American Empire: The Domestic and International Ramifications of U.S. Imperialism
The pervasive influence of late nineteenth and twentieth century America remains a potent topic of discussion. Today some writers of globalization talk of America’s economic and cultural influence, but fail to mention its past “informal empire”. As many scholars argue, this erasure obscures a more complex and contradictory past. Under historical scrutiny, the benevolence of American empire fades, replaced by a more mechanistic racialized apparatus. This informal empire peaked in the period from 1898 to the 1920s, but its influence remained as did the US presence throughout its former colonial subjects.
Though initially, many viewed the influence of empire as a unidirectional process in which western powers like the U.S. carried civilization and economic development to backward peoples, historians now emphasize the multi-directional nature of imperialism. Imperial powers found their nations altered racially and socially as newly colonized people migrated to the metropole. The infusion of race and religious difference sparked numerous events and movements. Moreover, the American model of empire folded ideas about gender, domesticity, race, and citizenship into a complex, contradictory mix that created relational identities, ideological conflicts, and unintended consequences. The transnational nature of imperial relations transformed national identities while suggesting American exceptionalism proved not that exceptional as the United States model replicated many aspects of its European counterparts.
The consequences of two world wars along with rising anti-colonial movements in Asia and Africa undermined the foundations of imperialism. However, the post WWII Cold War greatly affected relations between the United States, USSR, China, Cuba, and the developing world. Again, as with the informal empire of an earlier period, Cold War maneuvering resulted in domestic consequences tied discretely to America’s foreign endeavors. Moreover, the Third World resistance movements and New Left of American and European campuses emerged in dialogue with one another over the failures of their governments and leaders, engaging the third world in transnational protests that had previously been viewed as unconnected.
Over the course of the past century into the current epoch, historians have viewed the above developments in numerous ways. If the consensus school attempted to construct an American ideal in the face of Cold War tensions, the latter social historians of the 1960s and 1970s looked to recover the histories of marginalized peoples and groups, questioning the Consensus School and the governments that came into being post WWII. The postmodern and transnational turn of the 1980s and 1990s shifted to a study of discourse and structures, emphasizing the connectedness of ideas and movements across the globe where previous histories had confined studies to discrete nation states. In this new amalgamation, several historians noted that though the U.S. no longer imposed formal empire at gun’s length, post WWII economic changes in international finance secured American financial dominance which along with Cold War conflicts created a new template for empire, one masked by international organizations such as the World Bank or IMF whose rules favor U.S. interests.
Writing in 1959, William Appleman Williams surveyed the wreckage of U.S. diplomacy from the Spanish American War to the quagmire of Southeast Asia. Long dominated by elites, U.S. foreign policy bred the very problems that Americans had argued they wanted to export: democracy, self-determination, and the development of laizze faire capitalism. Williams found that much of U.S. foreign policy undermined its stated goals, shifting taxpayer money in support of the expansion of private American industries into developing nations (China, Philippines). The use of “informal empire” did little to assuage the raw feelings of native populations (not necessarily indigenous here), thus Williams opens his introduction with reflections on the reasons for Cuba’s 1959 Communist Revolution. The inability of policymakers, government officials, and the U.S. public itself to consider the viewpoints of those nations it so “generously” aided, contributed to the tragedy of U.S. policy.
By the late nineteenth century, fears regarding the closing of the frontier, most notably in relation to Frederick Jackson Turner’s safety valve thesis, resulted in the pervasive belief that the United States needed to expand in order to solve its domestic problems. The need for markets drove much of this discourse as many policymakers, farmers, and others pushed for economic expansion, “By 1895, many individuals and groups were stressing the importance of expansion as a way to solve domestic economic problems” (1). However, America and its representatives claimed to abhor European colonialism/imperialism and its ramifications on the free market. Thus, United States policymakers drafted the Open Door Notes (2) which according to Williams drove U.S. foreign policy for much of the 20th century. Though at the time of its initial publication, many historians portrayed the battle over this policy as internal and one that occurred between “imperialists led by Roosevelt and Lodge and anti-imperialists led by William Jennings Bryan, Grover Cleveland, and Carl Schurz,” Williams argues that this depiction remains inaccurate. Rather a third group “a coalition of businessmen, intellectuals, and politicians who opposed traditional colonialism and advocated instead a polity of an open door through which America’s preponderant economic strength would enter and dominate all underdeveloped areas of the world” emerged as the catalyst and ultimate winner in this debate. (3) Williams acknowledges the brilliance of this maneuver while noting that its success contributed to its downfall, “If it ultimately failed, it was not because it was foolish or weak, but because it was so successful. The empire that was built according to the strategy and tactics of the Open Door Notes engendered the antagonisms created by all empires, and it is that opposition which posed so many difficulties for American diplomacy after World War II.” (4)
Initially at least, reformers did not embrace this new policy, however by the mid 1890s most were on board even mimicking the rhetoric of politicians, “Missionaries came to sound more and more like political leaders, who were themselves submerging their domestic ideological differences at the water’s edge in a general agreement on expansion as a reform movement.” (5) The convergence of the reform movement along with the support of business led to a strange development in which U.S. expansionism came to be seen by its practitioners as providing the bundled benefits of democracy/civilization/order and a developed capitalist economic system that would bring financial prosperity to all. However, there were implicit contradictions in this approach. (6) First, the capitalism imported or brought to such peoples inherently benefited US manufacturers over all others, while keeping the state under “informal empire” in a dependency status. No laissez faire economy could develop. Second, though by WWI, this policy claimed to be exporting self-determination, the U.S. position in each region’s economic and political affairs clearly undermined this goal. (7) American business leaders in this period continue to play a key role. For example, the need for large scale capital accumulation which was necessary in order to invest in developing markets remained out of reach for many. However, financiers and industrialists lobbied the state for loans and grants. Some favored an international consortium, which scholars might take for early multilateralism, but in reality, US business leaders assumed they would dominate such a consortium revealing a long thread related to U.S. international action .(8) Thus, by the WWI period, Americans had developed “an all encompassing conception of the world. Americans could not only conquer nature, but they could put their self interest to work to produce the well being and harmony of the world. Their theory not only held that they could do these things; it asserted the natural necessity of action. Any other course violated natural law and thus subverted the harmony of interests.” (9)
The period between 1912 and 1921 did alter conceptions. (10) The emergence of social revolutions threatened U.S. imperialist structures. Since the relationship between foreign markets and U.S. domestic prosperity had been naturalized these uprisings represented a direct threat to U.S. policy/beliefs. As such, the U.S. developed a heightened fear of such revolutions that would infect its decision making for decades afterward including the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Vietnam War.
William’s work reframed not only American historiography, but also influenced leading individuals and programs within it. For example, Williams rehabilitates Herbert Hoover, illustrating that FDR more or less adopted Hoover’s foreign policy of development in which U.S. expansionism must raise the economic fortunes of all peoples not just one class. As such FDR’s Good Neighbor Policy envisioned a similar goal thus they extended Hoover’s idea to developmental loans to Latin America. New Deal trade policies illustrate the continuity of the Open Door thesis: 1) it reinvigorated, extended, sustained the tradition “view of overseas economic expansion 2) “the emphasis on trade expansion, and upon the Open Door Policy, served to define the nature and the causes of danger and conflict in international affairs …by externalizing good, so also was evil externalized: domestic problems and difficulties became issues of foreign policy …” 3) “it sustained and even deepened, the pattern of free trade imperialism or informal empire that had evolved out of British economic policy in the nineteenth century.” (11) Note that another problem created by this policy was the creation of pockets of “modernism” such that U.S. “colonies” featured centers of economic development surrounded by areas of economic depression highlighting U.S. interference and its unequal benefits.
One of the key aspects to Williams’ reframing of U.S. foreign policy involves his use of the Open Door Policy as a continued force on US diplomacy. For example, he argues the US already contemplated war with Japan and Germany prior to Pearl Harbor because of the belief that the U.S. needed to continue expanding its markets. The influence of corporate leadership within FDR’s administration and outside of it remained a potent force. Similarly, the Cold War containment policies were actually an expression of U.S. economic superiority such that American policy makers believed that they could create footholds in Eastern Europe allowing for economic dominance, which in turn could lead to political control. Williams contends few feared real war with the USSR, “The emphasis on open door expansion and the assumption of the inevitable downfall of the Soviet Union again indicated that American leaders were not motivated by fear of Russian military attack.” (12) Moreover, according to Williams, U.S. anti-Soviet propaganda poisoned relations and the public view of the USSR, contributing to its repressive policies in Eastern Europe and elsewhere. Here, Williams illustrates one of his main points, U.S. policy failed to view events from the perspective of its fellow nations. This extended to the American public. An inability to conceptualize the difficulties of other nations while focusing excessively on the needs of the U.S. created a diplomacy that lacked awareness. This led to the U.S. overplaying its hand with the leaders of the USSR who in turn took increasingly rigid positions against U.S. intentions. The threat of nuclear annihilation by prominent American diplomats toward their Russian counterparts did little to ease such concerns. Moreover, U.S. propaganda portrayed the USSR as totalitarian before the fact meaning the public already ascribed to it a brutality it had not yet achieved. Of course, one might quibble with such conclusions, one wonders if he might change some of his tone toward the USSR in light of what historians now know of Soviet brutality. This is not to say his somewhat naïve position invalidates his critiques of US policy rather it acknowledges that the USSR was probably neither as evil as its harshest critics maintain nor as good as some of its defenders suggest.
