American Foreign Policy in Three Influential Wars
With the race for the presidential election under way, American foreign policy has entered the minds of many Americans. Like today, foreign policy was of great importance throughout the twentieth-century; it has and continues to play key developmental roles in economic, cultural, diplomatic, and social factors that America has faced. By looking directly at the United States motivation in entering the Spanish-American War, World War I, and World War II, it can be seen how these factors developed since the turn-of-the-century. In this paper, I will compare and contrast the United States’ motivation for entering these wars by examining the four key factors of foreign policy listed above, while displaying and discussing levels of continuity between these wars.
Much like the involvement in World War I and II, the United States took some time before declaring war on Spain. Cuba had been dealing with an ongoing revolution in hopes of acquiring its independence. In 1898, the United States helped Cuba defeat Spain. However, Cuban independence was not the sole goal of the United States. The U.S. had long hoped to establish a stronger presence throughout the Caribbean, Central America, and Asia. According to Walter LaFeber regarding Cuba, “The island’s domination of three of the four main communication routes in the Caribbean, its short interior lines between ports, its long coastline and many harbors that made blockade nearly impossible—these strategic reasons and the $50 million of U.S. investments in the rich sugar and mining businesses made control necessary (1).” As stated, the economic factor played an influential role in the Spanish-American War. The United States had just worked its way out of its greatest depression to date and many Americans became deeply concerned whether war would shoot the United States back into a depression.
However, as President McKinley promoted and comforted the business community, he began to gain support. The community started to realize that involvement in the Spanish-American War might in fact fuel profits in numerous industries and serve to protect the United States trade and investments in the Pacific and Caribbean. Another benefit that coincided with going to war was that the troubles in Cuba might subside (2). Some journalists were even announcing that the war would further strengthen the transportation industry and that profits in the iron industry had increased before the war had even started. By becoming involved in the Cuban crisis, the United States thought it might be able to force Spain to secede not only Cuba and Puerto Rico, but the Philippines as well. This was also of great economic concern because they might provide the key in opening and strengthening Asian markets. Emily S. Rosenberg states that, “Both farmers and industrialists hoped to open Oriental markets, and yet, after China’s defeat in the Sino Japanese War in 1895, China...