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I did this essay for my History topic:
"Why did the USa move from the isolationism that characterized ameria during the first half of the 20th Century, to the interventionism that dominated the 2nd Half."
This is my "draft" so to speak, so enjoy, and feel free to ad any comments, whatever they maybe about the Essay. And thanks to Greph, LordofChange, and Strewart who've already payed kind attention to it.
So without further ado:
Alex Holmes' History Essay
Over the course of the 20th Century the United States of America has transformed from an isolationist country into an interventionist world super power. At the turn of the 19th Century the United States of America was a strong industrial country, but seemingly kept to itself, and did not intervene in the affairs of Europe. It was only through the occurrences of two world wars that the United States of America began to show an interest and deal with the issues of other countries other than its neighbours. After World War Two, the United States of America, along with the Soviet Union became the dominate power in the world, economically, militarily, and politically. However, though the United States dominated world affairs in the last half of the 20th Century, its motives for doing so are questionable. It is a subject of much interest whether the United States changed its unwritten foreign policy from isolationism to interventionism because it had to adapt to a â€œsmaller worldâ€?, to act as a world crusader of justice, or merely to serve its own economic and strategic interests across the world in order to secure its status as a super power. The transformation of the United States foreign outlook and its reasons for doing so are honourable and disconcerting alike.
From itâ€™s founding in 1776, until the early and mid twentieth century the United States of American maintained a foreign policy that was classified as â€˜isolationismâ€™. This in essence was a policy that combined â€œA non-interventionist military and political policy with a policy of economic nationalism (protectionism)â€? . This meant that the United States would refuse to interfere in the wars and diplomatic incidents of other countries, and economically it would back its own products, for example, the economy would impose a heavy tariff on imported products making them more expensive, resulting in the purchase of products made in America, boosting the economy. Thomas Jefferson, one of the United Statesâ€™ most famous Presidents, correctly phrased the attitude of the United Statesâ€™ foreign policy in his inaugural address as President:
â€œPeace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations - entangling alliances with none." The isolationist policy of the United States is often referred to as the â€˜Monroe Doctrineâ€™ after President James Monroe (who served from 1817 -1825). Monroe declared that:
â€œThe American continents... are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization of by any European powers.â€? This doctrine effectively stated that European powers (such as Germany, France, or Britain) were not to colonise any of the American continents from that point in time, and any such attempt to do so would be considered an act of war upon the United States. In return, the United States would not interfere in any European wars. It is highly likely that the United States adopted an isolationist foreign policy as defined in the Monroe Doctrine because of several key factors. With the European discovery of the â€˜New Worldâ€™ many minority groups fled to the America and the â€˜New Worldâ€™ to escape persecution, an example of one such group was the â€˜Pilgrimsâ€™ who wished to lead a pure, undisturbed life in America. Additionally when the Europeans settled the continents of America, it was very much â€˜each man for himselfâ€™, as each family had to be effectively independent to survive; this was tied in with the notion of being free from the country which they had originated. This resulted in the attitudes of government for the American states â€“ each was very independent, and very concerned about its individual freedom and ability to do what it wanted. Indeed the very essence of that attitude is displayed by William O. Douglas, Associate Supreme Court Chief Justice, stating that:
â€œThe right to be let alone is indeed the beginning of all freedoms.â€? It is very likely that the mentalities of being isolated to keep safe, prosper, and escape persecution, combined with the attitude of independence that many Americans had, resulted in part of the adoption of isolationism â€“ the want to be left alone to do what they wanted, how they wanted and the freedom to do that, especially away from the intervening European powers. This is especially shown in the isolationist policy as the government and governmental policy reflect the attitudes and wishes of the people at that point in history. However, it appears as though there were economic reasons as well as idealistic reasons behind the adoption of isolationism as well. The government of the United States would have wished a strong economy for their country, to make it more powerful. If the Europeans were to colonise America the United States would not have the economic dominance in the region that it wanted. Importantly, it should be noted that the United States was quite satisfied to trade with many countries, including European powers. This ties in directly with the Monroe Doctrine and isolationism; if the United States sided with European powers in their disputes then it would defiantly lose trading partners, namely those they were fighting against. Additionally many immigrants from the â€˜Old Worldâ€™ were heading to the United States, and if the United States had fought with various European powers, then it would have certainly alienated many racial groups. This inturn would have resulted in conflict in the United States between various ethnic minorities, resulting in less immigrants from said alienated countries, resulting in a lesser cheap pool of workers, resulting in a weaker economy. Hence, when immigrants arrived in America then were called â€˜Americansâ€™ to prevent this conflict and alienation. This attitude and system was Cleary expressed when President Harry S. Truman (President from 1945 â€“ 1953) stated:
