When the U.S. Became Imperialist: How 5 Americans Made It a World Power (2002)

Just another WordPress site

When the U.S. Became Imperialist: How 5 Americans Made It a World Power (2002)

today the United States is preparing an attack against Iraq and if it happens that will be the latest war in a series of armed interventions overseas that stretch back over a century my book is about the first one in nineteen in 1898 when the United States attacked Spain over Cuba let me begin the story on October 16th 1891 in the true blue saloon in valparaiso chile in that saloon on that day two american sailors were killed in a brawl causing the united states to decide that it might have to go to war with chile for satisfaction one of the great naval strategists of the time captain Alfred T Mahan was called back to Washington to do a contingency plan on a possible war with Chile as it turned out we didn’t go to war with Chile the Chileans made in the form of a seventy-five thousand dollar payment and the incident was forgotten but not by Mahan because he discovered during the course of his investigations that if the United States Navy took on the Chilean Navy it might have lost our Navy was so weak somewhere around the 14th or 15th strongest Navy in the world down there with Turkey and Chile and others that we simply wouldn’t have provided a credible threat to anybody now let me fast-forward to nineteen nine February 22nd nineteen nine Franklin sorry Theodore Roosevelt Freudian slip Theodore Roosevelt last week as president of the United States was receiving the Great White Fleet as it returned from the longest cruise ever made before or since by a Navy 45,000 miles around the world it took 16 months Roosevelt was at Hampton Roads Virginia at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay to meet the ships as they came in and they came in 16 first-class battleships making a line seven miles long going over the horizon with their steam puffing out on this rainy cold and drizzly day and Roosevelt was there to meet them and he said to the sailors assembled on the flagship Connecticut we have definitely taken our place among the great world powers so you had 1891 when the United States was not able to take on Chile and you had nineteen nine when we had taken our place among the great world powers and we had our fleet was either the second or the third strongest Navy in the world by then so we have a symbol of American weakness and we have a symbol of American strength how did that extraordinary transition take place in those seventeen short years most of it happened in 1898 let me just recall for you the events of that extraordinary year April 25th the United States declares war with Spain over Cuba May 1st eighteen eight thousand miles from Cuba Commodore Dewey destroys the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay June 21st the US Navy seizes Guam also a Spanish dependency July 1st Theodore Roosevelt dressed in a uniform that he had just bought from Brooks Brothers leads a charge up San Juan Hill and with the other members of the US Army takes the heights over Santiago Bay looking down on the Bay where the Spanish fleet is trapped by an American naval blockade and two days later on July 3rd the fleet trying to get out of the bay is destroyed by the American Navy July 7th President William McKinley taking advantage of the euphoria that came from these two great naval

victories annexes Hawaii August 13th the city of Manila Falls to Dewey an August 14th a US force takes Puerto Rico thereby depriving Spain of its last colonial dependency in the New World on December 10th by the Treaty of Paris Spain seeds the Philippines Puerto Rico and Guam to the United States and renounces sovereignty over Cuba which becomes a US military dictatorship this went on beyond 1898 in 1899 the United States divided Samoa with Germany and took the strategic island of wake and in nineteen three Roosevelt then president helped to subvert the government of Colombia in order to recognize an insurgent government in Panama which was then a province of Colombia so as to be able to get permission to build a canal across the waist of Panama until 1898 the United States had been a continental power a revolution was not just a war for independence it was a war for territory we had to expel the British from most of North America in order to be able to be independent and we did that in the Mexican War we took over a million square miles of territory and of course in the in the winning of the western part of the country west of the Mississippi we had to deal with Indian tribes in order to defeat them sometimes was shocking atrocities and and win the West so in the nineteenth century we were a continental power but in 1898 we became an overseas power as well after the spanish-american war we were dominant in the Caribbean and we had a foothold very close to the Asian mainland in the Philippines just a few hundred miles from the Asian mainland we had acquired a global reach which we would never relinquish John Hay who was then in 1898 the American ambassador to London wrote to his friends President McKinley we have never in all our history had the standing in the world we have now I would contend that every major American international involvement throughout the whole of the 20th century had its roots in that period around 1898 