In the beginning of the twentieth century, three groups exerted their pressure on the American government — the strategists, the missionaries and the businessmen. The businessmen, though they had been reluctant to go to war, had a stake in the trade with Japan and China, and were looking for new markets…
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The evidence of American expansionist ambitions, however, was seen in the following. Cuba remained under American occupation till 1902, when it received permanent naval bases and rights of intervention. Puerto Rico was annexed and its people were given American citizenship in 1917. Guam and the Philippines were also annexed. The Philippines were given partial self-government in 1907, and in 1916 a promise of independence if they achieved a stable democratic government (Ketelbey p 673).
Thus the US developed her own individual power and interests in strategic locations across the world. But to the ferment in Europe, she maintained a distance, tinged with moral disapproval. This attitude was not inconsistent with the role of mediator, which she played (e.g in the Russo-Japanese War of 1905; the holding of the Algericas Conference in 1906 to ease tensions between France and Germany.) This was to a great extent due to the initiative of Theodore Roosevelt.
When Woodrow Wilson took over the president-ship, he continued to keep the US neutral, refusing to intervene in the crisis of 1914. When war was declared, Wilson declared neutrality. In fact in 1916, Wilson came back for another term on the electoral plank of having kept America ‘out of the war’. However, it soon dawned on the American people that the massive redistribution of world power would affect the country. And America had to join the war.
As a matter of fact, the sequence of events that led America to openly declare hostilities against Germany speaks of extreme patience on the part of Wilson. America had a large number of people of German origin and did not wish to enter the war. In 1915, an American ship was sunk, Americans traveling in British ships were drowned, and then the Lusitania was torpedoed. Wilson sent a strong note to Germany citing a violation of international law. In 1916, an English ship, which had on board seventy-five American passengers was torpedoed; in 1917 there was an announcement of unrestricted submarine warfare - that all ships, neutral or otherwise - would be sunk. Just some time before that an alliance between Germany and Mexico was also unearthed, in which the former promised the latter help in regaining Texas, Mexico and Arizona On April 6th, 1917, the US declared war on Germany "to make the world safe for democracy." (Ketelbey ps 428-429)
After the end of the First War too, the US continued with its policy of Isolationism. There was a feeling that it had been unwittingly dragged into a situation, that was of no concern of its. The Great Depression was believed to have been caused by the War. Despite information of the atrocities of the Holocaust, America chose to remain neutral and focus on domestic affairs.
With the conclusion of the First World War, President Wilson took the lead in the formation of the League of Nations, though this was rejected by the Senate. Following Wilson, American presidents went ahead with formulating international policy, whereby it was okay to have strategic relationships with other countries,
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