In relation to the 1920s, policy makers of the 1960s mirrored their predecessor’s mistaken evaluation of social revolutions. (13) As such, Americans blamed all that was wrong in the world and sometimes domestically on the USSR without assessing their own contributions to such problems. Even policymakers like George Kennan had so internalized the Open Door policy that it seemed natural, “perhaps the greatest is the fact that he had so internalized the assumptions and principles of the Open Door Policy that he thought he was proposing a radically different program. This indeed is the final act in the transformation of a utopia into an ideology.” (14) William Appleman William’s shot across the historical bow led to numerous denuncations by more traditional writers who critiqued his work for its Marxist political leanings, while other scholars labeled Williams an outright communist. Still, some critics argued William’s view of Soviet intentions appeared naïve. America in the World: The Historiography of American Foreign Relations Since 1941, a collection of essays on the state of post WWII American diplomatic history, opens with an acknowledgement to William’s contributions (though several prominent historians — among them John Lewis Gaddis — found Williams extrapolations problematic) then proceeds in its first sections to debate the postmodern and transnational turn in diplomatic history. Melvyn Leffler credits Williams with connecting domestic concerns with foreign policy, a trend he encourages, but suggests recent developments in cultural history have contributed to the field’s fragmentation.
If the 1950’s featured the work of “Consensus School” scholars, the 1960s-70s marked by social turmoil, new populations attending graduate school (think lower and low middle income students, more women and people of color), and a greater attention to social history generally produced what scholars like Gaddis might decry as fragmented uneven account of diplomacy.
The book runs through the historiography of numerous categories – American foreign relations, WWII diplomacy, the use of the atomic bomb, origins of the Cold War in Europe and the Near East, views of the Korean War since 1980, Eisenhower revisionism, JFK, Vietnam, Foreign relations since 1969, synthesis of Latin American foreign relations with the US since WWII, America and the Middle East since 1945, the Cold War in Asia, American economic diplomacy, and the history of American intelligence since 1945. Each proves useful regarding its particular area of concern. Additionally, the terms “revisionist” and “post-revisionist” along with their meanings are highly related to context and what arguments came before. A revisionist view of JFK might be post -revisionist if the categorization were different. However, each article fleshes out the various conclusions and directions the particular category has explored.
As previously mentioned, the book’s first section proves of great interest in terms of considering transnational and postmodern turns in the field. Hogan, Bruce Cummings, Michael H. Hunt, and Melvyn P. Leffler debate the present state and future of diplomatic history from a more theoretical standpoint. Additionally, though not directly present in the discussion, the works and ideas of John Gaddis prove to be a polarizing force in the debate. Gaddis and others decry the post-modern turn in diplomatic history. The criticisms run as follows – the influence of postmodernism has led some historians to neglect archives focusing too resolutely on theory while simultaneously allowing their own political beliefs to warp their scholarly attentions. Leffler furthers this criticism suggesting that though race and gender need to be incorporated into diplomatic histories, postmodern historians have taken the two categories too far in isolation, causing fragmentation and loss of synthesis. Calling for greater integration of political economy, geopolitics, culture, ideology, and gender, Leffler clearly wishes to expand the scope of diplomatic history while maintaining a sense of cohesion. Rather than see the postmodern as a challenge or threat, Leffler appears to view its value as a complimentary force.
In contrast, Michael H. Hunt notes the defensive crouch many in the field seem to have taken. According to Hunt, diplomatic historians have felt the criticism of their “antiquated” methodology (too much focus on elites and nation-states) and lack of theory. Regarding the fragmentation of the field, Hunt locates three general practitioners. First, the realist – state as the central unit/historical actor, a downplaying of economic and cultural factors with a tent to exhibit national-gender-class bias in part due to the privileging of elites in research. Pre-occupied with the nation state and archives (apparently guilty of not reading sources “against the grain” or considering the inherent biases of archives themselves), realists allow state policy and the like to occupy to much territory at the expense of other equally important factors., “Perhaps the most troubling of realism’s deficiencies are its questionable categories of analysis and its ahistorical interpretive themes.” Second, Hunt identifies the “progress tradition” which in turn birthed the corporatist approach (which editor Michael Hogan helped to establish). Such a methodology attempted to connect domestic policy with foreign policy. One of the earliest examples of this tactic remains William Appleman Williams The Tragedy of American Diplomacy . (16) The Progressive tradition never coalesced into a single group but rather splintered into three separate branches with corporatism becoming one its most prominent strains. (17) Finally, the rise of the internationalist school marks to a great extent the transnational turn in diplomatic history. A highly pluralistic formulation, the international approach encourages the incorporation of cultural factors in analysis and proves especially good at revealing “the pervasiveness and dangers of ethnocentrism in historical writing no less than in policymaking.” (18) Moreover, “the very diversity of this international research agenda has given rise to a rich array of interpretive frameworks and research strategies. The best known of these is the multiarchival approach to US relations with the other Great Powers … [others] have stressed the importance of the transmission and impact overseas of American popular culture and of the hegemony of U.S. media.” (19) Like other writers, Hunt concludes that diplomatic history must take into account non-US state centered perspectives. (20)
Addressing the ambition of Williams while adhereing to the concerns of Leffler, Thomas Bender Paul Kramer and others have pursued distinctly transnational approaches, while also attempting to account for issues of gender and race. (21) For example, Kramer’s The Blood of Government: Race, Empire, the United States, and the Philippines rejects tropes of U.S. exceptionalism suggesting U.S. imperial policies followed a similar trajectory to those of their imperial predecessors. Moreover, Kramer’s multiarchival approach provides a transnational perspective that reasserts some of Williams’ key arguments among them that U.S. efforts remained driven by economic concerns. Finally, Kramer’s work presents a colonial situation that grants agency to Filipinos while illustrating the role of local elites many of whom collaborated and others who resisted (though in fairness resistance probably emerged to a much greater degree among non-elites/non-Christian Filipinos).
The Philippines have long endured the interference of imperial powers. After U.S. forces helped to drive the Spanish out, some believed a new era of independence had begun to emerge; only to be thrown down the rabbit hole of “informal empire” by American forces until after WWII. Along the winding path to self-determination, Filipinos themselves negotiated imperial spaces/logics, accepted U.S. racial formations, and the “politics of representation” only to find that American policy makers continued to vascillate on the issue of independence finally granting Filipinos their autonomy negatively, as protectionist economics and racial nativism combined to create an independence lobby that failed to see Filipinos as equals but rather as interlopers and degenerate peoples that threatened American finance and culture.
Kramer’s work spans the later stages of Spain’s collapse to the 1930s. The Blood of Government clearly illustrates the efforts of US imperialists who consciously promoted the martial skills of Filipino allies during the Spanish American War only to turn on them following its conclusion, presenting them as an unreliable and childlike military force in need of guidance.
Interestingly, Kramer attempts to explore the emerging illustrado diaspora/existence. The creation of the steamship and Spain’s willingness to allow some Filipinos to migrate to the metropole and other regions, created a diaspora that privileged its cosmopolitanism, envisioning a central role in the administration of an independent Philippines. The Blood of Government places special focus on the work of native writers in all periods whom engaged in a multivalent process of refuting imperial claims, sometimes harnessing them for their own particular uses (22) while creating a “Filipino” identity. (23) Perhaps one of the most dominant intellectual figures, and one whose interpretation varied with the time period was Jose Alonzo y Rizal whose early works resonated with ilustrados whom embraced his ideas as their own. Ultimately, nearly all Filipinos would come to claimed him at one time or another for their various causes. Rizal paradoxically even found acceptance from US officials in the 20th century. Much of American policy and relations between Filipinos and policy makers rested on what Kramer argues were the “politics of recognition,” in which American acknowledged the ilustrado population and its “capabilities” as “little Brown Brothers” under the rubric of “Benevolent Assimilation” meaning that US officials would recognize ilustrado power/significance of the moment while waiting to bestow on them formal independence when they illustrated the requisite characteristics. One of the many problems with such formulations rests in the fact that though Filipino elites managed some control over representation, the interpretation of such ideas remains relatively uncontrolled, thus later when the St. Louis World’s Fair of 1903 displayed a Filipino exhibit that highlighted the non-Christian aspects of the archipelago, some Americans drew the wrong conclusion, disappointing US officials and ilustrados alike. This familial form of inclusionary racism competed with evolutionary, and tutelage tropes all justifying US occupation. Each enabled the US to present itself as a benevolent informal empire . Here Kramer seems to embrace Williams in that this seems to be the rub in The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, an inability to locate the frailties or corruption of such an approach. Controlling the post war Philippines meant engaging ilustrados, convincing them “that they were “brothers” and not “serfs” and simultaneously explain to them why they were unready for the rigors and responsibilities of self-government. U.S. officials also had to be able to explain to racist anti-imperialists why the assimilation of Filipinos would be successful and post no threat to the United States itself. The result was an inclusionary racial formation that brought metaphors of family (24), evolution (25), and tutelary assimilation into a gradualist, indeed indefinite, trajectory of Filipino “progress” toward self-government.” (26) Throughout the long occupation, US policymakers constantly balanced the need to convince Filipinos of their intentions while convincing hostile elements domestically that its annexation/incorporation proved no threat. Moreover, US attempts to cloak empire as “informal” depended on the participation of Filipino elites such that “the politics of recognition was especially attractive to collaborating elites who could both follow its stipulations and employ them to accelerate or delay the counterimperial transfer of sovereignty in ways that bolstered their own power.” (27) Collaboration both provided the cover and hierarchies for imperial control but also hid the permanence of occupation behind this tacit agreement between elites and US officials. Additionally, this collaboration along with what Kramer labels “fiesta politics” would not have been feasible within the continental U.S. as the St. Louis World’s fair ruckus illustrated. Race relations in the Philippines, though obviously paternalistic and discriminatory, in many ways exceeded those of America’s mainland.