world war one world war two against Hitler and Japan the cold war against Stalin all of these American participations would have been unimaginable if we had not become the great power that 1898 set us on the road to this imperial explosion gave Americans the self confidence a sense of power and a belief that they could shape international life according to their own values so why did this happen and why did it happen then I think there are five principal reasons and then I’m going to mention a sixth the first is tradition as I’ve already implied we have always been an expansionist country from the very beginning the second is presidential authority presidential authority by the end of the 19th century was quite great visa vie the Congress and this is a difference because with the death of Lincoln the presidency sank into perhaps the lowest level that it had ever been in American history there were no strong presidents with the popular with the possible exception of Cleveland between Lincoln and McKinley but by the time of McKinley and even land even of course more visibly with his successor Theodore Roosevelt the presidency was very important and everybody knew and recognized that without a strong president you cannot have a strong foreign policy the third reason is the extraordinary economic boom that America underwent after the Civil War and up until World War one

it’s personified by those three titans who made their fortunes during this period Andrew Carnegie john d rockefeller and JP Morgan and the building of the railroads was perhaps the most visible element of the economic boom all of those three multimillionaires that I mentioned were deeply involved in the railroads as well as many other things by the end of the century the United States produced more coal and steel than Britain and Germany put together we were an economic giant and it stood to reason the fact provided a basis for us to become a military giant and the fourth reason is just that we did we had become a military giant the US Navy which was of course navies are of course the way military power was usually reckoned in that period the US Navy had become a formidable Navy partly because Congress under stronger presidents began to appropriate funds for the building of battleships and partly because America finally got a real naval strategy a philosophy of empire and this came largely through the work of Mahan a naval intellectual who believed that if you were to become a great power you had to have a great Navy and to have a great Navy you had to have coaling stations or bases where it could be where it could refit and refuel and the fifth reason why the United States had this Imperial explosion at the end of the 19th century in the beginning of the 20th was the opportunity was there Spain was being subjected to revolutions in both Cuba and the Philippines it was a weak decadent power without the military might that it used to have and weakened of course by the revolutions so Spain was a kind of a pushover for the United States if the United States got into a war with Spain it was almost unimaginable that it would lose it and there were there was a lot of publicity given to the Cuban Revolution against Spain between 1918 95 and 1898 the atrocities some real some exaggerated some invented that appeared in the American press the American people were actually very interested in what was going on and very antagonistic to the Spanish which led the warmongers like Roosevelt and the others to seize these human rights issues to make the case that we should go to war with Spain and then when the Maine was blown up on the 15th of February in 1898 a battleship that had been sent down to Havana Harbor to protect the American population there who had been subject to riots by by Spanish hardliners the main was blown up that became a kind of a cassis belly nobody today believes that the Spanish blew up the main and anybody in his right mind in 1898 should have doubted that the Spanish would blow up the main since why would they do it if it was going to provoke a war with the United States which they were almost sure to lose in fact the general view is that the main was blown up by accident by spontaneous combustion in the in in the coal stores and the sixth reason which is just as important as the others is that the right people were there at the right time to take the United States on this journey from second-rate power to great power I’ve identified five people in the book who I call the fathers of American imperialism they’re the ones I think who made the United States an imperial power and perhaps even more importantly determined what kind of an imperial power the United States would be the first is Mahan an austere cerebral intellectual sailor his whole career was spent in the Navy he went to Annapolis at the same time he was a kind of a misfit in the Navy he was much better in the world of ideas than he was on

