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The US involvement in WWI: a natural extension of the 1890s imperial wave into the new century or a multi-dimensional phenomenon - Essay Example

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America’s path to a world power – the rip-roaring 1890s Having become part of the language during the mid-1840s, the term ‘Manifest Destiny’ became the emanation of the US foreign policy by that time; and meant nothing but heavenly prearranged expansion into an “area not clearly defined” (Merk and Faragher 24). …
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The US involvement in WWI: a natural extension of the 1890s imperial wave into the new century or a multi-dimensional phenomenon
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The US involvement in WWI: a natural extension of the 1890s imperial wave into the new century or a multi-dimensional phenomenon

Download file to see previous pages... While its antecedent, the Monroe Doctrine, had already claimed the control over the American continent in the 1820s, the American expansionist wars that followed, most notably the American-Spanish War of 1898, obviously started fulfilling both appeals. In 1882, New York Herald opined that the United States were “a good enough England” for the western hemisphere; thus implying the ambitious bid for American domination in the Pacific Basin region, North and Latin America (Herring 265). It was not the 1898 American-Spanish War per se – being generally considered an amateurish enterprise and even comic opera at times – but rather its far-reaching implications that made the historians to call it “the pivotal event of a pivotal decade” (Herring 309). The easy victory achieved by the US forces in Cuba not only provoked the biting remark that “God looked after drunkards, babies and Americans”, but also encouraged the President McKinley in sending a naval squadron under Admiral Dewey to steam to the Philippines (Herring 316). Thus, as a consequence of the war, the US acquired strategic overseas possessions in the Pacific, most notably Hawaii and the Philippines – as well as considerable influence in the Caribbean, reaffirming their convictions of national destiny (Herring 326, 335). The 1901 treaty with Great Britain – by then preoccupied with its own imperial war and European issues as well – which allowed the United States to build, operate and fortify a canal giving them easier access to the Pacific, thus abrogating the 1850 Clayton-Bulwer Treaty, appeared an indubitable sign not only of America’s increasing weight in world affairs, but also of its appetite for active participation in world politics (Herring 326-327). The US involvement in China in 1900 – the China Relief Expedition and the Open Door Notes – further reinforced America’s sense of rising greatness (see Herring 335). A Prelude to War – Internal and External Influences Between 1900 and 1912, the US’ mainland territory exceeded three million square miles, plus the new overseas empire, which covered some 125 000 square miles; with a population of over seventy-seven million in 1901 and almost eight million immigrants who entered the US during Roosevelt’s presidency alone (Herring 339). Gould writes, for example, that New York “had more Italians than Naples, more Germans than Hamburg… and more Jews than the whole of western Europe” (36). Some of these ethnic groups more often than not played a part in US foreign relations. In economic terms, with per capita income being the highest in the world and a favorable trade balance which allowed massive foreign investments – some 3.5 billion dollars by 1914 – the US appeared even more of a great power than its size and population suggested (Herring 340). While America’s internal political life had been centered around adaptation to these new environments, the general mood of that time could be best described as “unbounded optimism and unalloyed exuberance”, as well as steady faith in “their way of doing things” (Herring 340-1). Woodrow Wilson’s words of 1906 - “the shores of Asia and then Autocratic Europe shall hear us knocking at their back door, demanding admittance for American ideas, customs and arts” (Link 16:341, also cited in Herring 341) – might tell the whole story. On the other hand, despite the influx of immigrants on a massive scale, the popular Anglo-Saxon notion that Americans and Britons are superior in intellect, morality, and industry is believed to have made some Americans take ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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