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The American Foreign Policy

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The American Foreign Policy Works Cited Not Included In the past century American foreign policy has evolved with the
world. Changes were made as new presidents came aboard. Two
incidents that show many differences in foreign policy involve the
Spanish- American War and the conflict in Vietnam during the Cold
War. In 1898 during the Spanish- American War it was said that one of
the reasons our country became involved was because of the sinking of
the USS Maine; and 1949-1991 during the Cold War it was said that our
country went to fight the evils of communism. Although this country’s
foreign policies do change, the results of these policies are very
much the same. Therefore the U.S. foreign policy after the Spanish-
American War and during the Cold War were very similar, both attempted
to spread democracy. However, the true intent of our policies was to
control the economics of other countries.

During the last years of the nineteenth century, the United States
found itself implicated in what John Jay, the American secretary of
state, later identified as a "splendid little war.” This so called
“splendid little war” was referred to be the Spanish- American War.
The Spanish-American War was the short struggle that the United States
pursued against Spain in 1898. The war had developed out of the Cuban
fight for independence. Located only ninety miles from the United
States, many U.S. businessmen owned land in Cuba where sugar and
tobacco was grown, (Solinski, pg4); with this land came strong intents
to protect the business interests. The first Cuban rebellion happened
in 1868. After ten years of fighting, Spain decided to lay out a few
small reforms to quite the rebels. Then afterwards when the island’s
economy collapsed in 1895, Cubans who believed that the Spanish
government was too repressive and ineffective rebelled again. However
this time Spain sent 150,000 troops and General Valeriano Weyer to put
down the uprising. Cuban exiles led by journalist Jose’ Marti later
implored the United States to intervene. President Cleveland as well
as McKinley both refused; reluctant to spend the money and fearing
that the United States could not handle colonial responsibility.
Reacting to the response of the U.S., Cuban guerrillas, soldiers who
fought with surprise tactics, destroyed American sugar plantations and
mills in Cuba; knowing that this method would attract the U.S.
government’s attention. Immediately after the destruction, business
owner applied more pressured on the government to act.

While this was occurring U.S. newspapers influenced the thoughts and
opinions of Americans. Newspaper publishers such as William Randolph
Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer printed horrifying stories of “Butcher”
Weyler and his barbed wire concentration camps. These often
inaccurate and exaggerating reports became known as “yellow
journalism,” which caused the American public to favor the rebellion
(Smolinski, pg6). As a result of yellow journalism jingoism took
place, which was a burst of national pride and a desire for an
aggressive foreign policy.

As time went by the pressure for war grew. Early in 1898 as riots
erupted in Havana, the United States Navy fastened the USS Maine in
the Havana Harbor to help assure the safety of American citizens and
property (Smolinski, pg 9). A few months later the newspapers
published an intercepted letter from the Spanish ambassador that
insulted McKinley and called him weak. Later, on February 15 at nine
forty pm there was an explosion on the Maine that killed more than 250
American sailors. The Maine laid about four hundred yards from the
shore, and the explosion shattered many of the windows in the building
along the wharves. (Walsh, pg 15) After that, an enraged American
public blamed the Spanish for the disaster and called for war. Even
with the immense pressure of the public McKinley still hesitated.

At the same time of the Cuban rebellion the people in the Philippine
Islands, the last possession of Spain, were also rebelling. Theodore
Roosevelt, the assistant secretary of state, saw the Philippines as a
key base where the U.S. can protect its trade with Asia as well as a
good place to set a naval and refueling base for ships. This desire
caused Roosevelt to set military action against Spain while his boss,
the secretary of state, was out of the office. When McKinley found
out about his attended actions, he immediately sent most of the cables
back with the exception of the cable directed by Admiral George
Dewey. McKinley told Dewey to attack the Spanish fleet in the
Philippines if war were to break out with Spain.