shipboard and in this sense I I think he can be compared to another misfit in a later bureaucracy George Kennan both Mahan and cannon highly intellectual not particularly happy in the bureaucracy in which they were serving and brilliant in their ability to define issues and work out strategies Mahan gave United States a philosophy of empire largely in his magazine writings but also in his great book the influence of sea power which he wrote in 1899 I’m sorry which he wrote in 1890 the influence of sea power upon history the second figure was Theodore Roosevelt one has to remember that in 1898 Theodore Roosevelt was not yet 40 years old and he did not have a very important job he was assistant secretary of the Navy which was the number two person in the Navy Department he was therefore not a regular attendee at cabinet meetings but he was so dynamic and so energetic and he had such a sense of purpose that he dominated the military bureaucracy in a way that nobody else did and he was very strongly in favor of going to war with Spain if that would be the preferred enemy but he was prepared to go to war with the British and the Germans as well he just wanted to go to war for reasons that are maybe deep in his psyche his father had bought a substitute in the Civil War roosevelt ennobled war he thought it was just great in one speech in 1897 at the Naval War College and Newport Roosevelt in a fairly short speech referred to the word war 62 different times gives you a sense of the tunnel vision that he had on that issue the third individual was Henry Cabot Lodge a young senator in 1898 not not a prominent member of the Foreign Relations Committee and yet probably the most effective and voluble imperialist in the US Senate Lodge really wanted the United States to expand as far as it could here’s some excerpts from speeches that he gave in the mid 1890s in the Senate just to give you a sense of where he came from he said the United States he said I cannot bear to see the American pulled down where it has once been run up and I disliked to see the American foot go back where it has once been advanced and then he said from the Rio Grande to the Arctic Ocean there should be but one flag and one country a speech which you can imagine had a certain effect on Canada large made three major contributions one was he made Theodore Roosevelt’s career Roosevelt contrary to what many people may think did not have an enormous amount of self-confidence at least he was prepared to reveal to his sisters and to lodge that he really wasn’t sure his career was going anywhere he wasn’t quite sure whether he should be a writer or a politician or what he ought to do and he was off and down in the dumps about about the trajectory of his future life Lodge was single-minded about this Lodge would say to him you’re going to be President I’m gonna help you get there we’re gonna work out a strategy for getting you to be president and don’t worry about it you’re gonna make it and of course that’s what happened and at every decision point almost without exception during Roosevelt’s career it was lodged that pushed him in the right direction toward the presidency the second contribution that Lodge made was he managed the Treaty of Paris the treaty with Spain which gave us our colonial empire he managed it through the Senate winning by two votes treaties then has now required a two-thirds vote in the Senate and it wasn’t clear that this treaty would get through but Lodge by a brilliant senatorial management got it through the third contribution that Lodge made which is a bit beyond the scope of of my book is his defeat of the League of Nations in in 1919 Woodrow Wilson’s pet project I mentioned it here simply to say that lodge’s defeat of the League of

Nations was not an isolationist Act Lodge was never an isolationist he was a unilateral list he believed the United States should play a large role in the world but should not put itself under the restraints of international bodies which it couldn’t control and in that sense he was absolutely consistent between being an imperialist in 1898 and the defeater of the League of Nations in 1919 the fourth figure is John Hay and in a way the most complex and perhaps most interesting of the five john hayes career recapitulates almost the whole two-thirds of almost the whole third of the 19th century he began as a young man in his early 20s in 1861 as an aide to Lincoln when Lincoln was elected he brought hay back from Illinois to the White House where hay lived for the whole of Lincoln’s presidency and was at Lincoln’s beck and call the whole time as a very young man he then went on to a career that involved diplomacy it involved journalism he was an editorial writer for the New York Herald it involved business he was a highly successful businessman got rich doing it and it involved writing he was a best-selling poet and he was a best-selling novelist he did all of these things he was also reputed to be one of the great talkers of his time one of the great conversationalist this of course is lost we can’t know but everybody who met him remarked on how much fun it was to listen to hey talk and he ended up as ambassador to London and then as McKinley Secretary of State and then as Roosevelt Secretary of State a position in which he died in nineteen five so Haig spent hey spanned the century from the Civil War into the Roosevelt administration he mastered five or six different professions and yet this is a man of extraordinary brilliance but this is also a man who had deep depressions all the time he was certainly a depressive I believe a manic-depressive somebody who had tremendous lack of self-confidence doubts about himself there would be many times in his life when he confessed he couldn’t go on any further he couldn’t