As Kramer argues in his introduction, one of the innovations that The Blood of Government provides involves the transnational character of US- Filipino relations. Kramer continually illustrates how domestic events in the United States come to bear on the Philippines. More than the thoughts/concerns of policymakers emerge; Kramer illustrates the influence of California’s harsh nativist movement on labor and broader immigration issues. Additionally, domestic agricultural producers by the 1920s viewed the Philippines as a competitor, lobbying for its independence. Ironically, independence came not as a result of US acknowledgement of “progress” or “capability” (28) but as the culmination of racial nativism and agribusiness/labor protectionism. Racial exclusion developed as the primary catalyst for Filipino independence., an independence that was signed in 1932 but in reality delayed true autonomy for nearly 10 years.
Another of Kramer’s key points regards the effect such racial formulations had on Filipinos and the U.S. Few in the US, racist anti-imperialists being an exception perhaps, recognized the multi-directional nature of empire. The uni-directional approach that so many assumed found itself foundering on increased immigration to the United States as racial nativists viewed this migration hostilely as part of the “third wave” of Asian invasion (obviously nativists failed to distinguish between different nationalities/ethnicities within Asian culture hence the “Asian invasion” trope). The sexual threat that Filipino men represented to their white counterparts sparked violence and in some cases death. Of course, this sort of sexual fear drove many nativists of the period. Moreover, Filipinos of the 1930s and 1940s had been raised under “benevolent assimilation” which cast American in idealistic and unrealistic terms. The history of struggle against American forces no longer existed (erasure through education) such that Filipino immigrants to the US articulated a sanitized version of US-Philippines history, while remaining shocked at the overt racism that few American educators in the Philippines bothered to mention. Additionally, as has been mentioned, decades of colonial nationalism and an inclusionary racial formation, encouraged elites to adopt similar mechanisms of control, replacing the former U.S. hierarchies with their own that privileged Christian Filipinos over others comparing its non-Christian/Muslim/Animist counterparts as akin to Native Americans, meaning Filipino elites played the role of white imperialist.
The only real criticism one might profer here remains that though he discusses the non-Christian peoples of the Philippines, he never really explains who they are, what they do. Granted it would seem they remain a primarily agrarian society but is that how they were or simply how they were envisioned/portrayed? Do they have a voice? Kramer gets at neither of these issues, only acknowledging the marginalization of such groups. Still, though significant, it fails to undermine the work, which ambitiously traces the transnational history of US-Filipino relations.
Gender and Sexuality
Joan Scott’s “Gender as a Useful Category of Analysis” did not initiate the shift toward gender as an analytic, but it brought the practice to a greater audience. The utility of using gender to reveal power relations through language and symbols such as the gendered discourse around imperialism merged with transnational approaches to reevaluate U.S. colonialism of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Theorists such as Michele Foucault and Edward Said emerged as clear influences shifting historian’s attentions to discourse, cultural production, and structure. Said’s insight that Western portrayals of the East reveled much more about the West than its object of attention, has found numerous practitioners. In this new framework, the tentacles of imperialism still reach far and wide but the consequences of imperial expansion extend to imperial powers. The resulting effects often emerge in numerous ways, not least among them in cultural production. Focusing on the cultural productions of popular fiction, film, media, and recognized authors, Amy Kaplan’s The Anarchy of Empire in the Making of U.S. Culture challenges the “traditional understanding of imperialism as a one way imposition of power in distant colonies” calling attention to “ambiguities and contradictions of imperial relations in the formation of national culture.” (29) Kaplan explores the influence of international struggles for imperial domination on “representations of American national identity at home,” (30) meaning that “domestic metaphors of national identity” remain connected to “renderings of the foreign and the alien.” (31)
Kaplan opens with debates over Puerto Rico’s status noting how numerous leaders feared bringing the island nation into the national sphere because of its nonwhite population. Rather than view the Puerto Rico case in the context of the international, Kaplan points out that it eventual inclusion as a territory related to concerns over degradation to U.S. citizenry and family. The eventual solution made Puerto Ricans “foreign” in the “domestic sense” much like Blacks under Jim Crow. (32) By doing so, the U.S. made American imperialism a legitimate defensive act. Not necessarily in the case of Puerto Rico, but more broadly, American officials justified imperial ambitions as a means to protect U.S. interests and “defend/save” a weaker nation from anarchy. (33) Racialized discourse served as a central theme in the debates, however , “racialized analogies that empire deployed at home and abroad created dissonance as well as resonance, as they mutually defined and destabilized one another.” (34) The “nightmare” of imperialism ironically related to its successes, the further the U.S. pushed outwards the more it would have to find ways to incorporate non-white peoples which introduced the foreign, removing the domestic. Imperialism served to disrupt the imperial power in numerous ways, “’the anarchy of empire’ … suggests ways of thinking about imperialism as network of power relations that changes over space and time and is riddled with instability, ambiguity, and disorder, rather than as a monolithic system of domination that the every word ‘empire’ implies.” (35) The more America expanded its exceptionalism to the world the more it shattered the “coherence of national identity, as the boundaries that distinguish it from the outside world promise to collapse.” (36)
The Anarchy of Empire notably attempts to juxtapose imperial expansion with domestic debates over Jim Crow, segregation, slavery and Reconstruction. It also utilizes gender as a lens through which to explore the various ways masculinity and femininity served to legitimize expansion. For women, as numerous historians have noted, imperial adventure provided a space for their civilizing influence. Domesticity as promoted through imperial adventure, “extended not only to racially foreign subjects inside and outside the home, but also to the interiority of female subjectivity …” (37) By extending the “female sphere”, it no longer remained a bounded or rigidly ordered interior space. Domesticity’s double meaning as an interior home space and a domesticating of the wild fit well into imperial ambitions, if men’s actions drove imperialism, women’s innate moralism legitimized its results, “Not a retreat from the masculine sphere of empire building, domesticity both reenacts and conceals its origin in the violent appropriation of foreign land.” . (38)
Mark Twain emerges as one of Kaplan’s central foils. For Kaplan, Twain’s interest lay in his relation to America through empire or as Kaplan argues, “In his journey to Hawaii in 1866, Twain both displaced and discovered the origins of his own divided national identity at the intersecting global routes of slavery and empire.” (39) Kaplan’s Twain found his “homespun” qualities woven from “the tangled threads of imperial travel …. Twain’s career writing, and reception as a national author were shaped by … the routes of transnational travel, enabling and enabled by the changing borders of imperial expansion.” (40) While visiting Hawaii, Twain appeared consumed by death and disease. He recognizes the devastation brought to natives via European disease but often engages in various forms of erasure that cloak the imperial history. Kaplan suggests Twain engaged in imperial nostalgia “the longing to salvage an imagined pristine, pre-colonial culture by the same agents of empire – missionaries, anthropologists, travel writers – who have had a hand in destroying it. Imperialist nostalgia disavows the history of violence that yokes the past to the present.” (41) Imperial nostalgia might free Twain from considering the interconnections between empire and slavery. Though attempting to erase or forget much of the imperial history surrounding him, Twain remained keenly aware of the economic issues that might benefit US interests promoting a steamship line to Hawaii and its sugar production. American intervention for Twain served “as liberation from the stranglehold of Old World empires, Twain represented Hawaii as a passive arena and lucrative reward for the contest between American and European powers in the Pacific.” (42) Feminizing Europe and masculinizing America left indigenous Hawaiians void, non-actors in their own history. Hawaiian women occupy spaces in Twains mind relating equally to disease, death, and sexual licentiousness. For Kaplan Twain’s views on native women “turns both the bodies of native women and the remains of the dead into exotic sites for the projection of colonial desire, sites apparently frozen in time and divorced form the historical struggles over colonization in which his journey is enmeshed. Twain’s eroticization of Hawaii renders colonial desire as a kind of necrophilia.” (43) The displacement of responsibility for the spread of disease is neatly reassigned to native women rather the European missionaries and explorers. In the history of colonial struggle, Twain could not resist connecting such travails as reflective of America’s recent difficulties with slavery. In his later writings, Hawaii remained a central factor in how Twain confronted the “legacy of slavery in post-Reconstruction America and the history of imperialism and capitalist development abroad.” (44)
Theodore Roosevelt and the “yellow press” emerge no less unscathed. Though crediting newspapers for exciting American desires for war in 1898, Kaplan redirects her examination to look at film and the historical novels of the 1890s. Imperial films provided a way to create a linear narrative form with images. For natives this meant erasure, invisibility, and incompetence as nonwhite forces found themselves portrayed as lazy, incompetent or simply vacant. Just as “spectacle” had been a necessary aspect of imperialism’s gendered civilizing process (men had to compete or struggle under the feminine gaze to give both meaning in the imperial context), films provided audiences ways to view and think about imperialism and its occupied subjects. Viewing the films themselves removed women and others from their domestic spheres, “If the spectacle of war provided a safe way for women to enter a public sphere of global mobility, in turn the oppositional potential of this public sphere might have been harnessed and disciplined by the activity of watching war films.” (45) Teddy Roosevelt realized the importance of spectacle in his attack on San Juan Hill. Reports that black soldiers saved his rough riders from certain annihilation received at best a lukewarm response from the future president. To illustrate this mentality, Kaplan explores Roosevelt’s paternalist attitudes toward black soldiers. He acknowledges them as Americans subordinating them to second class status. Film and media reports obscured Cuban agency as native actors were ignored or portrayed as detached, non-participants in their own war of liberation (this has to do with U.S. formulations that suggested only the U.S. could have successful orderly revolution, that US imperialism brought law and stability to such regions). Kaplan carefully points out that not all colonial subjects and minorities received monolithic treatment by men such as Roosevelt, “Roosevelt … suffered a double vision: on the one hand identifying African Americans with, and on the other hand differentiating them from, the imagined unassimulable Cubans, Filipinos, and Puerto Ricans.” (46) Kaplan also illustrates a cruel ironic twist to such excursions. Though Blacks found themselves unfairly racialized and discriminated against, several leaders suggested that military service would gain Blacks equal citizenship, among them W.E.B. DuBois. In this way, like Williams and as will be examined Alison Sneider, Kaplan locates the importance of expansion for America’s internally oppressed peoples and their claim to citizenship. Extending Williams argument regarding foreign policy as a salve for domestic ills, Sneider and Kaplan illustrate reformers perceptions of expansion as way to reform US while reinforcing gender and racial roles. Simultaneously women and blacks used the same imperialism to prove their citizenship leading to countervailing forces in which some suffragists, as clearly conveyed by Sneider, employed racist arguments to justify their own right to vote. Essentially, newer works have applied gender analytics and a cultural approach in order to reveal the connectedness of domestic hopes and foreign policy efforts.
