The annexation of foreign areas has been a controversial topic among American scholars and historians as concepts of imperialism, America’s rise to world power, the annexation of territories, and colonialism are used interchangeably. Whereas some believe that American actions from 1890 to 1916 were inclined to imperialism, others have strongly opposed it by asserting that America’s annexation of foreign areas was transitory and temporary. It did not yield control and power over weaker countries, as was the case with the European countries. Nonetheless, it was a time when the United States shifted its powers from a regional to a global level, as discussed in this paper.
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The contestation as to whether the United States sought imperialism or not could be attributed to the fact that the American foreign policy was tied to the Monroe Doctrine. Even though annexation of foreign areas was highly contested as it was seen, by some, as an aberration from the Monroe Doctrine, it was regarded as the solution for political, economic, and psychic crises that the United States was experiencing at the time. The acquisition of foreign areas by the United States was engineered by Theodore Roosevelt, who urged his countrymen to embrace the associated hurdles and responsibilities in becoming a great nation. Roosevelt saw the need for an imperial foreign policy that would protect America from easy reach by foreign powers. Also, America would be able to expand its powers to lands that were once not within its realms of interest.
The expansion of the United States was deemed essential for the success of the country as it was meant to solve internal problems linked to superfluity. The post-Civil War period was a time when America grew in power due to a population increase and the overproduction of oil, steel, and coal (Combs 2015). Technology had brought about overproduction that was associated with various challenges, and entry into foreign markets would help to get rid of the excess and prevent Populist Movement and Homestead Strike. Establishing an imperial foreign policy would be attained by constructing an isthmian canal, controlling the bases that would determine the fate of eastern and western oceans, and conquering Spain, as noted by Fry (2002). In the quest for an imperial foreign policy, a more aggressive American foreign policy was borne out of the need to address overproduction. A series of depressions that gave rise to social protest and economic disruption was emerging due to the surplus. The policy was meant to enable the United States to take control over and exploit peripheral countries in both political and economic arenas.
It was the Spanish-American War that catalyzed the creation of a new national era marked by readiness for an overseas empire. The war was merely aimed at freeing Cuba from Spain’s clutches without annexation of Cuba. Nonetheless, the war gave America a thrill of military ability and victory, which eliminated the impediments to overseas annexation. As a result, the United States conquered Puerto Rico, Guam, the Philippines, and Wake Island, resulting in the completion of Hawaii’s annexation. Later, the U. S. seized the Panama Canal route and took over the military bases in Central America and the Caribbean, which enabled it to gain a stronger diplomatic presence in Asia (Combs 2015). America stayed on guard against entanglement by the Europeans by guarding their territories and protectorates to prevent conflict with Europeans’ interests. As a way of keeping the Europeans off from its territories, America redirected the Europeans’ interests to Asia. As a result, Roosevelt’s proposition was fulfilled, and America was able to gain a significant part in the world.
Combs, Jerald A. 2015. The History of American Foreign Policy from 1895. 4th ed. New York: Routledge.
Fry, Joseph A. 2015. “Imperialism, American Style, 1890-1916.” In American Foreign Relations Reconsidered: 1890-1993, edited by Gordon Martel, 52-70. New York: Routledge.