Like many other wars of the nineteenth century, the Spanish-American war was caused by the struggle for the colonies, which the Western powers considered their rightful property. The Spaniards were among the best navigators in the 15th – 17th centuries, which allowed them to create a huge colonial Empire. However, they had competitors – first, it was Portugal, and then England and the United States. Madrid gradually lost control over the occupied territories, and at the end of the 19th century, a struggle broke out for one of the main pearls of the Spanish Empire – Cuba. The Spanish-American war has been called the “Splendid Little War” because it did not last long (Jacob, 2017, p. 2). More than that, American losses were relatively small. This essay addresses the military action, the reasons for this war, as well as the brief description of the Philippine-American War, which is similar to the Spanish-American conflict but it resulted in different outcomes.
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The Course of the War
The Spanish-American War was declared on April 25 in 1898. On June 22, the Americans landed in Cuba, which then belonged to Spain (Smith, 2014). Then, on July 3, the Cuban capital Santiago was conquered, and on August 12, a Peace Treaty was signed. Cuba became an American protectorate; moreover, America gained a base in Guantanamo, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico. At the same time, the USA annexed Hawaii, which meant that America became the predominant force in the Pacific. Furthermore, this was marked the US entry “on the global strategic stage” (Berner, 2014, p. 12). As for the death toll, about one thousand Americans died from wounds, 4.5 thousand more died from tropical diseases. On July 27, 1898, when the outcome of the war was already clear, the US Ambassador to London, John hay, wrote to Roosevelt that it was a splendid little war.
The Reasons for the Spanish-American War
The Spaniards failed to create a stable system of management of overseas lands, which would combine loyalty to the locals and respect for natural resources. Madrid’s unnecessarily brutal exploitation of its possessions led to the gradual collapse of the Spanish colonial system. The first serious blow to Spanish rule on the other side of the Atlantic was the war of independence, which broke out at the beginning of the XIX century in Latin America. The Latin American freedom fighters had real reasons to overthrow Spanish rule, such as Spanish dominance in local government, exploitation of peasants, poverty. England was behind these events as well, as it supported the rebels and later established severe order here.
In America, meanwhile, the industrial sector was booming, requiring a constant infusion of new raw materials and financial resources. The resistance of the Native Americans had already been crushed, and all the land on the North American continent had become the property of the whites. Americans were very interested in the Caribbean Islands, including Cuba, for a variety of reasons. First, it was possible to create naval bases that guaranteed the security of the Atlantic coast of the United States and Maritime trade. Second, Cuba covered the North American isthmus and could be a good defense of the Panama Canal for the future. Third, the inclusion of Cuba and other nearby Islands in the United States seemed a natural and logical action in the public mind and the speeches of populist politicians.
The struggle for territories in the Western hemisphere of even minimal interest to Washington stemmed directly from the Monroe Doctrine. Cuba was a welcome piece for the United States; besides, the Cubans were opposed to Spanish rule. That is why a guerrilla war broke out against the Spanish crown in 1895. The Spaniards moved to Cuba a large military contingent, which was about 150 thousand people, but the soldiers could not cope. American volunteers also came to the island to support the rebels. Increasingly, there were voices in the United States urging the government to intervene in Cuba.
I believe that the reasons for the outbreak of the Spanish-American war were convincing. The United States of America had to defend its interests in the region, especially against the backdrop of Spain’s aggression against Cuba. After all, the actions of the Spanish crown could threaten the security of the territory of the United States. In addition, the island was essential for America from an economic point of view to expand the boundaries of Maritime trade.
Philippine-American War was the struggle of the First Philippine Republic for independence from the United States. The war lasted from 1899 to 1902 when the Philippine government officially recognized American rule (Holden, 2019). American society had a negative attitude to this war, so it is practically not talked about for several reasons (Welch, 2016). First, a huge number of people died during this war. More than that, this war was economically unprofitable, as the United States spent on this war a considerable amount of money.
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At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, the United States was involved in several conflicts. One of the most important from a strategic point of view was the Spanish-American War, which had several reasonable reasons and was called the “splendid little war” because of its short duration and small losses. In addition, the United States was also embroiled in the Philippine-American War, which, although it ended in an American victory, was not so strategically important and necessary.
Berner, B. K. (2014). The Spanish-American war: A documentary history with commentaries. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
Holden, W. N. (2019). The role of geography in counterinsurgency warfare: The Philippine American War, 1899–1902. GeoJournal, 1-15. Web.
Jacob, F. (2017). George Kennan on the Spanish-American war: A critical edition of “Cuba and the Cubans”. New York City, NY: Springer.
Smith, J. (2014). The Spanish-American war 1895-1902: Conflict in the Caribbean and the Pacific. Abingdon-on-Thames, England: Routledge.
Welch, R. E. (2016). Response to Imperialism: The United States and the Philippine-American War, 1899-1902. Chapel Hill, NC: UNC Press Books.