Imperialism: The policy of extending a nation's authority by territorial acquisition or by the establishment of economic and political hegemony over other nations.
International choice is clearly not an aspect of the American foreign policy. This was not always the case. The Monroe Doctrine, proposed by President James Monroe in 1823, would establish a precedent for future U.S. foreign policies. However, the Doctrine only pertained to the Western Hemisphere. In this famous article, Monroe stated: "…that the American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers. . . ." Essentially, the document conveyed that future European and any U.S. involvement in the Western Hemisphere would be prohibited by the American government and treated as a threat to domestic peace.
At the time of its proposal, America was in no such position to uphold its aim because it was not a world power; enforcement of the Monroe Doctrine then began only in the 1840s. At the turn of the century, Theodore Roosevelt added a section to the Doctrine, stating that the U.S.A. could interfere with the internal conditions of Latin American nations if it was in response to blatant wrongdoing. America was outgrowing its self-contained foreign policy.
By the 1930s, the Monroe Doctrine was virtually obsolete; America reformed its Western Hemisphere foreign policy, and was already exhibiting influence outside Latin America. The United States government's serious restraint of complete decisive foreign measures would wither after Roosevelt, and especially intensify after World War II (WWII).Pre-World War I: A Rise to Imperialism
The imperialistic nature of America revolves around one word: omnipotence. Theoretically, America's large-scale dominance over contemporary world conditions ensures (or should ensure) political conformity and economic outgrowth. However, the government is willing to achieve omnipotence at what costs?
In retrospect, one can see America has always had an international aspect. Beginning with the Revolution itself, America has been subject to attacks from and dealt with foreign powers, both militarily and economically. Some examples range from the War of 1812 to the Louisiana Purchase and the Industrial Revolution and the civilian as well as government endorsement of Texas. These examples (as they pertain to the government) are strictly domestic and exhibit no offensive measures, but rather self-defensive measures and agreed deals.
America's involvement in World War I (WWI) gave a clear indication that America was among the top cosmopolitan powers. The position that was shared by very little had been obtained and was to be elaborated upon with imperialistic measures. Before WWI on the eve of the twentieth century, the American government had already taken the initiative of instigating war with Spain over Cuban independence—the pressure for war nevertheless being among popular American sentiment—justifiably a defensive measure as according to the Monroe Doctrine.
Subsequently, the United States took the initiative to "liberate" the Philippines of Spanish rule. American military forces supported Emilio Aguinaldo to the extent that the land was rid of Spaniards, but did not grant independence to the Philippines. A Filipino cession was then passed in the Senate that ensured American rule. As if to foretell an age of imperialism to come, some Senate members voted against long-term U.S. involvement as to staunch world "manifest destiny." After consistent decreases in political involvement, the Philippines eventually became independent.
Other nations that were subject to the American "sphere of influence" were Cuba, Hawaii (which of course became a state), Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Nicaragua. In all instances, America annexed, financially aided, or established a puppet government in the Caribbean nations.
Aside from politics, the late 1800s and early twentieth century was an economic progression for Americans. The U.S.A. began to capitalize on the world market with mass exports of gold and silver, steel, oil, and cotton. Industrialization and advances in technology also promised international business, as more machinery would become dependent on petroleum. Various inventions, such as the telephone and Henry Ford's automobile would also create a world demand for American products.
Efforts to open up Eastern business were exhibited not only in the Filipino occupation but also by America's strive to create an "open door" to China, which would allow equal business opportunities for several nations. The "open door" agreement would not materialize until 1922. Another huge interest for American economy was the Panama Canal. When its construction was first proposed in 1903, Colombia (then occupier of Panama) denied America the rights to build a passage through the isthmus. To ensure that the project be complete, President Roosevelt backed a Panama revolution and established shipping through canal in 1914.
The epoch of young American imperialism is one of political reluctance; many leaders were opposed to decisive world involvement in other government's affairs. Nevertheless, an increasingly potent U.S.A. would endorse imperialistic measures in this time period simply to gain the position as a world power. One can see the good of this politic, including immense economic involvement and the stabilization of a several, namely Latin American, nations.
Despite the perks of the bulldog world take, America began to exploit what was mere influence and use it as greedy advantage, as one can see in the political and economic involvement in both the Philippines and Panama. The pre-World War I era would distinguish United States imperialism, as the country began to affiliate itself with an outwardly and imposition-intentioned universal foreign policy.
The reluctance of government officials however shows that the rise in power was not as sought after as it was inevitable. The increases in cultivation of crops and industry provided an established path to a dignified position in the world economy, as America would become among the top market competitors. Also, military power as well as a vacillation between charitable and self-centered goals founded an open political influence/imposition that, as far as Latin America is concerned, was technically in self-appropriated measure. America's destiny as a world power was now pre-determined.