do any more he was worthless and somehow he just managed to to get all of those things done that I mentioned hay was a very humane and civil person and he he gave a serious dose of humanity and civility to to his work as a statesman particularly a Secretary of State under those two presidents and I think he had two achievements which were quite considerable one was he he began the rudiments of an Asia policy for the United States building on the fact that we had taken the Philippines the open door idea was his it was the beginning of an Asia policy that you could argue ended up getting us deeply involved in Asia including in three wars during the 20th century the second achievement of hey is he was the founder of the special relationship with Great Britain in those days Britain was considered an enemy not a potential friend and there was a great deal of political problem mainly because the Irish constituencies and many of the key big-city voting patterns were very strongly anti British it was very difficult to get anything favorable to Britain through the Congress hay was a strong Anglophile and he managed to persuade Roosevelt who wasn’t particularly keen on the British either that we should settle our problems with the British that we had a lot in common with them and we should build a relationship that could have some enduring value of course it did and still does and hay was really the author of that and finally the fifth figure Elihu root till the age of 50 he was a corporate lawyer in New York had never worked in Washington had never worked for the government had been an enormous ly successful corporate lawyer very good at trying cases he got a call in 1899 after we had won the spanish-american war on the newfangled telephone from McKinley who wanted to know if he would accept the job of Secretary of War Secretary of War was like secretary of the army he was in charge of all the American armed

forces except for the Navy rout answered back that he had no understanding of war he had no experience in the government he had no experience in Washington and he was therefore totally unqualified for the job and McKinley said well I don’t want any of those things I want someone who’s a lawyer I want someone who’s pragmatic I want someone who’s a problem solver no political axe to grind because I need somebody to go and administer America’s colonies and you’re the man I want well after that Hey after that route obviously had to accept and he did accept thereby becoming the first colonial administrator of the American Empire he had to do something that nobody had ever done before and he left his mark on Cuba on the Philippines on Puerto Rico let me try to draw a balance sheet about the United States as a colonial power how good a colonial power were we where we as good as the British or as bad as the British or the French or the Germans or the Portuguese or the Spanish I’d say we were probably better than any of those but we had a mixed record and on the negative side we somehow managed in both the Philippines and Cuba to set ourselves against an indigenous revolution against the Spanish which was working for the same goals and ends primarily that the United States was working for in Cuba the Revolution had been underway since 1895 it had been inspired by Jose Marti and it had helped the Americans enormous ly by weakening the Spanish military in Cuba the United States Army used the revolutionaries the Cuban revolutionaries for intelligence purposes that used them to block roads they were very helpful to the American war effort in Cuba but after the United States won the war we cast these Cuban revolutionaries aside we disinvited them from the surrender ceremony by the Spanish and we made it clear that they were going to play no significant role in the governing of Cuba Cuba was going to be run by an American military government until we decided that it would be time for independence and in fact we did run Cuba as a military dictatorship for four years before giving it its independence in 19 – in the Philippines it was much worse the Filipinos or a group of fellow Filipinos under a charismatic young leader still in his 20s named Emilio Aguinaldo had revolted against Spain and were very anxious for help from the United States Dewey who had a much better grasp of what indigenous Filipinos and Cubans wanted than almost any other military than almost any other US military officer understood that Aguinaldo could be very helpful to the u.s. military effort as indeed he was a gonadal was quite helpful in helping the United States ultimately to take Manila but again on orders from Washington the Filipinos were cut out of the surrender ceremony the Spanish surrendered to the United States not to the revolutionaries and the revolutionaries were given no role and no prospects in any future government and were told that their dreams of Independence were not going to be fulfilled not surprisingly the result was an insurrection by Aguinaldo and his forces against the United States against the American occupiers and a war that lasted three years a disgraceful war I think that lasted three years between two sides who surely had more in common with each other than they had against each other like most of most Wars that degenerate into guerrilla wars it was a war with great casualties and it was a war with atrocities on both sides unfortunately also back in Washington Roosevelt and root and lodge collaborated in covering up the American atrocity so the American people would not hear of them but there was a very