Like the efforts of Kaplan and Sneider, Laura Briggs work Reproducing Empire: Race, Sex, Science, and U.S. Imperialism in Puerto Rico connects colonial histories to that of domestic issues affecting imperial powers, “colonialism was not something that happened ‘over there,’ with little or no effect on the internal dynamics and culture of the imperial power itself …. On the contrary, colonialism has had a profound effect on the culture and policy of the mainland.” (47) Gender and sexuality serve as critical lens from which to examine ideas of citizenship (for both mainland Americans and Puerto Ricans), the impact of colonial policy on American domestic policies, and the symbolism of Puerto Rican bodies themselves in the imagery of nationhood/citizenship.
As with other recent histories, the nation state does not serve as Briggs fundamental unit of analysis. Rather Briggs traces developments in sexual regulation across empires and regions. Sexual regulation of women did not rise and fall with the American Empire. Rather Briggs carefully traces the transnational developments between empires and colonies that provided the foundation of future U.S. policies from the nineteenth century British Contagious Disease Acts to the segregated districts of American cities in the early decades of the 20th century. Reproducing Empire argues that an international policy of prostitution regulation developed in these years. Subsequently, it became very easy for venereal disease to be associated with such occupations and the populations officials believed practiced. Thus, the conflation with disease not only with the visible “other” but also with swamps and tropical locations fed ideas about the promiscuity and diseased nature of native women.
As with the Sneider’s Suffragists in an Imperial Age, Briggs locates the influence of women’s groups/associations such as the WTCU and the LNA (Ladies National Association) in Puerto Rico and what that meant not only for natives of the Island but also Americans domestically. This space enabled women to take a visible role in the public sphere domestically and in Puerto Rico but also promoted the interests of Puerto Rican elites as the WCTU allied itself with local ladies clubs of patrician cast. It also sparked debates about citizenship, “As in other empires, U.S. prostitution policy on the island was tremendously important area of debate over the nature of colonial modernity and the struggle over the meaning of Puerto Rican citizenship took place specifically with reference to prostitution.” (48) The comparison with Kaplan’s moral and civilizing women seems obvious though Briggs produces evidence not from cultural production but sociological surveys, medical reports, and other more traditional social history oriented sources.
Critically, Briggs notes that jailing convicted prostitutes began in the colonies such that by 1918, the practice appeared stateside in numerous metropolitan areas. Moreover, the WTCU participated in the incarceration of prostitutes in both the Philippines and Puerto Rico. At the same time, these jails were recast as “hospitals” soon after several U.S. cities (following WWI) established similar institutions notably San Francisco, San Diego, and New York. (49) Puerto Rican elites and the colonial government combined to enact programs of regulation. Such attempts helped to solidify what Briggs argues “would become a constant feature of Puerto Rican politics: from eugenics to population policy to sterilization, the sexuality and reproduction of poor women would become the battleground – symbolic and real – for the meaning of the U.S. presence in Puerto Rico.” (50) Like Kramer’s Filipino elites and ilustrados, Puerto Rican upper classes collaborated with the colonial government for both political power and to exert some amount of control over their representation via U.S. officials.
What all this meant for the domestic U.S. becomes concrete as mainland migrations continued. The colonial government’s utilization of the discourse of gender to intervene in the lives of working class Puerto Ricans provides a “genealogy of the demonization of poor women in the welfare reform debates of 1994-97.” (51) Thus, Briggs illustrates that such approaches melded easily with the social science discourse (Oscar Lewis, Daniel Patrick Moynahan) that emerged over the same period stateside.
As the academic discourse came to dominate discussions about the regulation of female bodies, Cold War concerns imposed themselves on U.S. policy, “Third World women’s sexual behavior was rendered dangerous and unreasonable, the cause of poverty and hence of communism and needed to be made known, managed, and regulated.” (52) Briggs certainly suggests that the work of social scientists did as much to obscure issues/individuals while perpetuating negative and often inaccurate conclusions.
Another aspect of Briggs’ argument regards the development of the birth control pill. Tropes concerning Puerto Rico and the Third World generally conflated the global south with overpopulation, “Overpopulation provided a sociological explanation for Third World poverty, one that denied a role for international capitalism or colonialism in producing these conditions.” (53) Similar fears surfaced in Puerto Rico helping to enable large pharmecutical companies to invest in and develop the birth control pill. As Briggs argues, fears of overpopulation created the ethical space to justify such experimentation, “Reproductive research produced the pill as a specific technological fix to the Third World problem of overpopulation. In doing so, it rendered the account of overpopulation as more plausible by associating it with science and technological solutions at the height of the Cold War belief in them.” (54)
Finally, Briggs’ work refutes previous arguments that suggest the colonial government imposed “forced sterilization”. Instead, Briggs’ offers evidence (sociological studies/surveys, financial information as in defunding) that some women requested the operation and few reported complaints. However, Briggs cautions that “it is not an argument that working class women chose to be sterilized , it is an argument that there is no evidence that there was a representative campaign to force them.” (55) In connection with sterilization and larger birth control debates, Briggs points to a fundamental problem that mainland feminists faced. Nationalist pro-independence groups promoted natalism while the colonial government encouraged sterilization. As Briggs notes, despite the best intentions, feminists could not escape the “terms of U.S. national, colonial, and racial discourse … when mainland feminists … accepted the nationalist version of the subaltern – the women are victimized – while rejecting or ignoring the perspective of feminists like those in Pro Familia as duped, bourgeois pawns of colonialism, they accepted a pro-natalist anti-feminism because it carried the banner of the subaltern.” (56) U.S. anti-colonialists “demanded that the only ‘authentic natives’ were those that could occupy the position of the ‘people’. Puerto Rican feminists failed to fit the bill because they were middle class professionals and intellectuals who differed with charismatic nationalist leaders.” (57)
In dialogue with Briggs, Kaplan, and others, Allison Sneider’s Suffragists in an Imperial Age: U.S. Expansionism and the Woman Question 1870-1929 combines two burgeoning fields in United States history circles. As with Briggs and Kaplan, Sneider utilizes the analytical category of gender in a transnational appraisal, exploring the domestic effects driven by American imperial and territorial expansion of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. By incorporating rhetorical devices that articulated the need to enfranchise women in developing territories, Suffragists created a space for discussing the expansion of voting rights as a federal obligation despite the persistent trope of state rights and self sovereignty put forth at the time.
Expansionism reoriented American politics in numerous ways. Sneider traces debates around the incorporation/possible incorporation of the Dominican Republic, Utah, Hawaii and Puerto Rico among others and their relation to women’s suffrage. Post Reconstruction, the Federal government abdicated much of its responsibility to enforce equal voting rights for minorities, allowing states’ rights advocates to dominate such debates. However, imperial expansion forced the federal government to acknowledge “colonial subjects” and others, determining their present and future status. Women’s suffragists learned from each experience, tailoring arguments such that they maintained a consistent dialogue around enfranchisement and the federal government’s necessary role in such processes.
At times, suffragists marshaled the language of race and citizenship. For example, when advocating voting rights for women living in U.S. possessions, suffragist leadership argued they required the vote due to the threat presented by male counterparts in such territories, “such women, even more than those of our own States will need the ballot as a means of self-protection.” (58) Hawaii’s entrance into the United States polity illustrated such debates, “The Hawaiian Appeal was not aimed only at white women in the territory. Couched in the rhetoric of protection for native Hawaiian women, the petition merged views about native men’s savagery and notions of essential womanly virtues across races to make a case for native and white women’s voting rights.” (59) Similarly, in earlier periods, U.S. Native American policy proved equally influential. Expanding citizenship rights to American Indians influenced ideas about gender, masculinity, and voting as an inherent right of membership. Incorporating Native American populations into the citizenry represented a potential framework for moving “dependent” women into similar status. Race and citizenship emerged as factors but “to suffragists … Indians were noble savages whose plight at once elicited sympathy and disdain.” (60) Extending voting rights to newly incorporated Native American men suggested that voting existed as a right of citizenship, an idea that many suffragists promoted. In this way, one might connect U.S. imperial policies as an extension of the nation’s internal colonization of Native Americans, illustrating an historical continuity often neglected in previous histories.
