Americans like to think they have no imperial past. In fact, the United States became an imperial nation within five short years a century ago (1898-1903), exploding onto the international scene with the conquest of Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, and (indirectly) Panama. How did the nation become a player in world politics so suddenly—and what inspired the move toward imperialism in the first place? The renowned diplomat and writer Warren Zimmermann seeks answers in the lives and relationships of five remarkable figures: the hyper-energetic Theodore Roosevelt, the ascetic naval strategist Alfred T. Mahan, the bigoted and wily Henry Cabot Lodge, the self-doubting moderate Secretary of State John Hay, and the hard-edged corporate lawyer turned colonial administrator Elihu Root.
Faced with difficult choices, these extraordinary men, all close friends, instituted new political and diplomatic policies with intermittent audacity, arrogance, generosity, paternalism, and vision.Zimmermann's discerning account of these five men also examines the ways they exploited the readiness of the American people to support a surge of expansion overseas. He makes it clear why no discussion of America's international responsibilities today can be complete without understanding how the United States claimed its global powers a century ago.
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The major ground campaigns of the Spanish-American War were in Cuba, where the army of Spain was completely overmatched by the US Army. Like Cuba, Puerto Rico was a Spanish colony until the Spanish-American War, but unlike Cuba, it came entirely under American administration. President William McKinley drew his inspiration for the US policy towards the Philippines during a nighttime revelation, which told him to bring them into the American sphere. In 1893 an American-inspired revolt removed the Queen of Hawaii from her throne, but Grover Cleveland refused to let the annexation treaty through Congress. Theodore Roosevelt was a progressive political leader, conservationist, war hero and adventurer. Henry Cabot Lodge was a member of one of Boston's prominent old families and served in the United States Senate. John Hay was an eminent writer in the period after the American Revolution as a diplomat negotiated a number of treaties that include his name.