In a final attempt for a peaceful solution, McKinley sent a list of
demands to Spain. Within the demands it included compensation for the
Maine, an end to the concentration camps, Cuban independence and a
truce. Though Spain accepted most of the demands and settled to
negotiate about Cuban independence, McKinley could not withstand the
mounting cries for war. On April 11, he requested for the permission
of the Congress to go to war with Spain and a couple of days later
Congress recognized Cuban independence and approved force against
Spain. On May 1, 1898, Admiral Dewey unleashed a surprise attack near
the islands of the Philippines, destroying the entire Spanish Pacific
fleet. Meanwhile in Cuba, the US warships quickly finished off Spain’s
Atlantic fleet in the harbor at Santiago. By July 3 the United States
Navy sank every Spanish ship. In December 1898 the U.S. signed a
treaty with Spain announcing that the Spanish government recognizes
Cuban independence. With an addition of 20 million dollars U.S. also
received Philippines, Puerto Rico and the Pacific islands of Guam. At
the time of receiving these lands US had promised independence for
Philippines and Cuba; however the Philippines didn’t gain independence
until 1946 and Cuba didn’t gain their independence until after the
Platt Amendment.

All wars commence because of a difference in people’s opinions, and
the Vietnam War was no different. The Vietnam War was a vicious war
that affected millions of people in numerous countries. For many
Americans, the war in Vietnam is a bad memory. Millions of Vietnamese
and 58,000 Americans lost their lives in a distant war few people
understood. (Marquette, pg 5) It started because France and a Vietnam
leader, Ho Chi Minh, had a difference in opinion about the type of
government Vietnam should possess.

Vietnam was ruled by France from late 1800s until1939. In 1940 Japan
invaded the country while still fighting a group call the Viet Minh in
Vietnam. The leader, Ho Chi Minh, wanted a free country, where Japan
would leave and France wouldn’t come back. The U.S. helped the Viet
Minh fight the Japanese and by the end of World War II in 1945 the
Japanese had left. Afterwards Ho declared Vietnam to be a democratic
republic; however France didn’t want to lose Vietnam, so they sent in
troops and drove the Viet Minh to the north side of the country (Marquette,
pg 9).

Ho then asked the U.S. to support Vietnam’s independence. However
during this time the U.S. was involved in the Cold War, fighting
communist countries such as Soviet Union and China. Though Ho Chi
Minh valued much of the U.S.’s beliefs he was still a communist and
with the United States fearing that Vietnam would fall to communism
refused to help (Marquette, pg 11). What the U.S. feared most was the
effects of the Domino Theory, the naïve assumption that an entire
region would collapse to the Communists one by one like dominos
(Karnow, pg43). Instead the U.S. decided to assist the French
against the Viet Minh; but the war did not go well for the French, and
after losing major battles the French decided to call for a peace
treaty. Under the treaty, Vietnam was divided along the 17th Parallel
with Ho Chi Minh holding power in the north, while an anti- communist
government in charge of the south. The people in Vietnam would then
be able to vote for the leaders they desired and the French would
leave (Marquette, pg 11).

The U.S. did not support the treaty and as a result chose a man named
Ngo Dihn Diem to become the leader of the southern part of the
country. In 1954, Diem declared that the southern half of the country
would be a new nation, called the Republic of Vietnam. (Marquette, pg
11) In 1955 the United States supported the establishment of the
South Vietnam as a republic with Ngo Dihn Diem as its new president.
It also supported Diem when he refused a North Vietnamese request to
prepare for the elections that were to be held to reunify the
country. Diem’s refusal was based, he said, on the belief that free
elections were impossible in Communist North Vietnam. (Lawson, pg 17)

Viet Minh fighter who lived in the south began to join other people
who opposed the Diem government to form a new group. With the support
of North Vietnam the group became the National Liberation Front
(Lawson, pg68). Diem later referred to these people as the Viet Cong.
What followed then was merely a “battle of the “parallels”- attempts
by both sides to enlarge the zones allotted them and to fill in the
details of the armistice supervisory machinery- all punctuated by
further bad news for the French and Vietnamese as their military
efforts failed and Saigon’s administrative machinery slowly
disintegrated. (Ed. Raskin and Fall, pg 84) When Diem’s army realized
that they couldn’t defeat the Viet Cong, Diem asked for the service of
the U.S. By 1963 there were almost 17,000 U.S. troops in Vietnam,
including several ships and planes. In August 1964 it was said that
gunboats from North Vietnam had fired on U.S. ship. At that moment
President Lyndon Johnson asked Congress for more power to fight the
war. Though the Congress didn’t declare war on Vietnam they passed an
act called the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution (Marquette, pg 13). The
resolution allowed the president to use “necessary” military force in