In comparison, Utah’s Mormon population presented obstacles to national legislators but for religious reasons. Though some suffragists used anti-Catholic arguments in other contexts to support expanding the vote to protestant women, in the case of Utah political maneuvering proved more nuanced. Some avoided the topic, “by 1878 woman suffrage in Utah territory had become an embarrassment for the suffrage movement because of the way polygamy linked votes for women and sexual scandal in the public mind.” (61) The Mormon example “would have far more salience for the political fate of woman suffrage than would the Indian question.” (62) Ultimately, Western expansion and imperial designs forced legislators into uncomfortable debates that pushed both Republicans and Democrats to contort their usual political logic regarding rights and citizenship, but suffragists like Susan B. Anthony realized, “the politics of territorial expansion made clear that under certain circumstances the physical expansion of national borders could reconfigure the gendered boundaries of political space ….” (63)
Though suffragist appeals failed to win over a majority of Congressional legislature, these attempts at enlarging the voting public reformed colonial policies which in turn affected domestic ones., “in the context of U.S. empire, attaching women suffrage amendments to the governing bills for U.S. territory helped suffragists and their legislative allies squash the state’s rights framework that had circumscribed suffragists activities for decades.” (64) Whether or not, voting rights became an essential aspect of citizenship remained debatable but from an international perspective suffragists had at least established that “political rights for women” were added to the list that marked proper civilization. In this way, Sneider illustrates Kaplan’s point that women served to legitimize expansion and empire. Sneider’s work speaks directly to the previously noted Kaplans and Briggs, though more domestic in nature. If The Tragedy of American Diplomacy opened up space for new ways of envisioning U.S. “diplomatic history”, Sneider, Kaplan, Briggs and others moved beyond Williams strictly economic approach infusing their works with more cultural aspects along with the aforementioned turns to transnationalism and gender.
Of course rather than think of gender and sexuality as separate but related categories, one might consider ways to link them more directly through a categorization such as “intimacy”. The collection of essays Haunted By Empire: Geographies of Intimacy in North American History examines the intimate relations between colonizer and colonized traversing across the colonial frontier including Samoa, the Philippines, Australia, and the interior U.S. Colonial projects long attempted to control the “desires” of both ruler and ruled. This history of relations reveals the structure and power dynamic of colonization, its attempts at defining race, and the resistance against such impositions.
Looking to the historiographies of North American history and post colonial studies, Editor Ann Stoler et al delves into the history of intimacy and its sites of interaction. Stoler’s introduction “Intimidations of Empire: Predicaments of the Tactile and Unseen” offers an explanation for Haunted’s approach, “This volume summons these insights to work through – and push on – a basic set of premises: that matters of the intimate are critical sites for the consolidation of colonial power, that management of those domains provides a strong pulse on how relations of empire drive states.” (65) Viewing government through the “microphysics of daily lives has redirected historians to new readings of familiar archives and to new genres of documentation. It has changed how we read ….” (66) In her second essay, “Tense and Tender Ties: The Politics of Comparison in North American and (Post) Colonial Studies”, Stoler acknowledges that Williams’ lament that U.S. historiography ignored empire no longer held true. Moreover, Stoler applauds Amy Kaplan for noting three phenomena in academic circles, “an absence of culture from the study of U.S. imperialism, an absence of empire from the study of American culture, and an absence of the United States from postcolonial studies of empire.” (67) However, Stoler departs from Kaplan arguing The Anarchy of Empire reflected an older historiography which it rightly appraised, but a new “generation of social historians, historical anthropologists and students of American culture have begun to” address such concerns. Paul Kramer’s essay on the U.S. colonial government’s regulation of prostitution illustrates a striking similarity to the policies of Brigg’s Puerto Rico, each historian using an “illicit” intimacy to explore colonial issues. Nayan Shah’s “Adjudicating Intimacies on U.S. Frontiers “explores two meanings of intimacy [which] calibrate liberal societies’ legal definitions of the capacity of self-possession and for the ownership of property. “ (68) Shah’s essay explores the juridical aspect of intimacy’s interpretation by authorities, ““Hindu marriage had different consequences in the sodomy and estate cases. In the first, the status of ‘‘Hindu marriage’’ helped commute a convicted man’s sentence from a serious charge; and, in the second, the legitimacy of a ‘‘Hindu marriage’’ determined the inheritance of valuable agricultural property. Despite different legal outcomes, both cases unleashed broader questions about the legitimacy and illegitimacy of marital ties.” (69) Lisa Lowe’s “The Intimacies of Four Continents” addresses three meanings of intimacy: the first a reference to spatial proximity, the second “more common one of privacy, often configured as conjugal and familial relations in the bourgeois home, distinguished from the public realm of work, society, and politics,” and third, “the sense of intimacies embodied in the variety of contacts among slaves, indentured persons, and mixed-blood free peoples living together on the islands that resulted in ‘‘the collision of European, African, and Asian components within the [Caribbean] Plantation, that could give rise to rebellions against the plantation structure itself.’’ (70) Through this framework, Lowe argues that historians have another avenue from which “to discuss a world division of labor emerging in the nineteenth century.” (71)
How much this collection attends to more traditional political and economic histories proves the divide between John Lewis Gaddis and the contributors to Haunted By Empire. However, Stoler encourages historians to move away from nation-state formations, “Rather than compare United States empire with a host of others, we might imagine nineteenth century history as made up not of nation-building projects alone but of compounded colonialisms and as shaped by multinational philanthropies, missionary movements, discourses of social welfare and reform, and traffics in people (women in particular) that ran across state-archived paper trails.” (72) Still, as noted in its introduction, this new analytic approach opened new archives, new sources, and new ways of reading into the field. Several of the contributors employ theoretical frameworks reminiscent of Foucault and Said. In many ways, Haunted By Empire attends to the very concerns of Leffler and others. It employs numerous archives, utilizes theoretical frameworks, but it probably lacks the traditional arena of elites. One might suggest it explores discourse and structure simultaneously through the eyes working class and sub-altern peoples.
William Appleman Williams suggested that American-Soviet diplomatic efforts collapsed into mutual recrimination and distrust, that they did so resulted because of American intransience. George Kennan and others promoted a zero sum contest for global influence that served to force Soviet’s into hostile responses. Even with the Marshall plan, Williams argues, policymakers never truly intended to extend its economic support to Eastern bloc nations. However, contemporary historians Odd Arne Westad and Jermey Suri build upon and diverge from Williams’ main arguments, while infusing their work with a transnational bent and multiarchival research. Additionally, each author, though not as theoretical as works by Briggs, Kramer, or Kaplan, applies theoretical frameworks to their histories.
Jeremu Suri’s Power and Protest: Global Revolution and the Rise of Detente dissolves the division between foreign and domestic policies, recasting Cold War hostilities and diplomatic maneuvering as conservative power play between the United States, USSR, and China. Like Immanuel Wallerstein, Suri argues that the promises of communism, capitalism, and charismatic leaders such as Charles De Gaulle failed to come to fruition, causing domestic dissent and cynicism. Accordingly, foreign policy conflicts, agreements and summits often reflected each respective national government’s attempt to curry favor with its citizens often because of internal discord. Provocatively, Suri reevaluates détente, suggesting this foreign policy “breakthrough” actually fed conservative forces, providing China, the USSR, and US a means to illustrate success to their citizens while refocusing their security concerns toward internal dissent. If Williams’ policymakers feared any sort of social revolution abroad pre-1968, Suri argues events of that same year led U.S. and European officials to target social revolutions within their own societies. Thus, fear of foreign revolutions collapsed domestically into a phobia of internal dissent.
For much of the book’s first half, Suri traces U.S. nuclear policy from the last days of the Second World War into the early 1970s. From the outset, supporting Williams’ claims of U.S. belligerence, United States diplomats utilized the threat of nuclear war often in negotiations with the USSR, a policy that did receive internal criticism but ultimately President Truman chose to disregard such dissent. The early animosity of US/Soviet relation increased tensions between the two nations. However, Suri argues that by Eisenhower’s presidency the construction of nuclear arsenal served to assure a domestic audience rather than an international one. (73) Eisenhower’s “farewell address” in which he warned the nation of the military industrial complex bearing influence over American government reflected the “failure of his nuclear strategy.” Nuclear deterrence also failed to ease international tensions while making them more “permanent.” JFK lacked Eisenhower’s misgivings (74) embracing the frontier thesis logic of Frederick Jackson Turner seeking to spread economic development and U.S. ideals through foreign policy, “Anxious to find recipients for its aid, the White House expanded its fiscal contributions to anticommunist leaders in poor countries.” (75) Again, Suri and Williams point to similar conclusions regarding the logic beyond U.S. expansion.
