What was once called the Spanish-American War was the pivotal event of a pivotal decade...marking the United States as a world power....It was less a case of the United States coming upon greatness almost inadvertently than of it pursuing its destiny deliberately and purposefully....For Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines, it exchanged one colonial master for another and brought changes in the form of external control.....The United States became a full-fledged member of the imperial club....Its acquisitions in the Pacific made it a major player, if not the dominant power, in that region....It sealed the post-Civil War reconciliation of the Union. By 1898 the South had come to terms with its defeat in the Civil War and eagerly accepted the conflict with Spain to prove its loyalty.
--George C. Herring, From Colony to Superpower: U.S. Foreign Relations Since 1776
portion of five major regions controlled by European powers and US in 1900
Lord Curzon, viceroy of India, 1894: empire is “the greatest force for good the world has ever seen.” British PM Lord Rosebery, 1894: the empire “was the noblest example yet known to mankind of free adaptable just government….When a community is in distress or under oppression, it always looks first to Great Britain.”
1900: “Built not by saints and angels, but the work of men's hands; cemented with men's honest blood and with a world of tears; welded by the best brains of centuries past; not without taint and reproach incidental in all human work, but constructed on the whole with pure and splendid purpose. Human and not yet wholly human--for the most heedless and the most cynical must see the finger of the divine....Do we not hail in this less the energy and the fortune of a race than the supreme hand of the Almighty?”
c. ¼ of earth's territory redistributed among less than 12 countries: England gains 4m square miles; France 3.5 m; Germany 1m+; Belgium/Italy almost 1m each; Portugal 300k; US 100k. In 1901, the great powers maintained 140 colonies, protectorates, and dependencies covering 2/3 of the earth's surface and 1/3 of its population.
exports to the US were 42% of Cuba's total in 1859, 87%, 1897. US foreign investments 1897 $700M, 1914 $3.5B. 1885-100,000 Americans visit Europe; 1914-250,000. US has eleven battleships, 1898, 36, 1913; fleet grows from 19,000 sailors, 1901, to 44,500, 1909.
Hawaii is crucial to supplying US troops in the Philippines; Puerto Rico is the "Malta of the Caribbean" because it could guard a canal through Panama AND the Pacific approaches. Guam offers a coaling station for US ships in the Pacific. Philippines are an important market on their own and also offer a way to capture Chinese market. War drives Spain from W. hemisphere, as stated in Monroe Doctrine, and prevents Germany from taking Philippines.
Over 55 days in the summer of 1898, the US asserts its control of 5 islands, or sets of islands (Hawaii, Cuba, Philippines, Guam, Puerto Rico), with 11M people
victory in the war in Cuba involves 345 killed in action, 5000 by disease,
and $250M. "A splendid little war, begun with the highest motives, carried
on with magnificent intelligence and spirit, favored by that fortune which so
loves the brave."--Ambassador John Hay.
In Philippines, 4000 US dead, 2800 wounded, $600M. Estimated 20,000 Filipino soldiers killed and 200K civilians killed as "collateral damage."The West is central to the military's framing of the conflict, which leaves 20% of the population dead: Admiral Dewey calls the Filipinos "the Indians"; 26 of the 30 generals involved had served in wars against Native Americans. TR calls Emilio Aguinaldo a "renegade Pawnee."
Platt Amendment, 1901, forbids Cuba from entering any treaty that would impair its independence, granting concessions to any foreign power, or contracting a public debt in excess of its ability to pay. US can intervene in Cuban internal affairs and owns bases on Cuban soil, including Guantanamo. "There is, of course, little or no independence left Cuba under the Platt Amendment"--US military governor Leonard Wood.
Stephen Kinzer, historian: the Platt Amendment marked “a giant conceptual leap beyond the classic colonialism that European powers had practiced for centuries. It became a template for American dominance….Latin Americans called it Plattismo."
Anti-imperialists: "We do not want any more states until we can civilize Kansas"--E.L. Godkin. The nation already has a "black elephant." Does it "really need a white elephant in the Philippines, a leper elephant in Hawaii, a brown elephant in Puerto Rico and perhaps a yellow elephant in Cuba?"--New York World