virulent anti-war press and intellectual movement at the time which focused on the Philippines and which produced a debate which was very I want to say reminiscent but I’d have my time scheme backwards but was very like the Vietnam debate that happened decades later so there was a real debate about it but we ended up doing something that I think could easily have been avoided fighting an indigenous people in the Philippines who had no reason to we had no reason to fight them on the other hand on the positive side McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt and route took the welfare of the people in Cuba and the Philippines very seriously even during the war in the Philippines the United States would establish in territories that it had taken from the Filipino insurrection would establish local and municipal governments that were run by Filipinos in other words there was a great deal of local autonomy even during the war and after the war ended in nineteen – much more of it we had a very enlightened civil governor in the Philippines William Howard Taft who who did care a lot about providing the kinds of institutions American institutions but institutions that would bring a kind of a democracy to the Philippines and indeed by 1917 ‘s had the only elected parliament in asia and probably by asian standards of the time at least was the most democratic territory in asia to give you a sense of roots position on this and Root was the one who wrote the instructions for the colonial governors in cuba and the philippines he was immensely important in this route this is this is an excerpt from roots instructions to William Howard Taft went athlet out as head of the Commission that would govern the Philippines route said the Taft bear in mind that the government which you are establishing is designed not for our satisfaction or for the expression of our theoretical views but for the happiness peace and prosperity of the people of the Philippine Islands and the measures adopted should be made to conform to their customs there happened their habits and even their prejudices some final words to try to bring this a little bit up to the present an Irish poet Anglo Irish poet named O’Shaughnessy who wrote at the end of the 19th century wrote a poem in which the following phrase appears each age is a dream that is dying or one that is coming to birth I think it’s a very profound comment and it applies to where we are now the age that Theodore Roosevelt and his friends inspired lasted almost a century beginning in 1898 and ending with the collapse of the Soviet Union and America’s emergence as the only great power that was an age when the United States became accustomed to the mantle of great power it was an age of arrogance in the Philippine war and later of support for dictators in the name of stability but it was also an age when the United States combined in Theodore Roosevelt’s phrase power with high purpose in helping the British and the others in World War one in World War two in the creation of NATO in the Truman Doctrine in the Marshall Plan in point four and in the Alliance for Progress all of these things I think were direct descendants of the Imperial thrust that began back in the late 19th and early 20th centuries there are continuities and discontinuities with the past we are

still a great power perhaps an even greater one than at the beginning then then at any point during the 20th century but that very fact has made us a target has made us vulnerable to those who or either envious or hostile to us Muslim extremism being the most important I think Theodore Roosevelt and company would have understood the principles behind our interventions in this post-cold war world for example in Iraq in 1991 in Bosnia in 1995 and in Kosovo in 1999 they spoke about being the policemen of the world and they didn’t have the power to do it but they certainly would have understood it I think but I suspect they would not have understood an American attack on Iraq today when we’re in guesswork now they had experience in Cuba with protectorates such as Iraq will become if in the best case the United States wins a victory they also knew about terrorism after all theodore roosevelt came to the presidency as it was a result of a terrorist act of assassination against mckinley and they also had a keen sense of where America’s true security lay Roosevelt having been one of the leading proponents of an Xing the Philippines by nineteen seven when he was still president was telling people that maybe that he’d made a mistake that we probably shouldn’t have done it and the reason he said we shouldn’t have done it was because it was too far from our security perimeter it was too close to the Asian mainland and too far away from the American mainland and Roosevelt was worried he said this in a letter to Taft in nineteen seven he was worried that one day the Japanese would attack the Philippines well it happened thirty-five years later but it shows I think that with all of this imperialist braggadocio that Roosevelt particularly and lodge exemplified they also had a pretty keen sense of where our true interests lie and and a sense