Much of Power and Protest pays special attention to the efforts of nation’s like France or China to elude the control of either of the world’s superpowers. Suri juxtaposes Mao Ze Dong, West Germany’s Adennuer, and Charles De Gaulle. De Gaulle and Mao receive special attention because of their appeal to charismatic leadership that at once rejected approaches taken by US and Soviet governments but fell victim to similar vulnerabilities, namely the promise of greater rewards upon which they and others, failed to deliver. De Gaulle and Mao prove an interesting comparison. Each tried to locate power outside of institutions, if De Gaulle appealed to the idea of grandeur to evade traditional French bureaucratic and institutional power, Mao lacked the infrastructure for national uniform reforms, thus he harnessed the public, students mostly, as a revolutionary Red Guard. In regard to nuclear weapons, Suri offers a compelling insight, that both France and China pursued nuclear power as an attempt to gain a stronger foothold within the alliances they resided for France NATO and the West and for China, the USSR.
Another “innovations” in Power and Protest remains its attentions to the transnational nature of issues in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. Suri moves between the USSR, Europe, China, and the United States, revealing the unique but similar domestic troubles suffered by each in the late 1960s. The writers of the period including William F. Buckley, Herbert Marcuse, Daniell Bell, Wu Han, and Alexander Solyzheniztian provided the arguments for and the language of “dissent”. Some theorists most notably Marcuse looked abroad for inspiration later applauding aspects of Mao’s Cultural Revolution. American and European student protesters, utilizing state funded educational infrastructures (all created through governments from the USSR to America investing in education, health, and so on.) to organize the various movements. Similarly, Mao’s efforts spun out of control. Though Suri portrays Mao’s efforts as boomeranging back on the Chinese government, he postulates a similar formation in the West. All these student revolts resulted in a shift regarding security. States prioritized the control and stability of their populations over external threats. Within this frame, Suri views much of the international political maneuvering of arms control and the like as more about domestic concerns than international conflagrations. Of course, this shift further alienated citizens, creating a general cynicism found in all of the societies Suri examines. Again, Wallerstein locates the same problem at the same time in Decline of American Power but he fails to account for China.
Suri’s interpretation of the logic behind détente deserves attention. Pointing out divisions between China and the USSR along with American efforts to exploit these conflicts, Suri reevaluates the logic of détente. The USSR (especially in its satellite states such as Poland, Czechoslovakia), China, and the US all suffered from visible internal dissent. By the 1970s, Nixon felt mounting pressure to silence or diminish such outbursts, much of the same could be said of the USSR (Brezhnev Doctrine), East/West Germany (Ostopolitik) and China. In these evaluations, Suri does well to illustrate that though the USSR and Chinese governments did severely limit individual rights, citizens in each found ways to protest or press the system for change. One might suggest that this enables the people’s of such communist states to illustrate agency previously denied them. According to Suri, détente between the USSR and US never diminished nuclear arsenals, rather it simply placed limits on production, therefore stockpiles continued to grow. (76) Though a tenuous peace emerged, it locked the “social and political status quo” into place, normalizing such antagonisms. For example, in regard to Sino-US relations, Suri astutely points out that “Foreign policy “normalization” between China and the United States was an important part of their internal “normalization”. Mao, Zhou, Nixon and Kissinger, and their successor used improved relations to limit troubling external commitments and assure international stability. At home the gains in Sino-American rapproachment reduced the influence of inherited ideologies advocated by radical groups – the Red Guards, the New Left, and the new Right.” (77)
Suri’s work clearly illustrates a transnational “collective sensibility”. His framing certainly behooves his argument, the same issues and problems in admittedly different contexts emerged across China, Europe, the US, and the Soviet Union. He also does well to present US and USSR concerns about the benefits of a bipolar world. Détente served to consolidate their power internationally. Clearly, nations such as West Germany, France, Czechoslovakia, and Poland wished to escape the pervasive influence of the superpowers.
As with Suri, Odd Arne Westad’s The Global Cold War – Interventions and the Making of Our Times examines the Cold War and its actors from numerous vantage points but focuses especially on those of Third World powers negotiating the complex terrain of diplomacy. More than anything, Westad emphasizes the importance of Third World interventions by prominent Cold War powers ( the US, the USSR, China, and Cuba)in determining the future of many developing nations, illustrating the tensions and interplay between communist states. The Global Cold War traces the history of post WWII era interventions from their beginnings in the late 1940s through the Reagan presidency. In terms of breath, Arne traverses Africa, Europe, and much of Asia describing the numerous actors in each intervention.
One of Arne’s key contributions results from new archival sources. This ability to now map the thought of previously shrouded governments enables Arne to more completely explain the rational and logic behind Soviet actions. As well, he clearly illustrates that though a closed police state, with the exception of Stalinist rule, debate and disagreement within leadership circles around foreign policy mattered in regard to decision making just as Congressional debate does in the U.S. This is not to equate one with the other but rather to acknowledge that Soviet leaders felt political pressure and had to address their own nexus of power centers which in turn affected decisions. In this way, Westad further contextualizes insights made by Suri that even though Soviet government reduced freedoms and expression, dissent still surfaced.
Fundamentally, both the US and USSR committed similar errors in its relations with developing nations. Each exuded an arrogance that diminished the political knowledge of the local leaders while applying US/USSR universal templates of development regardless of conditions .(78) Additionally, each nation’s vision of itself suffered from romanticized imaginings of their own national histories that obscured more complex realities that might have served of importance when exporting one’s government.
Though Arne later suggests that the equality between the US and USSR never was truly equal (the US existed as more powerful in nearly every category), each shared a vision of pushing beyond national boundaries, brining modernity. However, their conceptions of modernity differed: the U.S. capitalist individualist form and the USSR’s communal collective based justice oriented ideal. (79)
The tensions within the emerging communist world during the Cold War find clear expression in the context of Third World interventions. Again, like Suri and others, Westad illustrates the lack of unity between Chinese and Russian governments along with the disgruntled nature of Cuba toward its Soviet allies. Castro believed the USSR too passive and compliant in the face of US hegemony. He constantly lobbied for more aid to Third World movements while sending thousands of Cuban soldiers, technicians, teachers, and doctors abroad to help secure revolution in Angola and other developing nations. Also like Suri, Westad acknowledges the interest both the US and USSR had using détente to appease domestic audiences and international communities while each pursued various geopolitical goals in the burgeoning third world. Impressively, Westad also manages to trace the lines of intervention by both US and Soviet leaders individually, thus along with the interactions between fellow communist leaders like Castro and Mao, one grasps a more complex but complete vision of political forces fueling Third World engagement. Moreover, the ebb and flow of each US/USSR success and failures provide testament to the fickle nature of intervention itself, even when it succeeds in the short term it may fail in the long term (Iran) with devastating consequences. (80) The bipolar nature of diplomacy in the period meant that if anti-communism succeeded initially, its failures pushed Third World leaders to consider Marxism and the USSR in later decades, only to disappoint those same developing nations .(81) In this way, one might connect Westad with Suri, who argued that détente and other aspects of the Cold War locked into place peoples and nations. Cold War giants valued stability and control over instability and revolution Westad’s account does dispute this somewhat as he clearly illustrates Soviet efforts to foment revolution in Third World settings. Still, this point maintains some similarity to that of Suri but Power and Protest couches much of its logic around nuclear weapons suggesting that they altered foreign policy in broad and meaningful ways. Détente and arms control were for domestic purposes as much as foreign policy and they maintained an unequal status quo especially for the developing world.
Without a doubt, the Vietnam War served as a symbol of Third World capabilities, inspiring other peoples in developing nations but also leftists and rights movements in Western Europe and America. This example serves the initial purpose of illustrating the transnational nature of identities in this period along with the pervasive influence of Vietnam on the US, USSR, China, and Cuba. Moreover, Westad asserts the transnational nature of ideas when noting that some “revolutionaries” adopted Marxism not at the feet of Russian or Chinese instructors but rather Western European and American intellectual circles while abroad. Once more the connections between Power and Protest and The Global Cold War emerge.
Another key aspect of The Global Cold War involves Reagan era financial shifts. As the rhetoric of market expanded, the US sought to institutionalize its economic systems via international institutions such as the Bretton Woods Conference, the IMF, the World Bank, and others. Though the UN had initially been meant to help propagate American hegemony by the 1970s, the US found hostility more often than influence at the international peace keeping organization. Financial and trade institutions codified loan agreements expectations all resting on free market ideals that few if any of its leaders (most notably the US) ever achieved in their early development. Undoubtedly, this emerged as a key factor in Third World developments, ultimately symbolizing the declining fortunes of the USSR, “their aim was a complete reorientation of both institutions (IMF/World Bank) toward monetarism and market ideology, while as far as possible – using their credit resources to serve US security objectives. Their slogans were conditionality – meaning a domestic and international change toward market solutions as a precondition for assistance – and adjustment – meaning an end to government quotas, subsidies, and very often social spending in the recipient countries under the guidance of IMF experts.” (82) Here Westad reveals ties to Williams who argued that U.S. business interests long sought international institutions they might control for their benefits.
