United States - The former years of the 20th Century

cwilko2011 By cwilko2011, 20th Jul 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/2yok22ui/
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>History

A look at the first 50 years of the United States. Conflict, presidency and changing superpowers.

To begin

In deciding whether or not to agree with the statement “US foreign policy between 1898 and 1945 owed more to external events than Presidents, do you agree? It has to be contemplated whether or not the external events were actually of greater importance than the leaders of the US.

One possible argument is that the Presidents crafted the US Foreign Policy directly, which seems to be a simplistic view. A side that could be argued is that the external events influenced the decision of the Presidents. This would show that the foreign policy was more to do with external events. Although each argument that can be presented is also presented with a counter argument.

During the period 1898 to 1945 there are three Wars that contain the US, which have a greater importance over any other occurrence that may have happened throughout this period.

The first being the Spanish – American War of 1898. This was due to external events more that the President. It could be argued that the Monroe Doctrine would call for intervention but the events that were happening outside of America at the time would have had greater importance. The events happening outside America was the fact that Spain was trying to take over the whole of Cuba. The US intervened on the grounds that Spain was in total violation of the Monroe Doctrine. This however is not the direct action of the President. The invasion of Cuba was the reason America really got involved in the conflict. This shows us that external events owed more to the involvement of the US.

The second occurrence of significance is the First World War. America had loaned an immense amount of money to Britain and Germany, the total came over 2.9 Billion dollars in total. The President would have had to arranged the loaning of the money, however the money was loaned in order to give Britain the upper hand, this is also an external event. This paints the picture that although the President played a part in this, it is still of paramount importance to consider whether or not the external events or President played a bigger part in creating the US Foreign Policy.


The third conflict that took place during this 47-year time span is the most significant conflict of the twentieth century. This is the Second World War, to which the US played an imperative part. The US allowed the Western Front destroys the fascist dictatorship of Hitler. The US joined the War in 1941, seemingly to assist its ally Britain. Britain was the only country left on the Western front and America assisted Britain in beating Germany. This shows us that although FDR was protecting America from a German invasion it was the external event of Britain’s immanent defeat, which geared FDR into entering the War.

As shown above, the three major conflicts that happened during the 47-year time span, all have out weighing factors when deciding whether or not they are owed more to external events rather than the actually Presidents.

So far this essay has consisted purely of interpretations of conflicts, in order to portray this argument fully it will be necessary to explore the effects of the US economy and the effect that other World leaders had on US Foreign Policy.

A reason for conflicts such as World Wars One and Two could be related to the economy. Also the US Foreign Policy could be seen as revolving around its own economy. This specific subject could be seen as more concerning with the Presidents but it is also heavily involved with external events.

The US Economy revolves heavily around external countries i.e. Cuba, Britain and South American Countries. This shows us that even the US Economy has to be involved externally, therefore furthering the argument that external events contribute more to the US Foreign Policy than the Presidents. For example, the War conflict with Spain over Cuba was mainly about economy. This is because 86% of the US export went to Cuba at the time, any disruption of this trade agreement could throw the US economy out of sync. Economy has always been seen as a huge factor for conflicts, we see this also in World War One, where America backs Britain in the War because it has leant Britain a lot more money than Germany. This shows a huge bias in the decision; it also shows that Economy controlled more of the US Foreign Policy in this instance rather than the President because a less prude President would have allied with the country it agreed with rather than the country it was more economically tied with. This shows us that external events owed more to US Foreign Policy rather than the actual President.

To Conclude

Another argument to consider is whether or not the leaders of other powers in the World helped determine the Foreign Policy in the US. The first person to consider is Dupuy de Lome, who was not actually a leader of a country but was the Spanish ambassador in America. It could be seen that it was the refusal of President McKinley’s letter to Dupuy de Lome, which fuelled the Spanish American War. Dupuy de Lome rejected the letter from McKinley, therefore angering McKinley into acting. This could be seen as an external event coaxing the President to make the Foreign Policy rather than the President making it out of his own free will. Another leader, which who helped change the US Foreign Policy, is Stalin. Stalin was in ways worse than Hitler, but in saying this Stalin cleverly helped change the US Foreign Policy by being unpredictable. Stalin, changed allies and became allied with America. During the Second World War, Stalin was seen as a tyrannical dictator who was not to be trusted. In order for US Security to remain high the Foreign Policy would have been changed in order to secure this. Neither America nor the USSR trusted each other and had spies in their respective countries, showing an immense amount of mistrust between the two countries. This shows that Stalin helped sculpt the US Foreign Policy in the Second World War without really trying.

Presented throughout this essay is a strong argument that external events played a bigger part in the US Foreign Policy between 1898-1945. It is a naïve argument to state that Presidents owed more to the US Foreign Policy rather than external events as it is external events in any decision that guide said making of decision. I believe that external events owed more to the US Foreign Policy than the actual Presidents. In every walk of life it is external events that ultimately decide whether or not something is done, from a child and their parent to a President and his country.


Cuba, Fdr, Foreign Policy, Spain, Wars

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English Post-grad guy who loves to read.

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author avatar Denise O
21st Jul 2011 (#)

You have given me things to ponder. Nice job. Thank you for sharing.:)

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