the US for their nancial support Perhaps more importantly the economic culture of Europe began to change falling more in line with American economic practices Previously individual craftsman making handmade goods of high quality which were subsequently too costly for any but 1 Obviously Native Americans might view this statement somewhat skeptically but the Us seem ed less interested in exploiting them economically than say eradicating them from the face of the Earth the elite to afford them dominated the European market After World War II cheap American goods flooded the market and made previously unattainable products available to the masses eroding the power base of the traditional elite Local cultures also began homogenizing under this Americanization ln Irresistible Empire Victoria de Grazia characterizes the American domination of European culture via the open market as soft power The efforts of the US to extend their economic power over the European market can certainly be seen as imperial to an extent Any discussion of American influence over the political situations in other nations must begin with Latin America Since the early 19th century the US has carefully maintained its sphere of influence in the western hemisphere and reacted swiftly to perceived threats to its hegemonic influence The Napoleonic Wars of 18051815 left the Spanish Monarchy crippled and their American colonies began slipping away as rebellions sprang up across South America As various European nations including France and Russia discussed the possibility of assisting Spain in reacquiring its lost colonies the US saw an opportunity to become the dominate force in the region In his State of the Union Address to Congress in 1823 President James Monroe delivered a speech that would later be known as the Monroe Doctrine Underthe Monroe Doctrine the western hemisphere was effectively closed to colonization The US would not interfere with current European colonies but ifa colonial rebellion put in place a government that was subsequently acknowledged by the US government any attempt to reestablish dominion over that new nation would be prohibited Any attempt at further colonization in the Americas would be construed as a threat to US security2 V th the Monroe Doctrine the US was poised to become the dominant force in the western hemisphere European powers could no longer expand their presence in the Americas and given the storm of rebellion sweeping across many South American colonies were more likely to see their presence reduced Following the SpanishAmerican war in 1898 the US began their efforts to replace the European nations that were being pushed out In 1904 President Theodore Roosevelt added the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine The Roosevelt Corollary added to the doctrine the goal of expanding American commercial interests into Latin America The Corollary also claimed the right of the US to intervene as an international police power in Latin American con icts that threatened US interests The US would use this right to intervene in areas such as Cuba Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic The US had received Cuba along with Puerto Rico Guam and the Philippines following its victory in the SpanishAmerican War In 1902 the US granted Cuba its independence but only after the Cuban government agreed to accept the terms of the Platt Amendment The amendment stipulated that the US military would have use of the Guantanamo Bay naval base and essentially gave the US authority over all Cuban foreign policy decisions In return a tariff was passed in America giving Cuban sugar preference in the American economy As a result sugar production dominated the Cuban economy and Cuban sugar farmers including many American investors became increasingly 2 http WWW law ou eduushistorym onIodocshtm1 richer while the majority ofthe population became poorer The amendment also guaranteed protection in the Cuban market for certain American goods The widening gap between the elite and the poor and the ineffectiveness of the Cuban government in dealing with social instability led to armed revolt in 1906 The US exercised its rights under the Roosevelt Corollary and intervened to suppress the rebellion Cuba remained under US military occupation forthe next three years and though Cuban selfgovernment was restored in 1908 the country remained under close supervision by the Americans The gap between the rich and poor continued to grow and caused such increasing social instability that by 1934 President Roosevelt terminated the Platt Amendment The poor however would always blame the US government forthe many hardships they had endured since achieving independence3 ln Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic the US likewise intervened to prevent US interests from being harmed by a politically unstable state Both nations were placed under US military rule underthe provisions ofthe Roosevelt Corollary for close to a decade The US would again intervene in both nations during the Cold War but neither would be followed as closely as Cuba American intervention became increasingly unpopular in both Latin America and in the US itself In 1934 President Franklin Roosevelt repealed the Roosevelt Corollary in favor of his Good Neighbor Policy which advocated non military intervention Roosevelt also ended the terms of the Platt Amendment with the exception of the US right to Guantanamo Bay 3 LaFeber Walter The Tension between Democracy and Capitalism in the American Century Diplomatic History vol 23 no 2 Spring 1999 This rst round of US intervention in Latin American politics would showcase American foreign policy trends in the hemisphere that would persist throughout the century First and foremost the US sought to maintain social stability to protect its investments in Latin American nations lfa Latin regime proved to be incapable of maintaining that stability the US acted swiftly with military force to reestablish order Second the US maintained careful supervision over the actions of Latin governments The Platt Amendment gave Washington free reign to intervene in any Cuban political or economic action Lastly Cuba clearly became America s leading concern in Latin America During the Cold War USCuban relations