Finally, the rise of Islamism proved an anathema to both the US and USSR. Thought each played a role in the rise of Islamist movements (Afghanistan and Pakistan), both powers viewed their growth warily. The USSR took little comfort in Iran’s 1979 revolution despite its disavowal of US power. Sharing commonalities with Immanuel Wallersten and Jeremy Suri, Westad emphasizes the impact of failed efforts and shattered expectations on movements and peoples. The same disillusionment that drove protest in Suri’s Cold War study, viewed from a similar perspective spurs revolutionaries across the Third World. Westad seems particularly concerned by the ignored status of third world peoples impacted by various interventions. The collapse of communism and end of the Cold War obscured the processes that came before it. New arguments suggesting that maybe the excesses of Vietnam helped lay the foundation for Soviet collapse ignores the devastation wrought by the war while incorrectly assessing its importance. Westad goes to great lengths to illustrate that the USSR’s downfall revolved around its inability keep up with its superpower status, spending money on defense and missiles that its economies could not afford. In fact, the Soviet reforms of glasnost accelerated this process as the failures of Third World interventions found public expression in the “new” Soviet Union. Meanwhile, fellow communists had long since given up on the USSR as a leader in global communism. Conclusion
William Appleman Williams critique of American foreign policy opened the floodgates for revisionists. The Tragedy of American Diplomacy continues to direct historians today. Critics who chastised Williams for his politics or apparent Marxist beliefs missed the point. Despite Williams naivity regarding communist rule his arguments concerning U.S. policy need not hinge on his political commitments. The Tragedy of American Diplomacy accomplished three tasks 1) it clearly established that U.S. historian failed to account in any meaningful way for empire 2) Williams’ connection of domestic policies/concerns and their relation to foreign policy helped to facilitate the transnational turn that has reawakened the field of diplomatic history over the past three decades and 3) the emphasis on American economic imperialism whether through Open Door efforts or international financial institutions provided a vital continuity regarding American imperial adventures.
From Williams, one easily identifies the various new developments in the field from Amy Kaplan’s culture based study of American colonialism to Haunted by Empire’s study of transnational intimacies to Jeremy Suri and Odd Arne Westad’s Cold War studies. John Lewis Gaddis may decry this as fragmentation while Melvyn Leffler frets over the lack of connection between newer cultural histories and the more traditional politically and economically oriented studies, but one could point at such scholars asking the question, “why have you ignored theory? Why are you so accepting of state sources?” Concerns regarding fragmentation deserve attention. Postmodern historians must engage with archives but not as uncritically as those that came before. Finally, though synthesis holds a definite value, the question remains the motive behind synthesis. Is synthesis a way of bringing all the accumulated knowledge in one place or is it an excuse to once again direct our focus on the nation-state? One hopes it’s the former rather than the latter.
1. Williams, William Appleman, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 34.
2. Williams, William Appleman, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, 57. Williams identifies four key aspects of this policy on page 57 … 1) “it was neither a military stategy nore a traditional balanced of power policy. It was conceived and designed to win the victories without the wars.” 2) “It was derived from the proposition that America’s overwhelming economic power could cast the economy and the politics of the poorer, weaker, underdeveloped countries in a pro-American mold.” 3) “the policy was neither legalistic nor moralistic in the sense that those criticism are usually offered. It was extremely hard headed and practical.” 4) “unless and until it, and its underlying Weltanschauung, were modified to deal with its own consequences the policy was certain to produce foreign policy crises that would become increasingly severe.” 3. Williams, William Appleman, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, 45. 4. Williams, William Appleman, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, 46. 5. Williams, William Appleman, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, 62. 6. Williams, William Appleman, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, 63. Appleman notes that its economic aspects “coincided with … religious, racist, and reformist drives to remake the world.”
7. Williams, William Appleman, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, 88. “By the time of World War I, therefore, the basic dilemma of American foreign policy was clearly defined. Its generous humanitarianism prompted it to improve the lot of less fortunate peoples, but that side of its diplomacy was undercut by two aspects of its policy. On the one hand, it defined helping people in terms of making them more like Americans. This subverted its ideal of self determination. On the one hand, it asserted and acted upon the necessity of overseas economic expansion for its own material prosperity. But by defining such expansion in terms of markets for American exports, and control of raw materials for American industry, the ability of other peoples to develop and act upon their own patterns of development was undercut.” 8. The idea that international organizations would remain under U.S. leadership 9. Williams, William Appleman, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, 94. 10. Williams, William Appleman, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, 152. “In the 1920s, as well as in the 1960s this modification of policy was brought about by two main considerations. First, new ideas about the nature of American predominance in the Western Hemisphere led different groups in the United States to propose and initiate polity changes. Second, and interacting with the first, the failure of traditional and existing policies to achieve the desired results prompted alterations. Specifically, American polic-makers became convinced by the end of the 1920s that the 21 military interventions undertaken between 1898 and 1924 had not served either to stabilize the region or to institutionalize American power and influence.” 11. Williams, William Appleman, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, 172-3. 12. Williams, William Appleman, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, 272. 13. Williams, William Appleman, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, 278. The United States not only misunderstood the revolutions in economics, politics, color, and anti-colonial nationalism; it asserted that they were wrong or wrong headed and that they should be opposed in favor of emulation of the American example. In addition to this observation, Williams makes another provocative statement on 282 when he argues that each nation experienced a loss of identity but that the economic circumstances of each greatly influenced the kind of outlook adopted, “For the loss of identity in properity led Americans toward Freud, while the similar Russian experienced, in the context of poverty produced Dostoevski, Kuprin, and Gogol … The self knighted robber baron and the anarchist terrorist are not, after all so far apart.” 14. Williams, William Appleman, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, 268. 15. Hunt, Michael H., “The Long Crisis in U.S. Diplomatic History: Coming to Closure” in America in the World: The Historiography of American Foreign Relations Since 1941, Ed. Michael J. Hogan, Cambridge UP: Cambridge, MA, 1995, 97.
16. which in truth drives much of the discussion of the first section since many scholars disagree with its anti-exceptionalist – well I guess that’s a debatable point but still – economically driven view of American imperialism especially in its early late nineteenth/early progressive era beginnings ….. Williams uses the Open Door Policy as the thread of diplomatic policy which fueled much of American thought on expansionism and even Cold War interventions
17. Hunt, Michael H., “The Long Crisis in U.S. Diplomatic History: Coming to Closure”, 107… . “Others set off on a third line of development, also influenced by critics, by tempering but not abandoning claims that policy sprang from economic pressures … Initially, focusing on the late 1910s and the 1920s but recently extending into the post WWII period, the corporatists found a more manageable framework of inquiry in organized economic power, blocs operating in intimate relationship with the state. Banks, industries, export associations, organized labor, and farm groups reflected and articulated the needs of a complex modern capitalism. This system of private and public power was managed by elites and sustained by a corporate ideology stressing compromise in the interest of overall growth and stability.”
18. Hunt, Michael H., “The Long Crisis in U.S. Diplomatic History: Coming to Closure” 117. 19. Hunt, Michael H., “The Long Crisis in U.S. Diplomatic History: Coming to Closure” 112. 20. He also notes with some irony that historians in this group would not embrace the diplomatic banner/label. 21. In regard to transnationalism, Thomas Bender’s A Nation Among Nation: America’s Place in World History attempts to revive America’s place within global history, though not limited to the diplomatic arena. Pushing back against the kind of American exceptionalism that Gaddis’ work tacitly promotes, Bender suggests reframing American historical events to consider the influence of international and transnational forces. For this vantage point, the American Civil War appears as an extension of the 1848 revolutions which promoted a broad liberalism. Lincoln’s own language and thought found inspiration from such events. Like others, Bender encourages historians to move away from nation state structures or if they must cling to such units of analysis to do so in a broader context.
