Imperialism

photo of old ship under cloudy sky

The 20th century began with the increased practice of nationalism, the devotion to the interests and culture of one’s nation, culminating in rising tension between world powers as countries competed for military strength and territories in order to become the world power. In the midst of the competition, the United States was convinced that it too had to expand its territory and wield global influence, hence the period of American imperialism commenced. Accordingly, the country succeeded in acquiring Cuba, Hawaii, and the Philippines and was able to broaden its presence to other continents. Along with newly gained lands, the United States enforced policies to protect its power and prevent European countries from interfering, to name a few were the Roosevelt’s Corollary and the Dollar Diplomacy. In the end, American imperialism posed several positive and negative impacts, but overall it was detrimental to the world and the United States. 

To start with, the United States’ expansion brought to the country valuable economic opportunities with the introduction of new materials and goods. As demand for sugarcanes in the country grew rapidly, the United States could not keep up and therefore needed more plantations, but was limited of grounds. Fortunately, with the annexation of Cuba and Hawaii came new lands, both of which have favorable climate for farming. As a result, numerous plantations were created and supplied the United States with sugarcanes and new goods such as pineapple. This in in turn facilitated trading and improved the United States’ economy. However, Cuba and Hawaii also benefited economically since large plantations required huge workforce, granting the natives job opportunities that they would never have had. Additionally, United States’ interference spread democracy to other nations. When taking Cuba and the Philippines from France, who ruled them with an iron fist and dictatorship, the United States provided the colonies with a democratic government, protection, and freedom from slavery. Moreover, Albert Beveridge justified the country’s interference by stating “do we owe no duty to the world? … Shall we abandon them, with Germany, England, Japan, hungering for them?”. Not only that, the locations of Hawaii gave the United States global military dominance. To illustrate, Pearl Harbor, a navy base, were built to protect the United States from potential threats from the enemies. On the contrary, American imperialism was expensive and destroyed traditional cultures of its colonies. In the process of acquiring Cuba and Philippines, the United States had to endure the Spanish-American war, which was costly. Not just that, having colonies came responsibilities of governing them, therefore, the United States had to build running governments, military bases, etc. This in turn resulted in large amount of money spent in its colonies, which was unnecessary and could have been used for something else. Finally, colonization can demolish the tradition culture of the countries being colonized. This could be seen in Hawaii, where U.S influence had seeped its way into the kingdom and overtime eliminated the culture and replaced it with that of the Americans. Another example is the Philippines, in which the erosion of culture is still visible today through its language filled with English words.

Besides colonizing other countries, the United States wanted European nations to stay away from the Western Hemisphere and by doing so, the country is guaranteed of its dominance. Thus, President Roosevelt made an addition to the Monroe Doctrine in 1904, called Roosevelt’s Corollary. The policy stated that the U.S have every right to intervene in the affairs of the Western Hemisphere and threaten other countries to stay away by military means. Likewise, the United States acted as an international police force and collected debts of European colonies for European countries. Given these points, the Roosevelt’s Corollary had a negative impact on the international opinion of the United States and made other countries saw it as unjust.

As to worsen its international reputation, the United States then established the Gun Boat Diplomacy and exercised it to get land to construct the Panama Canal. Gun Boat Diplomacy was the country’s way to force other countries into agreeing with its term, or else face the navy ships waiting outside of their coasts. After Panama achieved its independence from Columbia with U.S. help, the United States’s real intention was revealed after it came to negotiate buying Panama’s land with a fleet of gun ships. Due to this, Panama reluctantly sold its land to the United States. To put it another way, the U.S. were only willing to help other countries if they get benefits in return, and would use force if the countries do not comply, disclosing its immorality to the world.

In conclusion, the rise of nationalism and imperialism has led the United States to expand it dominance over the world. However, its method of doing so impacted the world and the United States negatively.

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