would shape the political history of the entire region Following the withdrawal of US troops in Cuba during the 1930s the United States had supported the seizure of the Cuban government by General Fulgencio Batista Though the Batista government ushered in an era of increased corruption US corporations dominated the Cuban economy Despite his shortcomings as a head of state Batista was strongly supported by the US government for most of his tenure The American Ambassador to Cuba Arthur Gardner claimed that the US had never had a better friend than Batista4 However as Batista s regime became increasingly corrupt US support began to waver and in 1958 the United States placed an arms embargo on Cuba sealing the fate ofthe Batista government In January of 1959 Batista ed the country and the Cuban revolutionaries led by Fidel Castro seized power A Communist Threat to the United States through the Caribbean Hearings before the Subcommittee to Investigate the Administration of the International Security Act and Other Internal Security Laws of the Committee on the Judiciary United States Senate 863911 Congress 2nd Session pt 9 August 27 30 1960 Failing to support Batista would later be considered a grave mistake in light ofthe situation the US now faced with Castro in power Castro seized many American properties in Cuba and began nationalizing Cuban industries precisely the actions feared by the US whenever a Latin American nation faced a political upheaval The mishandling ofthe Batista situation would in uence the way America dealt with Latin American regimes throughout the Cold War era The US was willing to support authoritarian dictatorships in suppressing nationalist and populist revolutionaries that they feared would lead to communism and economic reform dangerous to US investments In 1954 reformminded Guatemalan president Jacobo Arbenz demanded that the United Fruit Company cede its unused land to peasants Washington viewed the declaration as a threat to American security and the CIA led an uprising that overthrew Arbenz and replaced him with a brutal military dictatorship5 To aid in the resistance to the spread of Communism and proCastro sentiments the US enlisted the help ofthe Dominican Republic and Venezuela The leaders ofthe two nations Rafael Trujillo and Romulo Betancourt were similar only in their anticommunism Trujillo frustrated the State Department with his brutality but the United States needed Dominican support because of its strategic location Betancourt likewise did not exemplify the type of leader the US government wanted in charge of Latin American governments Unlike Trujillo Betancourt had been fairly elected to his position Betancourt was 5 LaFeber The Tension between Democracy and Capitalism reformminded as Arbenz had been but the US needed a strongly anti communist leader in place as Venezuela had a large Communist party6 The courting of Trujillo and Betancourt by Washington indicated another trend in American policy in Latin America the willingness of the US to use its power to remove government leaders in an effort to gain more control of the region s politics Tiring of Trujillo s antics and enamored with Betancourt s staunch antiCastroism the US stuck a bargain with Betancourt In return for his support against Castro the US would support the removal of Betancourt s old enemy Trujillo from power In 1961 Dominican dissidents assassinated Trujillo and Washington helped establish an antiCommunist democratic government United States actions in Latin America in the late 50s and 60s demonstrated a willingness on the part of the government to use extreme measures such as assassination embargoes and military intervention to protect American interests in the region Likewise US support for the various political regimes in Latin America showed that the most vital quality ofa government from the US perspective was a strong antiCommunist stance Following the Trujillo assassination John F Kennedy was famously quoted as saying There are three possibilities in descending order of preference a decent democratic regime a continuation ofthe Trujillo regime or a Castro regime We ought to 6 Rabe Stephen G The Caribbean Triangle Betancourt Castro and Trujillo and US Foreign Policy Diplomatic History vol 20 no 1 Winter 1996 aim at the rst but we really can t renounce the second until we are sure we can avoid the thirdquot7 By the end of the 1960s the United States had clearly established an imperial presence in Latin America Though it claimed no direct dominion over the nations of Latin America US policies and interests clearly controlled the direction of Latin American politics American political dominance was not con ned solely to the western hemisphere The threat of Communism in Cuba represented just a small piece of the overall picture ofthe Cold War The US responded aggressively to Communist expansion across the globe from Latin America to Africa and Asia Following World War II the United States quickly helped to rebuild Japan as a strong Capitalist power to balance the Communist alliance between China and Russia American support also made possible the establishment of national governments in South Korea and South Vietnam to halt Communist expansion from their northern counterparts American political in uence has also reached into the Middle East with the US involvement in the IranIraq war and the continuing support for Israel Further study can illuminate the particulars of American involvement in each ofthese situations but it should not be necessary to establish the idea of America as an imperial power The Monroe Doctrine laid the American claim to the nations of Latin America early in the 19th century Since then the United States has taken seriously its role as hegemonic power in the Western Hemisphere intervening in Latin American affairs whenever necessary to protect American investments frequently to the detriment ofthe people of Latin America Latin America has 7 Rabe The Caribbean Triangle been a part of America s empire in all but name When answering the question of the United States imperial leanings a quick lesson in Latin American history should provide all the answers necessary to con rm America s position as an Empire
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