22. Kramer, Paul, The Blood of Government: Race, Empire, the United States and the Philippines, Univ. of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill, NC, 2006, 324. for example as the 1920s and 1930s emerged some writers employed their own version of US tropes to justify independence “Filipino nationalists responded with a nationalist-colonialist politics that saw non-Christians – and the territory they occupied – as integral to the Philippine nation but subordinate to the political agency of Christians. With regard to non-Christian peoples, Philippine nation building would also be empire building
23. Kramer seems to credit the work of Propaganda writers who wanted independence from Spain for this as they constructed an identity that though in many ways inclusive also remained guilty of the “colonial nationalism” that emerged more clearly later, “Where the ilustrado diasporic experience had led some to challenge notions of mestizaje, the Propaganda campaign also racially heightened the salience of Hispanic culture that the ilustrados - but not all of the islands’ inhabitants – shared. Where ilustrado activists held up their civilization before Spain and Europe more broadly in a quest for recognition and assimilation, Philippine peoples that could not measure up to these standards became increasingly problematic.”, 67. Kramer argues that the residue of such arguments meant that there was a “reinscription” of internal categories of difference. 24. The family metaphor proved useful as its both inclusionary and yet hierarchical. 25. Basically, that the Philippines had gone through an evolutionary process of being imperialized by increasingly “civilized” nations. The Spanish though viewed by Americans as imperfect remained better than indigenous populations but still “degenerate.” Thus, policy balanced this almost liminal state. In some ways, its related to the idea of “blood compact”, the notion that interbreeding with Europeans would somehow improve the Filipino race both physically but also culturally, though this “blood compact” is turned on its head by 1920’s American nativists who fear infection of Filipino blood. 26. Kramer, Paul, The Blood of Government, 161. 27. Kramer, Paul, The Blood of Government, 19. 28. It is worth noting that the discourse around “capability” fluctuated and even contradicted itself. For example, the establishment of a legislative assembely in 1907?? Symbolized for many Filipinos that they had illustrated the capabilities for self-rule while American policy makers viewed such as another test of such capabilities along the way. In this way, US officials used the “discourse of capability” to cloak the permanence of occupation. 29. Kaplan, Amy, The Anarchy of Empire in the Making of U.S. Culture, Harvard UP: Cambridge, MA, 2002, 1. 30. Kaplan, Amy, The Anarchy of Empire, 1. 31. Kaplan, Amy, The Anarchy of Empire, 2. 32. Kaplan, Amy, The Anarchy of Empire, 10-11. “As “alien races,” Puerto Ricans were rendered “foreign” in the “domestic sense” by their perceived resemblance to alien races deemed to be incapable of self government at home … The category of the “unincorporated territory” held out the possibility of absorbing new members into the family while deferring this possibility to the indefinite future.” 33. meaning restore order and impose “democratic government” that one day might enable the colonized to rule themselves, “benevolent assimilation.” 34. Kaplan, Amy, The Anarchy of Empire, 11. 35. Kaplan, Amy, The Anarchy of Empire, 14. 36. Kaplan, Amy, The Anarchy of Empire, 16. 37. Kaplan, Amy, The Anarchy of Empire, 43. 38. Kaplan, Amy, The Anarchy of Empire, 50. Of additional note from chapter two are the following related quotes, “ “Domestic Discourse, I argue, both redressed and reenacted the anarchic qualities of empire through its own double movement: to expand female influence beyond the home and the nation, and simultaneously to contract woman’s sphere to that of policing domestic boundaries against the threat of foreignness.” (28). And “”Manifest Domesticity” turns an imperial nation into a home by producing and colonizing specters of the foreign that lurk inside and outside its ever shifting borders.” (50)
39. Kaplan, Amy, The Anarchy of Empire, 91. 40. Kaplan, Amy, The Anarchy of Empire, 52. 41. Kaplan, Amy, The Anarchy of Empire, 56. 42. Kaplan, Amy, The Anarchy of Empire, 63. 43. Kaplan, Amy, The Anarchy of Empire, 66. 44. Kaplan, Amy, The Anarchy of Empire, 88. 45. Kaplan, Amy, The Anarchy of Empire, 160. 46. Kaplan, Amy, The Anarchy of Empire, 138. … that is not to say he didn’t connect oppressions though he wouldn’t have described them as such, “The links between disenfranchisement in occupied Cuba and the Jim Crow South point imperialism as the exporter of the domestic color line and re-contextualize racism at home as part of a global imperial strategy of rule.” 138. 47. Briggs, Laura. Reproducing Empire: Race, Sex, Science, and U.S. Imperialism, (University of California Press: Los Angeles), 2002, 22. 48. Briggs, Laura. Reproducing Empire: Race, Sex, Science, and U.S. Imperialism, 46. 49. Briggs, Laura. Reproducing Empire: Race, Sex, Science, and U.S. Imperialism, 70 … “Between 1917 and 1918, then, gender and women’s bodies became a significant idiom in which colonial relations were negotiated. North American politicians, reformers, and missionaries identified the victimization of women, or, conversely, the danger they posed, as an important reason for massive repression and intervention. The increasingly visible poor women of the dislocated rural classes appear in this literature as “loose” women in need of containment.” 50. Briggs, Laura. Reproducing Empire: Race, Sex, Science, and U.S. Imperialism, 51. Granted I’ve jumped around here but a useful quote about how people thought about these issues in Puerto Rico is as follows, “Coloninzing men became chivalrous figures, defending virtuous women on the island from syphilis through prostitute contact with soldier husbands or protecting the mainland from infection by dirty omen; in so doing, the violence of their role was erased, transformed into heroism. Women reformers from the main land WCTU – in concert with elite Creole women from the island – enacted a maternalist, protective role, “saving” young women prostitutes from disease and immorality. Creole men, too , enacted roles as protectors, as benevolent patrones. Those who disappeared as agents were those around whom the debate swirled: working class women who sometimes sold sex in order to survive, the female counterparts of the (male) disorderly classes.” 67. 51. Briggs, Laura. Reproducing Empire: Race, Sex, Science, and U.S. Imperialism, 192. 52. Briggs, Laura. Reproducing Empire: Race, Sex, Science, and U.S. Imperialism, 117. 53. Briggs, Laura. Reproducing Empire: Race, Sex, Science, and U.S. Imperialism, 141. 54. Briggs, Laura. Reproducing Empire: Race, Sex, Science, and U.S. Imperialism, 140-1. 55. Briggs, Laura. Reproducing Empire: Race, Sex, Science, and U.S. Imperialism, 159. 56. Briggs, Laura. Reproducing Empire: Race, Sex, Science, and U.S. Imperialism, 160. 57. Briggs, Laura. Reproducing Empire: Race, Sex, Science, and U.S. Imperialism, 161. 58. Sneider, Allison, Suffragists in an Imperial Age: U.S. Expansionism and the Woman Question 1870-1929, New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2008, 112. 59. Sneider, Allison, Suffragists in an Imperial Age, 91. 60. Sneider, Allison, Suffragists in an Imperial Age, 65. 61. Sneider, Allison, Suffragists in an Imperial Age, 74. 62. Sneider, Allison, Suffragists in an Imperial Age 75. 63. Sneider, Allison, Suffragists in an Imperial Age, 86. 64. Sneider, Allison, Suffragists in an Imperial Age 134. 65. Stoler, Ann, “Intimidations of Empire: Predicaments of the Tactile and Unseen” in Haunted By Empire Ed. Ann Stoler, Duke UP: Durham, NC, 2006, 4 66. Stoler, Ann, “Intimidations of Empire: Predicaments of the Tactile and Unseen” in Haunted By Empire Ed. Ann Stoler, Duke UP: Durham, NC, 2006, 7. 67. Stoler, Ann, “Tense and Tender Ties: The Politics of Comparison in North American and (Post) Colonial Studies” in Haunted By Empire Ed. Ann Stoler, Duke UP: Durham, NC, 2006, 27. 68. Shah, Nayan, “Adjudicating Intimacies on U.S. Frontiers” in Haunted By Empire, 116. 69. Shah, Nayan, “Adjudicating Intimacies on U.S. Frontiers” in Haunted By Empire, 117. 70. Lowe, Lisa, “The Intimacies of Four Continents” in Haunted by Empire, 195 and 202. 71. Lowe, Lisa, “The Intimacies of Four Continents” in Haunted by Empire, 193. 72. Stoler Ann, ““Tense and Tender Ties: The Politics of Comparison in North American and (Post) Colonial Studies” in Haunted By Empire Ed. Ann Stoler, Duke UP: Durham, NC, 2006, 55. 73. Suri, Jeremi, The Power and the Protest: Global Revolution and the Rise of Dissent, Cambridge Mass: Harvard University Press, 2003, 13. “The creation of what one historian calls nuclear “overkill” in the late 1950s was in this sense, largely directed at an audience within the United Sates and NATO … the Eisenhower administration embarked on a series of “crash” programs – particularly in missile technology – to allay public insecurities.” 74. He expanded the arsenal, endured the Bay of Pigs Invasion, maintained the U.S.’s Vietnam policy, and negotiated the end to the Cuban Missile Crisis, though Suri seems to suggest JFK’s own policy created the situation. JFK 75. Suri, Jeremi, The Power and the Protest: Global Revolution and the Rise of Dissent, 21. 76. Suri, Jeremi, The Power and the Protest: Global Revolution and the Rise of Dissent, 216. “Responding to both domestic and international pressures in the late 1960s, leaders pursued what I call a balance of order. This involved a desperate attempt to preserve authority under siege. It emphasized stability over change, repression over reform. It was less about accepting nuclear parity than about manipulating political institutions to isolate and contain a variety of nontraditional challengers. Détente brought together an international array of threatened figures who coordinated their forces to counterbalance the sources of disorder within their societies.” 77. Suri, Jeremi, The Power and the Protest: Global Revolution and the Rise of Dissent, 244. 78. Of course, with that noted, both US and USSR officials did find “nativist” movements in the Middle East of the 1950s-60s problematic. 79. Westad, Odd Arne, The Global Cold War, Univ. of Cambridge Press: Cambridge, MA 2005, 40… . “While US and Soviet ideologies had much in common in terms of background and project, what separated them were their distinctive definitions of modernity meant. While most Americans celebrated the market, the Soviet elites denied it. Even while realizing that the market was the mechanism on which most of the expansion of Europe had been based, Lenin’s followers believed that it was in the process of being superseded by class-based collective action in favor of equality and justice. Modernity came in two stats: a capitalist form and a communal form, reflection two revolutions – that of capital and productivity, and that of democratization and the social advancement of the underprivileged. Communism was the higher stage of modernity, and it had been given to Russian workers to lead the way toward it.” 80. US is up after Guatemala and Iran – down after Bay of Pigs and Vietnam – up after Grenada and the Reaganite shift to internationalization of markets and the like whereas the USSR ignorant of 3rd world until 1955, successful in third world after American failures alienate Africans and Asians then down, way down after the Afghan War 81. Westad, Odd Arne, The Global Cold War, 157. “By around 1970 the United States had done much to create the Third World as an entity both in a positive and negative sense. Through its policies of confronting revolution, Washington had helped form blocks of resistance and a very basic form of Third World solidarity. Ironically, its interventionist policies had also contributed to radicalizing many Third World regimes, including some that were distinctly uncomfortable with any association with the Soviet Union …. The apparent success of socialist regimes – the availability of an alternative to capitalism and an alliance with America – also played a key role in radicalizing many Third World regimes, parties, and movements” 82. Westad, Odd Arne, The Global Cold War, Univ. of Cambridge Press: Cambridge, MA 2005,