â€œYou know that being an American is more than a matter of where your parents came from. It is a belief that all men are created free and equal and that everyone deserves an even break.â€? There were still more economic reasons behind the Monroe Doctrine, and what it implied. If the Europeans were kept out of North and South America, it meant they could not put pressure (politically, militarily, or economically) on the United States do behave a certain way. Hence, the United States was able to expand west (directly away from Europe) and south, taking lands from indigenous peoples, and countries (such as Mexico) without a humanitarian or economic outcry from other countries. When the British controlled much of the Americas they treated the American natives poorly but with greater respect that the Americans of the United States ever did during their westward expansion; if America was isolated from Britain (and the rest of Europe) then the United States could do whatever it wanted with the natives, and the land they had controlled, cheaper land and no care for the natives resulted in a stronger economy. Ironically, this expansion is somewhat contradictory to isolationism, and hence beings a certain trend â€“ the United States was only â€˜isolationistâ€™ against the European powers, and only when it suited the United States to claim it was isolationist. As Aaron Burr, a previous Vice President of the US efficiently stated:
â€œLaw is whatever is boldly asserted and plausibly maintained.â€? Additionally, the European powers abolished slavery nearly 100 years before the United States; if the United States had involved itself with Europe then it is likely that the abolishment of slavery would have occurred much earlier. Slavery results in a good economy â€“ producing and selling items without paying wages makes companies and profiteers rich, as both the Americans and Nazis have shown. If the Europeans had told the Americans to stop slavery, this would have resulted in a weaker economy, something which the United States Government did not want. Though the Monroe Doctrine and isolationism appear to promote â€˜non-interventionismâ€™ it is apparent that even in the 19th Century that the United States was at ease with interfering creating wars over foreign affairs â€“ wars such as the Spanish-American War. The United States of America officially declared war on Spain on April 21st 1898, citing the Monroe doctrine and Spainâ€™s brutal repression of the Cuban independence movement as reason. However, it is highly suspect that the US was acting with other interests at heart, notably the want for a stronger economic base and for effective control of Spainâ€™s colonies in the American continents. The United Statesâ€™ President at the time of the conflict William McKinley stated that:
"We must have Hawaii to help us get our [economic] share of China." The end of the war resulted with the US officially annexing Hawaii, and effectively Cuba and the Philippines, giving them a greater pacific power base and the ability to expand east and trade with the countries of the east. When the United States forcefully â€˜liberatedâ€™ the Philippines from Spanish occupation President McKinley stated:
â€œWe [the United States] could not leave them [the Philippines] to themselves â€“ they were unfit for government [â€¦] there was nothing left for us to do but take them all, and to educate the Filipinos and uplift and Christianize them.â€? Shortly after the Spanish-American war, the newly elected President Theodore Roosevelt added what was called the â€˜Roosevelt Corollaryâ€™ to the Monroe doctrine, effectively stating that the US would not hesitate to stop not only European powers from interfering in North and South America, but that the US would not hesitate to protect any of its own interests, and exercise what Roosevelt called â€œinternational police powerâ€?. This legislation gave the United States the political excuse it needed to intervene in (and in some cases occupy) countries of the Americas, from Cuba to the Dominican Republic. On the latter incident, the scholars from the Universities of Oregon and Wayne State note rather disturbingly that:
â€œHe [President Woodrow Wilson] felt obliged to send some marines to establish some semblance of order. They stayed in the Dominican Republic for eight years.â€? This evidence clearly presents how easily the US was able to dominate its surrounding nations and engineer economic profit from such actions. Under the pretext of humanitarian reasons, and behind a curtain of isolationism the US was able to gain a foothold both militarily, and economically in many countries including Cuba from 1906-1909, Nicaragua from 1909-1911, 1912-1925 and 1926-1933, Haiti from 1915-1934, and the Dominican Republic from 1916-1924. This demonstrates that though the United States claimed to be, and officially was, an isolationist nation, that it was mainly an attitude towards the European powers for economic reasons, and that the US was able to put isolationism aside when it came to expanding west, south, or fighting for economic or strategic dominance.