of restraint about not going farther than we should so I doubt they would have thought that an American Protectorate in Iraq was worth the inevitable growth of hostility that this would cause in the rest of the Muslim world during the transition from one age to another to go back to the O’Shaughnessy poem some principles from the time the u.s. first became a great power remain relevant I think in a negative sense the wrong in treating alien peoples as inferior the folly of exaggerating the virtues of war and the error in assuming American omniscience and in a positive sense the confidence in America’s founding principles the generosity of spirit the vision of America as a natural world leader the clear sense of US interests and the continued linking of power with high purpose thank you very much should I take some questions sure yeah if there are some yes yes father was fighting in the Spanish army it is a wonderful contradiction here Fidel Castro’s father was sent from Spain to reinforce the Spanish garrison in Cuba against the rebels this is before we got into the war and so he was fighting against the Cuban rebels and we got into the war and we beat up the Spanish expelled them from Cuba and Castro’s father was by all accounts furious at the United States he later became an important and very well-off planter but all during his law his long life he would rail against the United States how they had we had prevented the Spanish from destroying

the Cuban Revolution and one has to assume that after his son Fidel was born in 1926 that Fidel heard a lot of this from his father as well about how awful the Americans were so I’ve I’ve always tended to favor the theory that Fidel did not learn anti Americanism from his communist readings that he learned that if he learned it from his father another irony is that Batista’s father the the Cuban dictator who was overthrown by Castro father fought on the revolutionary side in that war in the United States how is it that it’s never for example because Jefferson had already missed the opportunity of doing so it’s a fascinating question and III try to deal with him them in the book and I’m not sure I can answer it adequately five different American presidents tried to buy Cuba during the 19th century and and McKinley was the last just before we went to war with Spain McKinley made an offer to the Regent marina Maria Cristina for the purchase of Cuba and she turned him down so we wanted Cuba Cuba was enormous ly important to the United States by by 1898 not only for the sugar but also because the strategists were pointing to Cuba as the key to control of the Caribbean and the key to the ability to construct and operate and use a Panama Canal because there is Cuba six hundred miles long right across the the whole length of it right across the entrances to the Caribbean so Cuba gained an enormous strategic importance to go with economic importance that it had so why didn’t we Mexico Cuba was the point of the spanish-american war Philippines was just an afterthought we just picked it off because it was easy to do nobody had really thought about what we might do with it afterwards but Cuba was important so we take Cuba we take the Philippines and instead of giving independence to the Philippines which we didn’t care about we ran it as a colony until 1946 and yet we give Cuba independence in 19 – but it was independence with a huge caveat and that was the Platt Amendment written by Elihu root which said that in effect Cuba is independent but anytime the United States feels that stability in Cuba is threatened it has the right to intervene open-ended ability to intervene and Alma for almost any reason at all and we availed ourselves of that intervention because Cuba was so important to us not only just after the Platt Amendment but you mentioned the missile crisis and the Bay of Pigs 1961 Kennedy intervened in Cuba why because because Cuba had this enormous strategic importance to the United States and of course when Khrushchev tried to put the missiles there in the next year Kennedy threatened war in order to to get them out I would speculate that it might have been better if we had annexed Cuba and prepared it prudently for independence then doing what we did which was to give it its independence but with one hand and take more than half of it away with the other that seems to me that was not the right way to do it I think we probably should have given the Philippines their independence that would have been a risk but I think not as big a risk as as the one we took and with Cuba the opposite very very interesting point yeah you mentioned that Lodge got the treaty passed in the Senate three dia Paris my only two votes yeah what were some of the dimensions of the discussion at that time period I mean were there were there a lot of discussions or in favor not a favor of

