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Imperialism refers to the policy or practice of extending the power of a nation by acquiring territories directly or through indirect control of another nation's political, economic and social life. Imperialism occur when a strong nation dominates the political, economic and the cultural life of a weak nation. American imperialism refers to an aggressive expansion policy by the United States of America. The United States wanted to extend its economic and political influence all over the world. Before 1890s they had acquired lands and rights to trade in various foreign places, although the strong imperialist movement started properly in the last decade of 19th century. The dominant motive behind the US imperialism was economical. During this time there was rapid industrial revolution in the US and the economy was growing very fast, such that they were producing more products than they could consume. They therefore wanted to expand the markets for these products as well as establish profitable investment in the foreign nations. The US also wanted to remain competitive throughout the world by conquering many nations. In addition, the US had religious motivation of spreading the Christian civilization to the foreign cultures (Vassilis & Bulent 2005).
The Cubans were among the first people to understand U.S imperialism. In fact Cuba was the first foreign market of America's capitalism where they invested directly in the Cuban industries such as the sugar industry. During this period, Cuba was a Spanish Colony. The Cuban demanded for independence from the Spanish rule and the intervention of America in this matter stirred a dispute between the US and Spain which led to Spanish American war of 1898. The US won the battle and emerged as a new international power. Cuba was freed and the Spanish Empire was dissolved after signing the Paris peace treaty. After defeat the Spanish surrendered Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines to the United States and they became American colonies. Cuba achieved independence from Spanish in 1898 but it only remained nominally independent since the US continued to intervene in Cuban affairs (Spanish-American War, 2009). By 1950s, The U.s controlled about 80% of Cuban utilities, about 90% of its mines, over 95% of its oil refineries, about 90% of the cattle ranches, and about 40% of sugar industry (Raymond 2006)
When Puerto Rico became a colony of America, all the inhabitants of Puerto Rico were granted U.S citizenship in 1917. The Puerto Rico was granted the right to elect governors and they held a referendum to determine if they wanted they own constitution. The 1898 peace treaty of Paris transferred the control of Philippine to the United States from Spain immediately after the end of Spanish- American war. In 1899, the declared war against the United States and it continued up to 1902. The Philippine government pursued the US until they accepted to grant Philippines independence. The process of granting full independence to Philippine was interfered with by the Japanese who occupied the Philippines islands during the Second World War. Philippine gained independence from American in 1946 (Carlos 2000)
American imperialism influenced other nations in economical, political and cultural ways. Those who advocated for imperialism argued that its impacts were positive and have been felt even in the 20th century. One of the impacts is the ideal democracy which was spread to countries like Philippine and Panama. America's involvement in the construction of Panama Canal benefited both the US and Panama. The Americans used the canal as a trade route through the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. The US also helped to restore democracy in Panama by overthrowing dictator Noriega. America maintained democracy and freedom in Puerto Rico after the Spanish American war. They dominated Puerto Rico after the war and took control of its politics and economy and since then Puerto Rico became a common wealth. Today, Puerto Rico has a democratic government and they are supported economically by the US. (The Impact of US Imperialism 2009)
Cultural imperialism of America has been evident in the 20th century. American culture has been spreading to different countries everyday attacking other cultures resulting to a dominant way of life. This can be argued as a case of discrimination against other cultures. Life would be intimidated by having one country to dominantly influence other nation's culture and beliefs. In fact some countries are already feeling this effect of cultural imperialism.
In 1898, The American Anti-Imperialist League was established in the United States to rationalize the American imperialism. This organization criticized imperialism and termed it hostile and evil since it interfered with freedom. It advocated for freedom of liberty and pursuit of happiness for all men irrespective of race or color. The organization further stated that the government was not justified in conquering the Philippine and Cuba. It therefore demanded for immediate cessation of any war against liberty. This was because the US was always in the front line to protest against the international law doctrine which allowed the conquering of the weak by the strong. The Americans Anti-Imperialist League refused to support the American government in any kind of activity that undermines the human dignity. It also proposed that it would not support or elect any person or party that condone imperialism. The organization maintained that a government that exercises its power without the consent of the subjects is not fair. The Anti-Imperialist League was defeated when a public opinion was held during the 1900 election. (Paul 1997)