The United States of America was isolationist in foreign policy before both world wars, after the Second World War the United States had changed their policy from isolationism to interventionism. The United States entered into World War One in 1917, after anti German public sentiment forced President Woodrow Wilsonâ€™s hand. Entering into the war was a large step for the US internationally; as it meant that it had gone against the Monroe doctrine and entered into a European War. It is most probable that the US not only entered the war because President Wilson wished to maintain popularity, but because a war powers the economy and involvement in the war would have led to vas quantities of United States munitions being purchased by the allies, and because as the US were certain they would weigh in on the winning side, that they could change the effective political make up of Europe how effectively how they wished, to their advantage. Two additional reasons are apparent. The first was the infamous â€œZimmerman Telegramâ€?. This telegram essentially stated that Germany would help Mexico attack the US, to stop shipping to Britain. The US, wanting to defend its homeland from an literally across the border Mexico would have wanted Germany losing, so Mexico did not fight against the US, hence protecting the United States. Secondly, US shipping was being targeting by Germany, regardless of the United Statesâ€™ neutrality, and the US would have wanted to protect its significant economic investment in its Atlantic trading. Going to war with Germany and its allies would have solved this problem once the Germans were defeated. As George S. Patton, one of the prominent United Statesâ€™ army generals stated:
â€œAmericans play to win at all times. I wouldn't give a hoot and hell for a man who lost and laughed. That's why Americans have never lost nor ever lose a war.â€? However, the war was not a success for the United States, for as though they were on the victories side the spoils of war were not as great as the Spanish â€“ American war, appearing to demonstrate that isolation from Europe was an effective policy. After the war, the Republicans took government, and during this period the United States once again reverted to isolationism, the republicans had run on the ticket of â€œthe return to normalcyâ€?. So whilst the US had flirted with interventionism, once again demonstrating that its foreign policy could be changed the suit the interests of the United States as necessary, it was apparent that the public of the US did not want to get involved in international politics. However, whilst the US had reverted once again to isolationism, the events of World War One had demonstrated that the United States was going to start having to become involved in world issues, or else loose the power and influence (both politically, militarily, and economically) that it desired. The economic prosperity of the â€œRoaring Twentiesâ€? seemed proof to many Americans that isolationism was the way to exist. But then came the Great Depression, sending the economy spiralling down. The US struggled to recover, but it wasnâ€™t until the United States of America declared war on Japan and Germany that its economy surged back into life, as the United States and her allies demanded munitions, and all types of war fighting, economy boosting equipment. It is interesting to note that had Nazi Germany not declared war on the US, then the US might have in-fact just fought the Japanese, and left Europe alone to the policy of isolationism. However as Nazi Germany had declared war on the US, its interests were threatened and so it fought back. Indeed, it seemed compulsory for the US to enter a way when its interests were threatened, as Robert McNamara (US secetery of defence during the Kennedy and Johnston administrations) stated on when L.B.J. was thinking about not attacking Vietnam after a supposed Vietnamese attack on US ships:
â€œThere were very senior people, in uniform, and out saying, â€˜My God, this presidentâ€¦ they didnâ€™t use the word â€˜cowardâ€™, but in effect heâ€™s not protecting the national interest.â€? Eventually the US and her allies were victorious, but now United States troops were entrenched in both Europe and the Pacific. It is likely that the United States government made the decision to stay in Europe and the Pacific for several reasons: firstly humanitarian aid was needed, and the US was able to supply the aid in return for the countries allegiance to the US, of course. Secondly with the Soviet Union emerging as a world power, it was a direct threat to the United Statesâ€™ existence. If the United States was to maintain dominance economically, militarily, and politically, then it was going to have to enter world politics, to counter the Soviet Union â€“ a country that was not only a competitor, but also an enemy. This realisation in the fact that the US was going to have to be involved in world politics to survive and be powerful was most likely the driving force for the US to change its policy from isolationist to interventionist. Throughout the ensuing Cold War the US intervened in countries that it suspected were going to elected or be ruled by a Communist government, thereby threatening US interests in that area. The United States would often take action to preserve its influence and stop the Communists taking hold, and did not stop short of authorising the assassination of a number of world leaders. As Ralph McGeehee, former CIA analyst, and author states:
"Death squads have been created and used by the CIA around the world â€” particularly the Third World â€” since the late 1940s, a fact ignored by the elite-owned media." An example of this is Cuba, and the Congo. After Communist Fidel Castro took control of Cuba, the US has on repeated occasions tried to depose him, including the infamous â€˜Bay Of Pigsâ€™ incident. Also, in the Congo the US assassinated a democratically elected leader because of his pro-communist tendencies, in his place a brutal dictator was placed. However, this dictator served US interests, and so was not deposed. Interestingly the US has often cited the Roosevelt Collaroy from the Monroe Doctrine, stating that they are merely using its effect world wide to aid US interests. More recent presentations of US interventionism to aid its interests are in the Gulf Wars, both against Iraq. Both times, many sceptics have argued that the real cause was a need for Oil, and not for humanitarian reasons. As Brig. General Looney of US army stated:
"If they turn on the radars we're going to blow up their goddamn SAMs (surface-to-air missiles). They know we own their country. We own their airspace... We dictate the way they live and talk. And that's what's great about America right now. It's a good thing, especially when there's a lot of oil out there we need." It is highly likely that the US did fight both Gulf Wars to obtain oil, as if they US fought for humanitarian reasons, then there would be far more wars on the part of the United States against Zimbabwe, Rwanda, and many other African nations. However, whilst appears that the US during the latter half of the 20th Century changed its policy from isolationist to interventionist, it wasnâ€™t actually much of a change â€“ the United States had been intervening in the affairs of countries in its own region for a long time, and was just isolationist towards the west. The United States was still intervening in other countries affairs, just now in the West, and parts of the world it had not been able to before.
