Two initial sentences in the introduction to the book Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq written by Stephen Kinzer state the problem and briefly consider it, “Why does a strong nation strike against a weaker one? Usually because it seeks to impose its ideology, increase its power, or gain control of valuable resources” (Kinzer 1).
The statement is true, but when it goes about the United States of America, it is a rule to talk about democracy and the necessity to help Americans and other nations understand what democracy is and to implement it by all means. The modern situation in the world and the latest events which made the USA interfere into the life of its country and other nations allows us to look at the issue critically and to point to the problem which exists in the contemporary world.
Paying attention to the modern American history, it is possible to consider a number of specific examples when the USA tried to impose its rules (and it is necessary to state that it was rather successful in its attempts) on other countries and limit the freedoms of its citizens claiming about the importance of democracy and helping the whole world become free in its actions.
Dwelling upon democracy and the desire to help Americans and other nations become free, the government of the United States of America have been providing constant interference to the private life of different nations, calling it democratic idealism, and making its citizens remain speechless contradicting to their first amendment right to free speech; the overthrow in Hawaii in 1893, the President Woodrow Wilson’s declaration of war message to congress (April, 1917), and the Espionage Act of 1917 are brightest examples of the American imperialism in the whole world.
The Dynamics of Capital Expansion
Considering the modern history of the USA and trying to remember the most striking events connected with the American interference into other countries, the invasion of Iraq in 2003 is remembered. However, being the most vivid case of American expansion, Iraq is not the only country where Americans tried to interfere. The USA constantly tries to implement its capital expansion on other nations. To make it clear, the main idea of capital expansion (read imperialism) should be described.
Deeping into the history, Parenti in The dynamic of capital expansion states that the expansion as form of ruling was popular, e.g. Persian, Mongol, Roman, etc. empires functioned on the principle of imperialism. The development of the financial relations made it possible for the more powerful countries to spread capital expansion as a form of imperialism.
Parenti declares that “a central imperative of capitalism is expansion” (3). The relations within the capitalist society are based on profit. To make more profit, companies should expand and increase its productivity. Having created the manufacturing in different countries, the companies have an opportunity to manage human resources in those countries and make the society act as they want.
Thus, using different financial and economic leverage, a foreign country has an opportunity to interfere in the affairs of the society, even though that interference is indirect. Let us explore the situation which took place in Hawaii in 1893 with the information considered above in mind.
The central event which provoked Americans and made those implement active actions is considered to be the desire of Queen Liliuokalani to change the Constitution. The central change the queen wanted to apply was the change of vote procedure.
According to the new law, only native citizens of Hawaii might have an opportunity to vote. This change would have influenced the life of all islands which created a country. Having a queen and being a separate country, Hawaii was ruled by “a few dozen American and European families” (Kinzer 9). The elite were interested in this ruling, but the natives experienced pressure and inconvenience on their own lands.
The desire of the queen to change the political structure of Hawaii would mean nothing good for Americans and Europeans. But, being aware of the capital expansion as a form of imperialism, it is possible to state that Americans could not react somehow differently. America did not have the right to lose influence in Hawaii as it had already invested too much there. The USA had made too much to be defeated.
Performing the role of capital imperial country, the USA provided its expansion on Hawaii by means of investing in that country, dominating its economy, culture, politics, and “integrating its productive structures into an international system of capital accumulation” (Parenti 3). Having spent too much affords and time on implementing its domination over Hawaii, the change of constitution was not included in the US plans. This would mean that the USA did not have political influence on Hawaiian life.
The overthrowing of the queen with the help of American diplomat was the problem of one day. The USA, a country which cared about all peoples in the world, could not allow the nation to remain without a leader. Thus, Hawaii appeared under direct influence from the USA (Kinzer 32). The long history of these two counties was not over. Looking at Hawaii as one of the US states, it is possible to conclude that the providing capital expansion of a weaker nation, the dominant one will always win.
American Democratic Idealism and Imperialism
Considering the examples of American imperialism in the overthrow of Hawaii, Cuba, Philippines, and Nicaragua in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it is possible to state that the democratic idealism the United States of America try to apply is nothing more than American imperialism in practice.
Reading President Woodrow Wilson’s, war message to congress, it is accepted as the declaration of war to Germany. This document passionately discusses how German army wants to “sink very vessel that sought to approach either the ports of Great Britain and Ireland or western coasts of Europe or any of the coasts controlled by the enemies of Germany within the Mediterranean” (Woodrow n.p.).
The President of the USA dwelt much about the crime against all nations. The discussion was directed at the friendly relations between the USA and Germany, but the importance of their continuation due to the existing situation. It seems that the USA aims to protect all the nations from Imperial German Government. This is exactly what it does.
But! This message has a phrase which may explain the overthrow of such governments as Cuba, Philippines, and Nicaragua, “Neutrality is no longer feasible or desirable where the peace of the world is involved and the freedom of its peoples, and the menace to that peace and freedom lies in the existence of autocratic governments backed by organized force which is controlled wholly by their will, not by the will of their people” (Woodrow n.p.). This was one of the main reasons of American expansion to foreign countries.
