Friday, July 17, 2009

Cons of Imperialism

The cons of imperialism argued by Anti-Imperialists were both varied and convoluted.
In 1898, in response to the destruction of sugar cane crops and atrocities committed by the Spanish in Cuba, America went to war. Instead of leaving Cuba to its own devices and governing, the Platt Agreement was required in its constitution, ensuring continued American influence and presence.
Following the war, the Philippines was purchased instead of holding ourselves to the limits and vision of the Declaration of Independence and our U.S. Constitution. We gained control over those peoples too, but not without the burning of villages and the torture of men paving the way to an American Empire. “What of American values?” Anti-Imperialists would say. (Zimmerman, 2002)

Some anti-imperialists argued the annexation of the Philippines and Hawaii was interjecting America into foreign lands, not as liberators, but as oppressors, valuing commercial gain at the expense of American principles. As one anti-imperialist, Carl Schurz, stated in regard to our economy, it was a “'barbarous notion that in order to have a profitable trade with a country we must own it'”. (Zimmerman, 2002, p 336)

Social-Darwinists found themselves on both sides of the imperialism argument, some in favor of imposing civilized values on indigenous people, while others thought Americans should keep from interacting with what they felt were lesser races. Still others believed Imperialism was “both unnecessary and wrong because imperialism, in the name of civilizing lower races, simply exterminated them”. (Zimmerman, 2002, p339)
Mark Twain was one such critic firmly opposing the military movements involved with Imperialism. Members of the Anti-Imperialist League, including Andrew Carnegie and presidential nominee William Jennings Bryan included in their lists of grievances with the evolving American foreign policy the rejection of laissez-faire politics in order to accrue more responsibilities in foreign lands. (Zimmerman, 2002)
The cons of imperialism, providing the foundations of the Anti-Imperialist movement, were numerous. American military action to dominate a foreign land, denial of self-governance for those people, and the taking on of responsibilities in far away places were cause for conflict. The arguments against making an American empire were enough to unite those in opposition under the Anti-Imperialist League. (Zimmerman, 2002)

Zimmerman, W. (2002). First Great Triumph:How Five Americans Made Their Country a
World Power. New York:Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

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