taking Cuba and the the issue the issue with the issue was mainly the Philippines Cuba was not an issue everybody more or less supported that we would run Cuba at least for a while but the Philippines was contentious first of all people thought it was too far away the opposition did they thought it was too far away they thought it was not it was not an American thing to do too to take over people who have no chance of American citizenship so far we had we had had territories which always aspired to be States and therefore were able to confer citizenship on people but Alaska was a partial exception to that and Hawaii was to come become a partial except inception to that but basically people we took we incorporated into our Union we did it with a view to their becoming American citizens and that was never considered for the Filipinos and a lot of people thought on human rights grounds that that was wrong there was a strong racist argument against taking the Philippines to honey Fitz john f kennedy’s grandfather who was a congressman at the time got up on the floor of the house and he said are we going to have more mongols in our country i mean it it was a very nasty kind of racism that some of the opponents of the treaty espoused but mckinley had a Republican majority in in in the Senate and they only lost two republican votes one of whom was senator hor from massachusetts who was a very eloquent and an principled anti-imperialist not a racist so they just squeaked it through but but I go into the book in some detail on the on the arguments used and the anti-imperialists turn out to be at least in part people who are just as unprincipled as some of the imperialists were yes ma’am care to elaborate on puerto rico status then as this being a legacy and maybe i’m thinking and i’m this is way beyond probably what you’re prepared to address the status of DC yeah puerto rico was like the Philippines was a kind of an afterthought in fact we took Cuba and then and then and then the Navy and then they Naval High Command started thinking and they thought well wait a minute we’ve driven the Spanish out of Cuba but if they’re still in Puerto Rico we can’t control the Caribbean so we are going to have to take Puerto Rico so there wasn’t there was no interest in Puerto Rico for itself in fact the Puerto Ricans had just negotiated a self-government agreement with Spain which was pretty good from their point of view so they did not welcome us as as liberators at all and I think I think we kind of messed up our relations with Puerto Rico all through the 20th century we were prepared to kind of buy them off with with tax breaks without showing a lot of interest and and and and putting good administrators down there there were a few good ones including Theodore Roosevelt’s son but most of them were political appointees who couldn’t couldn’t care less so I think I think Puerto Rico is not I see it anyway as not a very bright light on on our colonial history it must be said though that we have said at least in the last few decades that the Puerto Ricans can decide what kind of a relationship with the United States they want to have or if they want to be independent they can they can decide on that too and and and Puerto Ricans seem to be just as conflicted about this today as they were back in the early 20th century yeah if this was the first I guess the first act United States’s decision to move on to the world stage how do you explain the the reluctance to get involved in World War one and then world war two because it seems like that’s kind of a disconnect between that first part that first stage of imperialism and then our actions during the Cold War yeah that’s a good question net things move gradually I don’t I don’t mean to imply that that we kind of burst into the world as a fully-fledged great power just because we had beaten up a decrepit European country and taken a few islands

it was obviously there’s more to it than that the American people and the the political class had to get used to the United States being on the world stage and there were elements that that pushed in that direction there was the open door policy of hey there was Roosevelt’s negotiating the end of the russo-japanese war for which he got the Nobel Prize route got the Nobel Prize – for his contributions in international law so we were we were beginning to be more of a world power than we ever had before and we certainly had the military power with with World War one we got into it primarily because the Germans made two major mistakes one was to start starts sinking merchant ships with American passengers aboard and the other was this was an intercepted cable to collaborate with the Mexicans on trying to get back the whole southern southwestern part of the United States if the Germans arguably had not done those things we might not have gone into the war but there was a very strong pro-war Lobby led by Roosevelt and the others and his friends which wanted us to go in and and primarily because of the British I mean there was a strong feeling that we should do something to help the British so that was an that was a close-run thing I think World War One World War two of course we didn’t get in until we were attacked by the Japanese but Roosevelt was trying to push us in that direction it seems unimaginable to me that even if there had been no Japanese attack in 1941 that we would have gotten in to the European war against Hitler at some point but none of these things were inevitable and none of these things were were Givens just because we had we had defeated the Spanish but we wouldn’t have even been able to consider getting into World War one or World War two if we hadn’t made that explosion out into the world that we did in 89 yeah okay Oh is there any even a son once of a formula to turn it into a democratic nation a nice a nice