At the turn of the twentieth century, the United States (US) had risen to become a global power. Its economic wealth had helped cement its position in the world. After the second world war, the US and USSR were the sole superpowers. The USSR’s desire to broaden communism to other countries led to deterioration in relations between the powers, leading to the cold war. Several wars that took place during the cold war were proxy wars. The removal of the Berlin wall was the ultimate signal for the conclusion of cold war, and the US was left as the sole superpower. With this came the wish to spread democracy and encourage freedom. However, these policies have proved unpopular in many countries; many critics view the US as world police. This paper examines the history in regards to its rise to global superiority and seeks to demonstrate how its role has changed to become the world’s policeman.
The United States’ foreign policy has evolved over time with different presidents. However, there are some fundamental policies that have remained. The American civil war, which took place in 1861-1865, shaped foreign policy in the United States (US). After the civil war, America preferred to isolate itself as it focused on upgrading the country subsequent to the impact at the conclusion of the war. On the other hand, one of its main goals involved striving to develop the relations with Britain. This led to the acceptance of worldwide arbitration as an element of foreign policy. The US was involved in the Spanish-American war, which ended in 1898 after the liberation of Cuba. As a result, it developed a policy of imperialism and interventionism. Interventionism has featured prominently in subsequent US foreign policies to date. This can be illustrated by the various world events that the US has been actively involved in the last five years.
Before the First World War, the US was primarily concerned with dominating the American continent and the western hemisphere. Later, it shifted its focus to the pacific, acquiring territories such as Hawaii. After the Spanish-American War, it acquired Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and American Samoa. This established it as a global power. In the nineteenth century, the US pursued a policy of expansion taking land from Native Americans and buying territories from European powers. This course of expansion applied under the name manifest destiny. This helped to augment its power. Early on in the twentieth century, the US economy surpassed the European economy. This increased its hard and soft authority in earth politics and the US was on the road to becoming a global super power.
Although the US did not intend to get involved initially in World War I, it was forced into action by Germany. It feared for its interests as Germany engaged in submarine warfare, which was not restricted. After the end of the war, America and its allies emerged victoriously and this solidified its position as a global power. The fact that its resources were influential in ensuring a victory enabled it to be influential. According to Robert Higgs (2005), the United States appeared from World War II both as the world’s richest and most influential (with the most powerful military) of all countries, and its heads soon chose to pursue a lasting strategy of worldwide military commitment in pursuit of perceived “national security”. The US has taken a policing role since the end of the Second World War. The deterioration of the affiliation between the US and the USSR following World War II, precipitated the cold war. Kaufman (2010) stated that;
“During the cold war the primary threat coming from communism was far more than the threat of military attack; communism was also seen as a danger to the democratic ideals and capitalist market economy on which the United States was founded.” (Kaufman, 2010)
The desire of the USSR to spread communism led the US to adopt the policy of containment. The Korean War is an illustration of this policy. The war took place in1950 and ended in 1953. It began after the communist North Koreans with the help of communist china and Russia invaded South Korea. The United States provided most of the military staff for the United Nations activities in Korea. With the assistance of the US, communism was averted in South Korea.
The conflict in Vietnam is also another example of a containment plan. In 1961, John F. Kennedy, believing that communist China was supporting Vietnam, initiated US military action in Vietnam to aid the nationalist government to starve off communist rebellion. (CVCE, 2004). Another example of US policing role is its invasion of Grenada, sometimes referred as operation agent fury, which took place in 1983. Grenada’s prime minister had suffered an overthrow and been held under house arrest. However, mass protests against this action led him to escape detention and regain his authority. Unfortunately, this did not last long as he was captured and assassinated along with his loyal government officials. This led the military to found a military administration. These events inclined the US together with the regional security systems (RSS) to invade Grenada.
One cause for the US’ involvement in the Korean War and the Vietnam War concerned the domino theory. President Harry Truman feared that if Korea became communist then Japan could easily follow. Japan was of economic importance to the US. The US feared the same for Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. They were surrounded by communist China, which wielded a lot of authority in the region. The second reason both the US and the USSR were fighting for superiority. Both conflicts in Vietnam and Korea are examples of proxy warfare conducted by both superpowers. The reason behind the invasion of Grenada was chiefly the good of the US in the region. The US wanted to show Cuba and Nicaragua that it was powerful and influential in that region.
CVCE (2004). The Cold War (1945-1989).
Higgs, R. (2005, April 20). Government and the Economy since World War II.
Kaufman, J.P (2010). A Concise History of US Foreign Policy. United States history