When more than 1,600 North Vietnamese troops were killed, the U.S.
believed that they had already secured a major victory. However at
the same time the U.S. found itself sending more and more troop to
fight; and by the peak of the war as many as half a million U.S. troop
were in the country. This mad some Americans wonder whether we were
winning or not. As the war escalated U.S. planes bombed targets in
both North and South Vietnam. The bombs meant to destroy the bases
and troop of the North Vietnamese Army as well as the Viet Cong, but
it was often hard to tell which towns were the real targets; this
caused many innocent people to die during the bombings (Marquette, pg

Suddenly in early 1968, the Viet Cong launched a surprise attack that
shocked the America. This attack later grew to be called the Tet
Offensive. The Tet Offensive was a campaign to “liberate” the south
before Ho’s death. (Karnow, pg155) The strike took place in Saigon
during Tet, the Vietnamese New Year. In addition to attacking Saigon,
the capital of South Vietnam, the Viet Cong also tackled the U.S.
Embassy, Tan Son Nhut air base, and the presidential palace. It took
the U.S. three weeks to drive the Viet Cong back out of the city (Marquette,
pg 21). Just after the Tet Offensive President Johnson starts peace
talks with North Vietnam in Pairs. Unfortunately, the talks didn’t go
far giving that South Vietnam’s new president, Nguyen Van Thieu,
declared that he wouldn’t make peace with communists. When Nixon came
to office the talks continued, still neither side could agree on a
plan for peace. Both countries had a difference in opinion; North
Vietnam wanted the U.S. to leave and allow the Viet Cong to have a
role in a new government, while the U.S. wanted all enemy troops to
depart the south (Marquette, pg 33).

As the peace talks sustained President Nixon launches a secret bombing
in Cambodia and by April 1970 the U.S. troops invade the country.
After that in January of 1973 all parties sign a treaty to end the
war. When the treaty was established the U.S. left Vietnam and there
was a cease fire between the North and the South. By 1975 North
Vietnam launches a massive attack on the south, causing them to
surrender and allowing Vietnam to become one communist country (Marquette,
pg 34).

As one can see American foreign policies change through time. Though
there are many differences there is always one true objective that
forever stays, and that objective is to control the economics of other
countries. Throughout the Spanish- American War the U.S. has shown
its dominating influence over Latin America. Even before the war U.S.
held its strong impact in Latin American economics through the Banana
Republics. During this time an American named Minor C. Keith gained
long-term leases for land and railroad lines by providing financial
services to the Costa Rican government. By 1913 Keith’s United Fruit
Company not only exported millions of bananas, but also dominated the
economics and political organizations of Costa Rica, Guatemala, and
Honduras. Therefore Central America became known as the Banana
Republics. Then after the Spanish- American War the U.S. obtained
Cuba and the Philippines, promising them their independence. However
once they actually acquire these areas things changed significantly.
Even though the Teller Amendment stated Cuban independence, the U.S.
involvement in Cuba didn’t stop after the victory over Spain.
McKinley worried about protecting American business interests during
these chaotic times, so as a result he decided to put in a military
government for three years. It only after these three year was Cuba
able to gain independence through the Platt Amendment, but even so the
Cuban government couldn’t enter any foreign agreements, had to allow
U.S. to set up two naval bases on the island, and must give the U.S.
the right to intervene when ever necessary. Meanwhile in the
Philippines, the people too, assumed that they would achieve their
independence since they too were involved in the war, nevertheless the
U.S. decided not to give it to them just yet, giving that McKinley
believed they were unfit for self government. This dispute ended up
with a three year war with Emilo Aguinaldo and other Filipino rebels.
The Philippines didn’t receive their independence until 1946.

These actions with the United States controlling the economics of
other countries continued through the Cold War. An incident that
shows this would be the Vietnam War. During this war the U.S. was
unsuccessful, but still tried to establish its control. While Vietnam
was attempting to become an independent country the United States
intervened to stop the spread of communism. At home the U.S. told the
public that they were trying to stop the evils of communism, but in
reality the U.S. was trying to stop the domino theory, where communism
would cover all of Asia, and with that the U.S. would loose it’s
trade. As shown through two different incidents in history American
foreign policies are overall always the same.

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