country with nice people well I’m pretty this is this is all speculation on my part but I’m pretty dubious that that we could do that this is the Tom Friedman view that one of the that he argues that we could go into Iraq and turn it into a democratic country I don’t think there’s very much in Iraqi tradition that that makes it possible to do that certainly we can’t do it right away and therefore we would end up having inevitably an American Protectorate over Iraq if that’s in the best case you know we did we kill Saddam Hussein on the first day we destroy the Republican Guard we put in we can put in any government we want to run Iraq given the the the violent racial history ethnic history of Iraq it’s not going to be one of these things where we can just do that and walk away we’re going to have to run the country either clandestinely or overtly for a long time let’s say a decade is it feasible maybe it’s feasible but it’ll take a long time and meanwhile the rest of the Middle East isn’t standing still and it does seem to me that if you were a young radical Arab and you were looking at an American Protectorate over an Arab country the Americans running an Arab country you might just tip you know your own balance in the in the direction of one of these violent groups so I think the risks are far greater than the then even even even the best case benefits but if we are going to do it the example of Japan and Germany is most inappropriate I think because those were two may your industrial societies that were able to get back on their feet quite quick quite quickly I think the I think the example for Iraq if we’re going to have a Protectorate there is the Philippines if we can do in Iraq what we did in the Philippines after after the war we fought then I think we can then we might have some success with it but as I say it will take a long time a very long time and to me it’s not worth it well whatever you call it it’s going to be a protectorate yeah you know during the

time that the United States was expanding its reaching home and I get into Latin American to Cuba that American Philippines it was a time of social Darwinism you know and a lot of a lot of race talk what what impact do you think do you think the brown people in Cuba what impact do you think that that this racism had on not only their going into Cuba the Philippines but on on every intervention they’ve done in the 20th century yeah a survey of universities in in the second third of the 19th century to see you know what kind of things were being taught the people that I was then following like Roosevelt and lodge and and so forth and it turned out that the most eminent professors in the in the humanities and the social sciences in universities like Harvard Yale Stanford Johns Hopkins Cornell Columbia and many others we’re teaching not only social Darwinism but the superiority of the Aryan the jerm jerm anak races and the inferiority of all the rest so all of the people that were running our Imperial policy toward the end of the 19th century I’d been subjected to all of this in college I mean they couldn’t get away from it and lodge was a was a classic social Darwinist racist Roosevelt was more complicated he didn’t quite buy it all the way he kind of liked to put a lot of different people together cowboys and criminals and-and-and oarsmen and bartenders and so forth and put them all on the same regimen and and and watch them get along with each other and help them get along with each other he loved all that and so he was he was not a very typical social Darwinist but the others all were Mahan has social Darwinism all through his writings lodge was the father of the most restrictive immigration act ever passed in the United States the others also although they were both rude and and and hey look quite humane human beings also also grew up in this atmosphere so so when the soldiers got to Cuba and the soldiers reacted because the Cuban revolutionaries were mostly black the soldiers and the soldiers were mostly southern so the soldiers reacted tended to react in a racist way toward the Cuban revolutionaries the officers did too because some of them and you know had been through this this extraordinary social Darwinist education or intellectual ambience in the United States so there was there was a huge racial element I think both in the Philippines and in Cuba that came from the the fact that that not just in small universities but in the major universities of the United States this kind of stuff was being taught when you look at the way policy is formed at the White House it just looks like the information at all if you agree why do you think it is well I I think they’re very influential actually and and I’m sorry about it because I think the policy is going in the wrong direction this is this is an administration which has an extremely powerful Secretary of Defense an extremely powerful vice-president a quite powerful national security adviser a quite powerful Secretary of State and they have not had to pay a great deal of attention to the Congress which is very unusual not since the Vietnam days was a president able to to have his way with the Congress as as much as Bush has had on foreign policy issues so I don’t think we’re dealing with people who are not in control I think they’re very much in control and heading in the wrong direction