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American Imperialism After 1898 Essay

Soon after its swift victory in the Spanish-American War, the United States increasingly conducted itself internationally like a world power, particularly in Asia, where key American possessions and economic interested were located. Despite long-standing desires to stay aloof from foreign affairs, the United States increasingly intervened abroad. In eastern Asia, the United States quickly began asserting itself, especially in the Philippines.

Despite the Filipinos’ fight for independence from Spain, the United States quickly colonized that island chain, fighting a three-year war to suppress a native rebellion; historian David Goldfield claims that “Americans often made little effort to distinguish between soldiers and noncombatants, viewing all Filipinos with racial antagonism. ” In 1899, the United States imposed its “Open Door” policy on China, demanding economic concessions that the major European empires already enjoyed and setting its long-standing pattern as a more behind-the-scenes imperial power.

In 1900 the United States joined the multi-national force that suppressed China’s anti-Western Boxer Rebellion. In Latin America, the United States granted Cuba its independence in 1902 but controlled it behind the scenes until 1959, and in Puerto Rico it imposed direct rule that continues to the present. In 1902-1903, the American government also pursued its plans to build the Panama Canal; it “lent covert assistance that ensured the success of a bloodless revolution against Colombia” that gave the United States an even greater foothold in the Caribbean.

By 1910, the United States had become a world power and conducted itself in a more covert manner than the empires that ruled directly. In Asia and Latin America, it exerted power in various obvious and subtle ways to promote and protect its economic and geopolitical aims.


Goldfield, David et al. The American Journey. Upper Saddle River NJ: Pearson, 2005. Henretta, James A. et al. America’s History. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2008. LaFeber, Walter et al. The American Century. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 1998.

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