The American Anti- Imperialism League was a movement that was established by Americans in 1898 to veto against the forceful occupation of America of foreign territories due to the belief that it violated the very essence of American beliefs. (Frank, 2001) During this period immediately before and after 1898, American foreign policy was confusing to most citizens because there were no motivating factors to forcefully occupy foreign territories. There was no danger for American conflicts within the territories and economic ambitions of America did not justify the extent of occupation witnessed during this time. Historians have for a long time searched for any clue as to the reason why America just decided to engage in imperialism but none have succeeded in coming up with a conclusive reason. This is because nations are always driven to forcefully occupy other nations by strong and authentic national interests. However, before engaging in an in depth analysis of the platform of American anti-imperialism league, it is important to first define what imperialism entails. According to (Long, 1996) imperialism can generally be defined as: “forcible control of foreign people.” Although the definition is basic and brief it captures imperialism from a perspective that the American people were categorically against. Imperialism was somewhat a transition between colonialism and nationalism. Colonialism was the occupation of vacant territories while nationalism never involved any aspect of controlling foreign territories. (Long, 1996)
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Excerpts documented in (Hilton, 1999) provide a rough idea of what actually drove politicians to support imperialism. When President McKinley sought to justify and convince the Americans that the forceful occupation of the Philippines while speaking to a group of religious personalities, he conveniently included religious sentiments such as claiming that occupation of Spain had been inspired by God. He also added that America could not just leave territories such as Spain to be occupied by nations such as China. Furthermore, he pointed out that such territories could not effectively govern themselves. Although, it is observable that his major aim was to prevent the spread of communistic ideologies it was sad that he included aspects such as Christianization and civilization as excuses. Another excerpt from Senator George Hoar, who was against imperialism, the senator pointed out that there was no way that congress could justify the forceful occupation of a sovereign nation an undertaking that was even opposed within the tenets of the Declaration of Independence.
However, in the process of imperialism American did not in most instances anticipate the implication of its forceful occupation of foreign territories. For instance the situation in Cuba which emanated to a war between Spain and America in 1898, America never expected the situation to get as it got. According to (Frank, 2001), it reached a point when the American society was looking for its identity in the international arena and it is perhaps during this period that American politicians decided to engage in an imperialistic foreign policy. Frank outlines that historically, America had always been nurtured by ideologies and even during this period the ideologies constructed by politicians drove the process. As outlined by Frank the war with Spain taught America a number of lessons. The first one was that although America had a strong and equipped navy, the performance of its military on land was rather disappointing. These events among others drove Americans to self actualization and the reaffirmation of the tenets of American beliefs. Imperialism was backed by paranoia and the fear of an enemy that never actually existed or even when the enemy existed, the approaches employed were totally uncalled for. It was therefore time for American citizens to stand out and rebuke any leader or leaders who supported the forceful occupation of foreign territories under the guise that the territories were not able to effectively govern themselves. The opposition to imperialism is what motivated the genesis of the platform of American anti-imperialism league. Imperialism was governed by unnecessary bloody conflicts as most nations refused forceful occupation and armed conflicts ensued. Furthermore, the world had just recovered from a period of colonial occupation in most countries and having another version of colonialism in the form of imperialism was unacceptable. Therefore, America risked being judged harshly in the international arena due to imperialism. Most politicians who backed imperialism did not have reasons enough to back the undertaking and this is evidenced by the fact most of them either held the untrue belief that it was for the good of the American people.
Imperialism was a period in history that most Americans would love to forget because it threatened the international relations with other nations. During this time America was establishing itself as a key player in the international arena due to the democratic beliefs held by America. However, the beliefs were completely violated due to empty ambitions of few politicians which involved forceful occupation of other countries. The platform of American anti-imperialism league stated clearly that no person had the right to impose on another person rule. Furthermore, America had already experienced forceful occupation by Britain and fought diligently against. In addition, it was stipulated in the Declaration of Independence. Therefore, the era of American imperialism was a period when America rediscovered its beliefs and perhaps the important role in the international arena. Although, the period painted America in bad light it also functioned to reunite Americans as a nation and with other nations of the world thereafter.