Increasingly we see various public statements by Americans as well as foreigners accusing America of being “Imperialistic”. The definition of “Imperialism” is “the policy of seeking to extend the power, dominion, or territories of a nation”. The key word here appears to be “policy” because that infers that the government of the United States has a conscious and defined policy to gain territory (land), to increase its power at the expense of others, or dominate other countries. If this is the policy of any political power or elected official since 1900, it has been a well guarded secret.
In fact, the United States was very isolationist prior to WW I and refused to get engaged in the struggle between Britain, France, and Imperial Germany until 1917. As usual the Europeans made the mess and then turned to the US to clean it up. The US not only brought all of their soldiers’ home, leaving Europe to its own devices, but sent food and treasure to repair the self-inflicted damage. The President of the United States was instrumental in establishing the ineffective League of Nations, which was intended to act as a diplomatic forum to prevent further bloodshed.
The US Senate failed to ratify the League of Nations so America was never part of it. This failure to join the League of Nations was a reflection of the isolationist attitude of America and Americans. Even though the US emerged from WW I as a global power it was unwanted and the role rejected by the US. The League itself degenerated into a debating society that was totally ineffective. The failure naturally was attributed to the failure of America to join. The implication is that had America been a member, America would have used its military power to thwart both Mussolini and Hitler. This represents the first step in the “blame America first” policy that has permeated European politics since 1918. The reality is that following WW I America returned to its peaceful and isolationist state and reduced its military to a token level, a point largely ignored by the Europeans.
The important point here is that the United States, who had the military might to dominate Europe and dictate the peace terms, did not. This is demonstrable proof that the US did not have any interest or policy to dominate or to increase either its territories or power after defeating Imperial Germany. In fact the minimal role played by the US and its failure to exercise its power led to that travesty of the Treaty of Versailles, where the European “powers” punished Germany and carved up the Ottoman Empire, thus assuring the instability and violence that afflicts the Middle East today.
This scenario was replayed again as Germany once again rebelled against the onerous terms of Versailles and rose to power. Once again the Europeans turned to the US to for assistance and once again the United States came to the aid of Europe and crushed Germany and the Axis powers. However, this time the US could not withdraw its troops because Europe remained under threat from the communist USSR. Those troops remain in Germany even now, but at the request of Germany.
In an effort to correct the mistake of not joining the League of Nations, the US led the effort to establish the United Nations. This was in reaction to the charges that the old League had failed because the US failed to join. However, the UN has – like the League before it – degenerated into a debating society that is totally powerless and thoroughly corrupt. It has no military power and has not been successful in preventing any war or keeping any peace anywhere in the world. UN “peacekeepers” are not just ineffective they are generally ignored and attacked when they get in the way of the dictator du jour.
Still the point is that following WW II, Korea, Viet Nam, Grenada, Bosnia, and the cold war, the United States has only grown in power but that has not been the policy of the US government but the result of other nations not being able to defend themselves and looking to the US for assistance in maintaining their sovereignty. Nevertheless, the US has not extended it territory or dominion over other nations. So why is the US accused of being Imperialist? This is addressed in Imperial America II.