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Are the United States an imperialism or an anti-imperialism power during the twentieth century ?

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Par   •  7 Décembre 2017  •  Dissertation  •  2 159 Mots (9 Pages)  •  269 Vues

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Was the United States an imperial or an anti-imperial power during the twentieth century?

        The interest demonstrated by the international community about recent American elections shows to the world the considerable influence of the United States on a worldly scale.  This status has been often recognized since the beginning of the 20th century which acknowledged their imperial power without neglecting their anti-imperialism's policy. This essay will try to point out the United States’ imperial and anti-imperial power and will focus on the various facets of this power, from the hard-power (power-political and economic) to the idea of soft- power (cultural power).

We will tackle the issue of the American power’s history since the beginning of the 20th century by showing how this status has changed through different periods of history. Firstly, we will focus on their policy during the beginning of the twentieth century. We will then analyse how this country has affirmed itself as a strong political (one role in the creation of UNO in 1945), economic (Marshall plan in 1947) and military (many interventions in various areas of the world) super-power during Cold war times. Finally, we will try to understand the role this nation played in the post-Cold War world after the collapsed of the USSR in 1991 which granted the USA the status of an imperial power with no existing equivalent.

First of all, the United States proved an ambivalent status regarding their influence over the international community at the beginning of the twentieth century. Indeed, the day the first world war ended, the United States held a global power in contrast with European countries that were impoverished because of the war. The American economy and currency were very prosperous. Paradoxically, its imperial power experienced a turning point when the president Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921) declared the creation of a new world order whose principles would be a collective security in order to assure a long-term peace. Those principles were established in the President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points on January 8, 2010, which begins with this statement:

“It will be our wish and purpose that the processes of peace, when they are begun, shall be absolutely open and that they shall involve and permit henceforth no secret understandings of any kind.”[1] (Wilson, 1918)

This declaration acknowledges the fact that the United States fights against imperialism, defined as “a policy of extending a country's power and influence through diplomacy or military force”[2] (The Oxford University Press, 2017).

Furthermore, the nationalist politic embodied by brand new and striking slogan “America first” hand in hand with economic protectionist oriented measures like the increase of custom duties for example follow that line of thought, in theory though. In fact and some extent, this isolationism was only hiding another reality.

The United States remained a strong imperial power in the 1920s. From a military and politic point of view, they intervened in the Pacific like Hawaii, Midway and Samoa, and on their own grounds. Financially, they claimed debt reimbursement from many countries including in majority European’s ones such as France, Germany amongst other European countries. This was referred to as the “dollar diplomacy” and was led by William Howard Taft between 1909 and 1913. Other countries such as Nicaragua and Honduras, where the United States used force and pressure to obtain their claims, were also targeted by this politic. This idea was named by the public opinion as the “Big Stick” politic.

Theodore F. Roosevelt once said about this policy: “Speak softly and carry a big stick, you will go far.”[3] (Roosevelt, 1900). In fact, this was a subtle way to legitimize the use of violence if necessary.  Their goal was pointed out by Emily S. Rosenberg in Financial Missionaries to the World[4] (2004) in which she states that these actions “symbolized Taft’s future plans for using loan-receivership arrangements to extend U.S influence into many areas of the world." (Rosenberg, 2004)

In other words, United States were exercising an imperialistic politic over the world. We can also take the example of the Taylorism to illustrate this influence which goals  were to improve labour productivity by increasing repetitive tasks. This production mode was first applied in real lifeby the American engineer Frederick Winslow Taylor (1856-1915) in The Principles of Management[5] (Taylor, 1911). This also underlines another form of imperialism in the method of production, extending once again the United States’ influence at a global scale.  

        

        However, from the day Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected in 1933 until the end of his mandate in 1945, the United States changed their politic. Indeed, Franklin Roosevelt put in place the “Good Neighbour policy” in order to ease tensions with Latin America where their influence was strongly criticized. In 1934, he decided to repeal the Platt Amendment to apply the following policy.

                                           

[pic 1]

Page One of the Platt Amendment (1901)

                                           

The Platt Amendment authorized the United States to intervene in Cuba’s affairs in order to ensure their global supremacy. The third article of this declaration shows explicitly this goal:

        “That the government of Cuba consents that the United States may exercise the right to intervene for the preservation of Cuban independence, the maintenance of a government adequate for the protection of life, property, and individual liberty, and for discharging the obligations with respect to Cuba imposed by the treaty of Paris on the United States, now to be assumed and undertaken by the government of Cuba.”[6] (Platt, 1901)

By strongly and firmlycondemning this declaration, the 33rd president of the United States enforced isolationism in his country and therefore stood up for anti-imperialism movements.

        

        However, in the following years, an unprecedented event changed this status. How did the Cold War reinforce the United States’ imperialism power? The question of imperialism necessarily leads us to this confrontation and to the United States’ implication in that matter.  From 1947 and this phenomenon ongoing for more than forty years, the Cold War has opposed two super-powers. A ‘superpower’ can be defined as a “country that wields enough military, political and economic might to convince nations in all parts of the world to do things they otherwise wouldn’t”[7] (Bremmer, 2015). On the one hand, a communist one led by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and on the other hand an occidental one guided by the United Sates also referred as the “free world”.

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