Whilst the US during the latter half of the 20th Century changed its policy from isolationist to interventionist, it wasnâ€™t actually much of a change in the activities of the US. Before World War Two and the Cold War the United States still interfered in other nationsâ€™ affairs for its own gain, it just did not interfere with Europe for various reasons. When it became apparent that it would need to intervene in Europe to keep its position as the top economy the United States intervened in Europe in World War Two, and intervened throughout the world during the Cold War. However, as many of the histories in the west are written by Europeans it seems as though the United States was isolationist, and then interventionist, whilst it appears it was actually interventionist in the east and Americas, and just isolationist towards the west, and refused to interfere in Europe, but then seeing its interests there were at threat intervened, and then simply expanded this policy across the world. The reason that the United States changed its policy from isolationism from the west to interventionism in the west and across the rest of the world in the latter half of the 20th century was only because it served its interest to do so. If it had served the USâ€™ interests to stay isolationist towards the west, then it still would be today.
Again, thanks for reading, any comments are very welcome.
Excellent work, Yoss. Personally, I don't know that I would use the quote of a Brig. General, but it is source material that upholds your statements.
I hope the grade reflects the amount of time that you obviously put into this. (Y)
Anyone else? Pah-leese?
Yoss you beat me to it! Yarrrg! I was getting around to explaining the whole militaristic state
were in. Well as you have probably guessed Bush related terrorists to commies. (o.o)
I wonder who wrote that brilliant statement. But from my viewpoint(s) after reasearching
this topic, I ran into Tom Clancy - Battle Ready an autobiography about Tony Zinny Brigadier
From what the book went onto explain was an in depth viewpoint on this matter beefing
it up by Tony Zinny's experiences in the Vietnam War, Korean War, Desert Storm, and
multiple other world conflicts such as in Somalia, Hache - East Timor, Uganda and Iraq.
But Iraqs not the point. Zinny went on to explain his deep founded love for the marine
corps and strived to better the bull**** 5 star pentegon and all the democracy. Whilst
trying to provide better materials for his men that he commanded and his missions that
he undertook. The intense fighting and the scenes of death portrayed him as some
would say actually human. This caused him to go into great effort, for several peace
keeping missions Such as Somolia - (where black hawk down)"by the way was placed"
He grew to understand the needs of the world and 3rd world developing nations that
would need a military to support democracy. Which i do have to say is better than
having a dictator.
Continuing on to say that men like this are a good example of what our morals
and values stand for. America has been known to many countries as a friend offering
aide - Before the ousting of Sadam which brought us such world displeasure. But
I highly recomend reading Battle Ready to get a better understanding of why
America promotes world security with our Armed forces. If you look way in the
begining of his commentary when Zinny was rising up to the ranks of Captain
all I can say I guess this is the final end of the story because today's Iraqs
war is only the end of Operation Desert Storm.
I dont believe in this policy but this book helped me understand what was
going on in our goverment and has given me a broader admiration for what
we believe in.
So please dont get hasty, I would like to think of your report as a well done report
of history being put into context. Some of our history may be dark, yes; but there
is alot of other good things going on in this world. All in all I found it a good read.
P.S. I would only like to add to your historical context because I think there
could be something more added to it. Cheers!
-HONORABLE MENTIONS IN BLITZKRIEG PAINTING COMP-
"THAT I.G. GUY WITH THAT OVERDEVELOPED TRIGGER FINGER"