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Power and Restraint

Power and Restraint: The Rise of the United States, 1898--1941

Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 344
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  • Book Info
    Power and Restraint
    Book Description:

    At the end of the nineteenth century, the United States emerged as an economic colossus in command of a new empire. Yet for the next forty years the United States eschewed the kind of aggressive grand strategy that had marked other rising imperial powers in favor of a policy of moderation.InPower and Restraint, Jeffrey W. Meiser explores why the United States-counter to widely accepted wisdom in international relations theory-chose the course it did. Using thirty-four carefully researched historical cases, Meiser asserts that domestic political institutions and culture played a decisive role in preventing the mobilization of resources necessary to implement an expansionist grand strategy. These factors included traditional congressional opposition to executive branch ambitions, voter resistance to European-style imperialism, and the personal antipathy to expansionism felt by presidents like Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt. The web of resilient and redundant political restraints halted or limited expansionist ambitions and shaped the United States into an historical anomaly, a rising great power characterized by prudence and limited international ambitions.

    eISBN: 978-1-62616-179-5
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. IX-X)
    (pp. XI-XII)
    (pp. XIII-XXXIV)

    In 1898 the united states of america stood on the cusp of world empire. It was a country on the rise and everybody knew it. The United States had the largest economy on the planet and US economic growth was outpacing all other great powers.¹ On the domestic political front, the North and South had established a modus vivendi and the continental frontier was officially closed, causing many Americans to look abroad for new strategic and economic opportunities. The proexpansionist Republican Party dominated the executive branch, which meant that American leaders were open to ideas about new uses of American...

    (pp. 1-28)

    Why are most rising powers expansionist? Why did the United States not follow this pattern? Answering these questions requires a theory of expansion and a theory of restraint. It is the purpose of this chapter to articulate these theories. The first part of this chapter focuses on rising power expansion. Explaining expansion is not a central goal of this book, but a theory of expansion is necessary to enable us to identify when we expect expansion to occur. Only after we set the baseline for expansion is it possible to identify cases of restraint. In other words, without a theory...

    (pp. 29-58)

    Beginning in the late 1890s, the United States appeared to behave like a normal rising power by implementing an expansionist grand strategy. Since the 1870s the United States had been at the top of the international hierarchy in terms of economic power, but had eschewed turning this latent power into state power and passed up many opportunities to make territorial gains at the expense of weaker neighbors.¹ But 1898 was a major turning point: the United States joined the great power club through its military defeat of Spain and acquisition of colonies in the Caribbean and Asia-Pacific regions. However a...

    (pp. 59-97)

    By the end of the War of 1898 the United States had acquired foreign colonies for the first time in its history. On the surface it seemed that 1899 inaugurated the emergence of the United States as a great power no longer subject to the isolationist ways of a young and vulnerable republic. This was supposedly the emergence of the United States as a great power and the inception of a new era of expansionism in American foreign policy. However, under the surface, the American domestic political structure exerted counterpressure on the expansionist impulses inherent in a rising power. The...

    (pp. 98-144)

    When Theodore Roosevelt took office for his second term as President of the United States it seemed that all the pieces were in place for significant increase in American territorial expansion: there was plenty of territory in the Western Hemisphere that had not been claimed by any great power; the political instability of the Caribbean and Central America provided the opportunity and justification to annex new territories; the United States had recently emerged as a colonial power; the proexpansionist Republican Party was dominant in American politics; and Roosevelt, a vigorous advocate of imperialism, had just won the presidential election by...

    (pp. 145-193)

    The first wave of American expansionism stretched from 1898 to 1912 and was characterized by the struggle for the United States to reconcile its rapidly expanding national power with its highly circumscribed role in world politics.¹ Growth in the material power of the United States resulted in strong incentives for an expansionist grand strategy. The United States certainly expanded, as documented by the previous chapters. However, the United States expanded much less than we would expect, judging from the enormous increase in material power that occurred during the late 1800s and early 1900s. The United States rose higher and faster...

    (pp. 194-234)

    The years following Woodrow Wilson’s second term as president mark the recession of the second wave of American expansionism. As demonstrated in the previous chapter, the second wave, like the first, was limited in its reach by the political structure of the United States. During the Wilson years American norms and institutions did not prevent expansion from occurring, but did significantly limit the scope and intensity of American expansionism. The Republican interregnum (1921–1933) was a transition period between the Wilson era when mainstream American leaders still advocated for political–military expansionism, and the ultimate disavowal of interference in the...

    (pp. 235-259)

    “If we have to go in there again we will never be able to come out and we will have on our hands the trouble of thirty years ago.” This quotation from Secretary of State Cordell Hull during the Cuban crisis of 1933 conveys the change in the perception of US national interests by foreign policy leaders in the United States between the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt and the inauguration of Franklin D. Roosevelt as president of the United States. The United States shifted from looking for justifications to “go in there” and stay as long as possible, to looking...

    (pp. 260-270)

    The analysis in this book suggests that domestic structural restraint played a central role in limiting American political–military expansion during the rise of the United States to the status of great power and then potential hegemon. As is clear from the cases discussed, domestic restraints did not always prevent expansion; in fact, in many cases domestic structure did not prevent expansion. Instead, the effect of institutional and normative restraint was to reduce the overall trajectory of American expansion by delaying, limiting, undermining, and preventing political–military expansion. Structural restraint also fostered backlash against expansionism and retrenchment of most expansionist...

    (pp. 271-292)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 293-303)