How Did The United States Become An Imperial Power?

The flag of the United States of America.
The flag of the United States of America.

5. What Is American Imperialism?

In the 1800s, as main colonial leaders in the Old World lived in constant tension, and military conflicts in Europe did not seem to end, it soon resulted in increased demand for goods and commodities that European competitors could not buy from each other. This spurred the growth of industrialization in the United States and gave birth to a high demand for American industries on natural resources from abroad, pushing the Foreign office to seek new zones of influence. The desire to extend its system of values around the world was another driving force of American imperialism. The successes of the U.S. economy, an effective Constitution, and sustainable growth of per capita income in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, steadily grew into a form of leadership ideology. Many Americans favored to see such landmarks as the "American dream" and "American freedom" embodied in countries with older cultural traditions. This gave a boost to the long-term cultural expansion, continuing to this day.

By the late stages of the 19th Century, the North American continent had been entirely explored and transformed into a mosaic of colonies belonging to major European powers and, in fact, the Americans themselves. Around the same time all the world continents except Antarctica, were divided into established states and the colonies. However, seeing the growth of colonial European countries, the Americans did not leave its dream to expand its own borders. However, the United States did not have much chance to claim for territories of influence outside its borders, and also did not want to repeat the fate of empires of the past, ruined by excessive territorial growth. Instead, the country's leaders and major manufacturers favored an economic expansion. Having a well established market relations and working trade models inside the country, it was but a natural urge to go and win new markets to trade, as well as to get an access to raw materials. The young American nation had a good commercial skills and, without looking so much at the policy, easily entered into economic relations with the countries of various political orientations.

4. Historical Territories of the U.S.

The first significant territorial expansion took place after the Spanish-American War of 1898, where the United States complemented its already held possession with new lands in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Guam, and the Philippines. The historical territories which are considered to be part of the United States and still have not gained independence, include:

Another unique case is seen in the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and Palau. These territories gained independence, but remain in free association with the United States.

3. U.S. Aid, Intervention, and Diplomacy

A show of force was the main way to remind about US interests in different parts of the world. The regularity with which foreign intervention were conducted (about once every 1.5 years), may suggest is was a deliberate policy with well developed plan and defined goals. After the Second World War, US foreign policy efforts were directed to not proliferation of the communist regimes in Africa, Central America and Southeast Asia, at the same time the United States has been actively expressing their interests in the oil-rich Middle East and North Africa. More loyal to the US foreign policy are middle- and lower-income countries of Europe and some African countries, as for decades now the African continent has been a major beneficiary of some of the United States' largest humanitarian aid programs. Generally, the countries with centuries-old traditions in culture and those of established governmental principals and moral standards, find it difficult to embrace values and ideas that would not have passed the test of time (such as democracy and freedom of speech), which in their opinion are the US main initiatives.

2. Other Countries' Views of the U.S. Global Presence

The basic direction of the US diplomatic policy in the 20th Century has become an appeal for the global security, which would include nuclear safety as well. The US had the superior technology of nuclear weapons and performed at international venues with the largest number of security initiatives, thereby made it clear that the USA could act as a guarantor of security for all countries and continents. Another area of diplomatic work was the implementation of programs by the US presidents over the Cold War time, to ensure detente measures between the two blocks. There were round tables and development of programs in Dartmouth and so called Pug avouch meetings, where the Soviet Union and the United States could voice their interests and look for balanced compromise. The greatest achievement of American diplomacy was the signing of the Helsinki Final Act in 1975, which obliged the USSR and the Warsaw Pact countries to conduct an open policy and make data on human rights in the countries of the Eastern bloc publicly available.

US foreign interventions started en masse in the second half of the 19th Century. The largest military companies of recent history are more eye-opening, however, as they give us a sense of recent patterns:

  • Grenada, 1983, unilateral intervention by the US
  • Panama, 1989
  • Somalia, 1993, and intervention by the US and a number of countries with UN sanctions.
  • Yugoslavia, 1995, NATO's operation without the sanction of the UN Security Council.
  • Iraq, 2003, with the United States and a number of its allies' intervention without UN authorization.
  • Libya, in 2011, with NATO's intervention with the sanction of the UN Security Council.

1. Ongoing U.S. Foreign Interventions

At the end of Cold War between NATO and the countries of Warsaw Pact, the United States' focus shifted to military assistance to opposition regimes in Europe, such as Yugoslavia, and the Middle East, such as Iraq and Libya. However, the biggest beneficiaries of the financial and military aid over the years are two states in the Middle East region, namely Israel and Egypt. Next on the list of these more than 70 U.S. aid-receiving countries are Colombia, Jordan, and Pakistan. Yet the greatest dissatisfaction with US policies is still seen in the Middle East countries, where the population mainly confess Islam. There is currently a preserved military presence of the US military in Afghanistan, being there since 2001 with the US-guided NATO intervention, which happened without the authorization of the UN Security Council. So also in Iraq and in Syria, where NATO supports the political opposition of Assad's regime, and the military operations against the "Islamic state(ISIS)" are still ongoing.


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