Being covered by the Spanish war and the consequences of the Treaty of Paris, the USA has managed to gain control over Cuba and Philippines. Stating that this domination is only official and it is not going to interfere into its national affairs, the new Cuban Constitution created under the guidelines of a new President, made it possible for the USA to intervene into Cuban inner affairs. The amendments in this constitution gave the USA the power to rule the country.
The operations in Philippines, as well as in Cuba, were a “part of a larger war” (Kinzer 70). Isn’t it exactly what Woodrow told about neutrality and the desire to maintain peace? It is all about the USA.
Pointing to the peaceful operations, declaring about the highest purposes, it always persuaded its own interests. Political and economical influence, the domination in these questions on those territories is one of the main signs of imperialistic expansion. Dwelling upon democracy, the USA helped Cuba get rid of Spanish domination, but Cuba did not become free. The same had happened with Philippines and Nicaragua.
Stating that one of the main desires of the USA in the Spanish-American war was to create the conditions for implementing democracy in many the mentioned countries, the USA managed to release them, but their independence became possible only with the constitutional right of the USA to interfere into the countries’ inner affairs. So, what is it, the American democratic idealism or the practice of American imperialism? The first option is closer and is considered to be more correct.
The Freedom of Speech during the World War
Trying to establish imaginary democracy in the whole world, the US government has realized that the democratic freedoms they have implemented in its own country should b limited. The cause of the limitation of the freedom of speech served Eugene Debs’ The Canton, Ohio Speech, Anti-War Speech which was declared on June 16, 1918. From the very beginning of the speech, it can be seen that the US government had what to worry about.
Debs said that, “it is extremely dangerous to exercise the constitutional right of free speech in a country fighting to make democracy safe in the world” (n.p.). The main idea of the article is declared. The further discussion turns to the representation of the examples of unfairness of the USA on the world arena.
The danger of this discussion for the USA is that its main reasons for implementation of the peace in the words are declared in the whole world. A person has appeared who dared to say it. Saying that it has become dangerous to express personal thoughts in the relation to some specific events and actions which happen in the world, Debs tries to attract social attention to the problem of what the USA tries to impose on human thinking and what it really does.
The focus of this speech was the exposure of the imaginable democracy American people lived. Trying to show examples, Debs asked about the jurisdiction and law system. Is there a simple worker who has ever appointed a judge to his/her position? Federal judges have never been named by the working class. This means that there is nothing to talk about the democracy in the country which does not allow people rule the country.
Americans are the nation which believes its president. If the president states that they live in the democratic society, all the actions the government implements are directed at the support of the regime. The same situation occurs in other countries of the world. One of the main dangers of this speech was the exposure of the real purposes the USA persuaded on the world arena and the creation of the Social Party which could become a problem to the implementation of the US expansion.
This speech is considered to be a reaction to the Espionage Act of 1917 which clearly limited the nation n third sire to express their thoughts. No one could speak about the US enemies and promote their success. The information devoted to false reports which could influence the US success on the international arena was also prohibited. People were deprived of their right to express personal opinion, one of the main characteristic features of the democratic society.
The desire to prevent people from the discussion of the international affairs during the war was caused by the government desire to eliminate any possibility of disclosure of main reasons of the “American democracy” in the world. Being afraid of expressing personal opinion in public, people became to remain silent even in the problems which do not seem prohibited under the Espionage Act of 1917.
In conclusion, it should be mentioned that the desire of the United States of America to create the democratic regimes in all countries in the world is contradicted by the action the USA does. Trying to prove the whole world that the main purpose the USA persuades is the democracy, we can easily see that this is not true.
Having considered the examples of Cuba, Hawaii, Philippines, and Nicaragua, it is possible to state that the only thing which the USA desired was the capital expansion of those territories concealed under the mask of the implementation of the democratic society.
The change of the regimes in different countries under the declaration of their independence or in the frames of the long lasting wars, the USA managed to maintain its imperialism almost in the whole world. Picturesque examples are offered in the book Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq by Stephen Kinzer, where the author strictly provides the examples of the American “ideal democracy” in the world.
Looking at the contemporary world and the situation which has been established, it is possible to say that there are a lot of countries which function not under the American democratic rules and which the USA wants to control.
All the conflicts which happen in the world are based on the issues of power, control and influence. Those who manage to keep the economy and politics of different countries under total control always win. This is exactly what the USA wants to do, but considering the recent case of the invasion of Iraq and the inability of the USA implement its control in that country it may be stated that there is a chance to avoid American imperialistic influence.
Debs, Eugene V. “The Canton, Ohio Speech, Anti-War Speech.” Internet Archive, 2001. Web. 10 March 2011.
Espionage Act of 1917. 1917. Web. 10 March 2011.
Kinzer, Stephen. Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq. Times Books, 2007. Print.
Parenti, Michael. “The Dynamic of Capital Expansion.” Against empire. Ed. Michael Parenti. San Francisco, CA: City Lights Books, 1995. 3-5. Print.
Woodrow, Wilson. “War message to congress.” Joint Session of the Two Houses of Congress, 2 Apr. 1917. Web. 10 March 2011.