Empire: was America an Imperial power? If so, how and why did it acquire such an empire? If not, how and why did it avoid the perils of imperialism while other Western Powers rushed to acquire empires?
- - Yes, America was an Imperial power
- - For the most part, America became an empire on accident. While the other roughly twenty-five percent of empire came from deliberate methods.
- - Accidental empire: Amercia was living under isolationism before the 1900s and very focused on staying out of European issues as evidenced by the Monroe Doctrine. With America's weak military, its main focus was on protecting the borders of the lands it had, not on acquiring more land. However, America was hearing the "Macedonian calls" out of Latin America, especially Cuba. Through media exploitation the events in Cuba were dramatized and the American public was stirred into action with humanitarian concerns. President McKinley was upset by Spain's "uncivilized and inhumane conduct" toward the Cubans. When the US battle cruiser Maine exploded and sank in the Havana harbor, McKinley cabled an ultimatum to Madrid to an immediate armistice for 6 months and required peace negotiations with the rebels. Spain refused, so McKinley received permission from Congress to intervene in Cuba.
- - Deliberate: While humanitarian concerns were encountered, Captain Alfred T. Mahan greatly influenced the concepts of power with his book The Influence of Sea Power over History (1890). He claimed that America needed to modernize its navy in order to have the ability to protect itself and its overseas bases. Without using empire and conquering terminology, Mahan greatly influenced American perspectives of the navy and by the end of the decade, the US Navy was modernized. When America decided to intervene in Cuba, Theodore Roosevelt had placed Commodore George Dewey as the commander of the Pacific fleet with direct instructions to set sail immediately against the Spanish fleet in the Phillipines if America went to war. This move by Roosevelt and Dewey was the decisive factor in the Spanish-American War because the US Navy completely destroyed the Spanish fleet and the Phillipines were then under American power.
- - Once the Phillipines, among other conquered nations, were under American power, humanitarian ideas were set aside or used as a guise to justify keeping said countries under American power and using them for strategic advances in trade, sea presence, and power. McKinley concluded that the Filipinos were "unfit for self-rule" and would be worse off by themselves than if they had stayed under Spain; so the Phillipines, along with Hawaii, Peurto Rico, Guam and several of the Samoan islands were now a part of America's empire.