America became a Superpower:- The modern United States is the most powerful country in human history with more than 850 military bases and 38% of global military spending
The United States has become the leader of a vastly interconnected global system that has helped usher in an era of unprecedented prosperity and low levels of conflict.
To understand America’s position in the world, and why it is so important to world politics as we know it, you have to go back to the founding of the country – when America was not a global power in any sense of the word.
During the first 70 years of its existence, the United States expanded in both area and influence in North America, eventually reaching the Pacific Ocean in a wave of expansionism, resulting in the wholesale slaughter of the indigenous peoples who populated the continent.
But early Americans were deeply divided as to whether the country should move beyond the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.
This became a major debate after the Civil War, when some leaders, such as the post-war Secretary of State Seward, argued that the US should be pushed to become a global power.
Seward was successful in pursuing plans to buy Alaska from Russia but his attempts to buy Greenland and Iceland as well as the Annex Region in the Caribbean were all blocked by Congress.
This is because some Americans, including many on Capitol Hill, had strong anti-imperialist leanings.
These people were concerned about the US becoming more involved in global politics, as well as integrating populations from “inferior” races.
And this protest put a great hold on the urge for imperial expansion but something was happening in the late 1700s that would change the debate about US expansionism
The Industrial Revolution led to explosive economic growth, and the larger American economy required a more centralized state and bureaucracy to manage the growing economy.
Power became concentrated in the federal government, making it easier for expansionist presidents such as William McKinley to unilaterally push United States influence abroad.
The turning point came in 1898, when President McKinley dragged the country into a war with Spain on the island of Cuba, despite intense opposition.
Rising America easily defeated the dying Spanish Empire, acquiring Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines in the process (1898).
Over the next two years, the US would occupy the Kingdom of Hawaii (1898), Wake Island (1899), and American Samoa (1900).
A few years later the US took control of the Panama Canal Zone 1903 and sent troops to occupy the Dominican Republic 1916, it also purchased the US Virgin Islands 1917.
This period of rapid acquisition of far flung territories put America on the map as a truly global power
During this time, the US began to use its influence to protect its growing commercial and military interests abroad, establishing pro-American regimes in places such as Nicaragua, and becoming a major figure in international diplomacy with regards to the Western presence in China.
Played the part World War I showed how much America’s influence had grown.
Not only was American intervention a decisive factor in the end of the war, but President Wilson participated in the Paris Peace Conference which ended the war and attempted to set the terms of the peace.
He led America’s most ambitious foreign policy initiative to date, an international organization called the League of Nations, designed to promote peace and cooperation globally.
The League, a wholesale effort to rebuild global politics, showed how ambitious American foreign policy had become. Yet separatism was still a dominant force in the United States.
Yet separatism was still a dominant force in the United States. Congress barred the United States from joining the League of Nations, ruining Wilson’s project. America became a Superpower,
During the Great Depression and the rise of Hitler, America was more focused on its territory than on European affairs, however, America’s ever-increasing entanglements abroad made it impossible to remain completely out of global affairs.
In East Asia, the growing Japanese Empire posed a direct threat to American assets and troops, bringing the United States and Japan into conflict.
It culminated in the Pearl Harbor attack, which brought the United States into World War II. World War II would change America’s global presence forever.
The United States was the only major power to avoid economic devastation during the war, and it was the only country equipped with nuclear weapons.
As such, it was in the unique position to set the terms of the peace – and, with another war in mind, took advantage of it. The most famous example of this is the creation of the United Nations.
The Charter of the United Nations established a system of international law prohibiting wars of conquest, like those waged by the Nazis and the Japanese.
It also served as a forum in which the international community could weigh disputes, and help resolve them.
In this way, the Americans hoped, the great powers could settle their differences through agreement and law rather than through war.
But while the United Nations is the most famous of the post-war institutions, it is not the only one. 730 delegates from all 44 Allies came together in a small holiday home in New Hampshire.
Goal Establish a global financial system that could prevent another Great Depression and World War I.
The resulting agreement, called the Bretton Woods Agreement, eventually became the backbone of the global financial system.
Results in the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
By creating these institutions the United States committed itself to becoming deeply involved in the problems of the world.
The point, however, is that the world’s second largest power, the Soviet Union, saw things differently.
World War II drew allies from the Democratic West and the Communist East in the fight against Hitler, but it did not last. America became a Superpower,
The United States saw Soviet expansion in Eastern Europe and elsewhere as a direct threat to its vision of a free trade world.
To a large extent, in one form or another socialism has cast the shadow of human regiments over most of the earth and the shadow is encroaching upon our own freedoms.
Fearing Soviet intentions toward Western Europe, the US and other European countries created the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a military alliance aimed at preventing Russia from invading other countries in Europe.
Globally, the US is committed to a strategy called “containment” – so called because it was intended to stop the spread of communism everywhere in the world.
This new global conflict meant that America had to maintain its influence everywhere, at all times.
Instead of breaking down the huge military machine built for World War II, its wheels mostly kept spinning. This had two main consequences:
first, the US was drawn into unlikely alliances with countries such as Saudi Arabia, Israel and South Korea, each of them viewed as protection against communist influence in their region.
Second, the US began intervening in dozens of countries, often covertly, to control Soviet influence.
Sometimes this meant raising sympathetic dictators in Iran, other times supplying arms and money to rebels such as Afghanistan in 1979 and Nicaragua in 1985.
During the Cold War, America intervened in hundreds of disputes around the world, ending with a complex cluster of alliances, tensions and ties in basically every corner of the Earth.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, America could withdraw from this system, sever ties with its allies and reduce the size of its army.
And while America spent military, much of the military infrastructure and alliances from the Cold War war remained. America became a Superpower,
Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton decided that it was in the interest of both America and the world for the United States, now the only superpower on Earth, to continue to actively manage global affairs.
“We must be and we must be peacemakers” NATO, created solely as a tool to counter the Soviet Union, a way of keeping European nations united in the absence of the Soviet threat, stayed together and even that also expanded.
Washington’s support for countries such as Israel and Japan remained intact, apparently as a means of preventing war in those regions.
The global system of alliances and institutions created during the Cold War to keep the peace became permanent—as did the American military and political commitments needed to keep them running.
The system is still in place today, and since the Cold War no major American politician has seriously called for their abolishment—except, perhaps, for Donald Trump.
Trump has said contradictory things about these commitments But he has consistently argued that US allies are not paying the US enough for its security and questioned the value of free trade.
This puts NATO and even the World Trade Organization in question. At some point we have to say you know what we are better off if Japan defends itself against this madman in North Korea.
Are we better off if South Korea is going to start protecting itself – and Saudi Arabia? – Saudi Arab? Absolutely.
It is a sharp deviation from the consensus that has dominated US foreign policy since 1945, and closer to some of the isolationism that came before it.
So will President Trump act on some of candidate Trump’s ideas, and reverse decades of institution building and alliances? America became a Superpower, We’ll find out, very soon.