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How Important Were Economic Factors in Shaping US Foreign Policy Between 1890-1917? Essay Sample

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How Important Were Economic Factors in Shaping US Foreign Policy Between 1890-1917? Essay Sample

There were many economic factors which contributed to the shaping of US foreign policy, some were very important and others less so. There were also many strategic, religious and government policy factors which affected the USAs foreign policy. Foreign policy is the way a certain country deals with other countries, it can be affected by domestic considerations and the behaviour of other states.

America gained an influence over Hawaii mainly because of economic and strategic benefits. They wanted it for economic reasons as it helped the trade with China and Japan as it acted as a stepping stone and helped to protect ships. Also Americans owned 75% of everything on Hawaii so Hawaii would not be able to run without Americas help so Hawaii was willing to let America influence it. This meant America would make more because they would be able to control trade and exporting. The strategic benefits were that it acted as a stepping stone to the Far East, it allowed America to build a naval base in the pacific (pearl harbour) and made it easier to attack Spanish colonies in the pacific during the Spanish-American war. The US also used Cuba in a similar way. It used Cuba strategically to help protect Florida and the east coast and to establish control over Central America and the Caribbean. This also made trade safer between the countries which would benefit the economy.

America also felt it needed to acquire a certain amount of control over China because there were so many people (three times the population of the US) to trade with and China is such a vast space. It did this by sending in troops to control the boxers then declaring that China has an open door policy when it comes to trade. The US then acquired a strip of land in Panama so it could build a canal. It did this for both economic and strategic reasons. The economic reasons are that it would be able to trade with other countries more easily and that it would be able to ship things transcontinentally without going through the rough seas near the Antarctic. It would also be a lot cheaper to travel through the canal than around the bottom of South America. Furthermore they would be able to charge states to use the canal on a regular basis. It also helped strategically as it meant that the naval ships would be able to travel to the east of the country in defensive situations and it would also be able to attack other countries quicker because the journey time is reduced.

America then used their economic power through dollar diplomacy. This meant that it would try to influence other countries by giving them money instead of using military power. This means the US wouldn’t have to spend as much money on the armed forces so that money can be spent to spread the economic influence. It is also less obvious to the rest of the world that you are trying to build an empire as there is no animosity shown towards countries. This also makes it more popular and means that the country would lose less lives.

Foreign policy was also influenced by religious and cultural reasons like when the US colonised the Philippines they didn’t just do it for trade or strategy they did it to spread Christianity and to spread civilisation. America also used culture during the Spanish-American war when it tried to spread Christianity through Cuba by making the English language and religious studies mandatory. There were also political factors that influenced foreign policy like the Roosevelt corollary where President Roosevelt said that America had the right to intervene in any American countries where the government had broken down. However this can also be seen as an economic factor as Roosevelt only said this to protect the interests of American businesses.

Woodrow Wilson was then influenced by economic factors when deciding whether to go to war or not. At first he decided not to go because it would be very expensive and would stop America from concentrating on its own economy. But he then decided to go to war because if they didn’t then the US would lose billions of dollars which they had lent to the allies as if the allies lost they would be broke and would not be able to repay debts. Also the American economy would benefit because of all of the munitions that were being manufactured in America and would be sold to the government.

Altogether I think the economic factors were the biggest influence in shaping American foreign policy as most of Americas diplomacy depended on money. Although there were other factors that shaped foreign policy like strategy, politics and culture none of these were deemed to be as important to the American government.

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