The United States of Americas Pursuit of Self-Interest through Foreign Policy The Spanish-American War, The Open Door Policy, and the Control over the Panama Canal Zone

Topics: Panama Canal

America had remained mostly an isolated country until the late 1800’s when the United States was faced with the opportunity of building a colonial empire. By 1890 the United States had begun to expand its influence onto islands in the Caribbean and South Pacific areas. They entered in other countries’ affairs claiming that it served the interests of all peoples and were motivated by idealism. “Inveterate imperialists saw the war as an opportunity to fulfill expansionist dreams…” (Norton 669). In reality, the United States was mostly after its own self-interest.

The Spanish-American War, the United States’ Open Door policy, and the control over the Panama Canal Zone made it unclear if the United States was pursuing its own self-interest or was inspired by idealism.

In the Spanish-American War the United States was fighting for Cuba’s independence from Spain. It was a war that was pushed for by the people. “Many histories of the Spanish American war have said that ‘public opinion’ in the United States led McKinley to declare war on Spain and send forces to Cuba” (Zinn 306).

Though idealism might have been present in the United States’ reasons for war, there is evidence of America’s self-interests in the war. The United States did fight to defend the Cubans but it also fought to profit out of the war. When the war ended and the United States won, it offered Cuba self-government only if they agreed to the terms of the Teller Amendment.

A good example of America’s pursuit for their own advantage in foreign affairs was the Open Door policy.

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China was expected to become a sphere of influence for European nations. The United States had a small percent of trade with China and was hungry for more. They issued the Open Door policy with the goal of preserving equal trading opportunities in China for all foreign nations. The United States was obviously only concerned for their own self-interest rather than the interest other countries trading with China. The United States claimed that they would build the Panama Canal for the advantage of Panama. Roosevelt said that he advanced “the needs of collective civilization” by speeding up the building of an interocean canal. The Canal was built by the United States for the use of the United States. The United States needed a shorter route from one ocean to the other for its warships, which is a perfect example of how The United States was in it for their own benefit.

The United States Argued that American foreign policy was inspired by idealism. Though in some cases it was, like in the Spanish-American War, it was mostly for their advantage. The United States had ended isolation for their benefit. Examples of how this is true is the Open Door Policy and the building of the Panama Canal. My question is, was the Spanish-American war a necessary war? Word Definitions: Robber Baron: a wealthy person who tries to get land, businesses, or more money in a way that is dishonest or wrong Trust: an arrangement in which someone’s property or money is legally held or managed by someone else or by an organization (such as a bank) for usually a set period of time. Vanguard: the group of people who are the leaders of an action or movement in society, politics, art, etc. Magnanimity: the quality of being magnanimous: loftiness of spirit enabling one to bear trouble calmly, to disdain meanness and pettiness, and to display a noble generosity. Hegemony: influence or control over another country, a group of people, etc.

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The United States of Americas Pursuit of Self-Interest through Foreign Policy The Spanish-American War, The Open Door Policy, and the Control over the Panama Canal Zone. (2021, Dec 25). Retrieved from

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