There are two distinct versions of America in American history, the America before World War Two and the America after World War Two. The rise to a world power status began in 1898 and peaked in 1945. The transition to the complete empire state started by Truman was then completed under Ronald Reagan, 1980 to 1988. Trump may unwittingly be ending American dominance over the world and may usher in a humbling return to a new kind of international normalcy. The American century may give way to the Chinese century.
World Power Beginnings
The 1898 Spanish American War started out as just another Monroe Doctrine war in Cuba. But when the Naval Secretary was out of town, the deputy Theodore Roosevelt ordered the fleet into Manila Bay, and next thing you know US invaded the Philippines, making the US an international power. George Washington warned the US about international entanglements, but the die was cast. Next thing you know we get involved in an European war, two years after the Lusitania “passenger ship” half loaded with munitions bound for Britain was sunk by a German U-boat. Wilson waited until after the 1916 re-election, campaigning on peace, to declare war in April 1917, the first full month of the second term. German Americans were vilified as was Progressive Republican Senator Robert La Follette of half German Wisconsin, who opposed the war and started the Progressive Magazine. Still, after both wars America returned to the low 1% GDP military America had always had in peacetime. The founding figures rightly feared the negative impacts of excessive militarism, preferring a minimal peacetime military filled with volunteers during wartime.
Causes of World War Two
In a normal hegemonic war, the largest economy normally wins, in the First World War that was Germany, with Britain second and France third. But America was the world leading economy, twice the size of Germany. When Germany finally defeated Russia and brought those troops to the Western front, they finally began winning the war. American entry into the war changed all that, awarding the victory to an undeserving France, bitter from the 1870 Prussian victory and the huge losses of the war, where for the first time in 500 years a major European war cost three times the usual 1.5% of the European population, with a whopping 5% of Europe dying in the war. A young John Maynard Keynes, future economic genius, was on the British team working on the Versailles peace treaty. He wrote a book in 1919 predicting the peace treaty would lead to another war. He accurately foresaw the second world war. With American banks financing the German reparations debt, American farmers shared some of the German hurt. Hoover in 1928 campaigned on relief for American farmers in the form of the Smoot Hawley Tariff, triggering the trade war that caused the Great Depression and weakened the farm based French economy so much that they later easily fell to Germany in 1940. Should have listened to George Washington about foreign entanglements.
Entry into World War Two
Churchill and Roosevelt needed some way to get peace loving America into the war in 1941. They had cracked the German and Japanese codes, so they knew the enemies’ plans. The key was the Philippines. With that Asian US entanglement, the US was sitting astride the sea lanes between Japan and the Indonesian oil fields. In October 1941 the US stopped selling oil to Japan. This forced Japan to take Indonesia to get oil for the Chinese war. Japan, seeing a collision with the US as inevitable, then decided to gamble on crippling the American fleet in Pearl Harbor in a combined surprise attack throughout the South Pacific. But because the US knew the plans, Roosevelt made sure the aircraft carriers were safely at sea when the attack came, leaving obsolete dreadnoughts in the harbor for emotional impact to whip up a war fever.
End of World War Two
Truman was US president for the last months of World War Two. Japan was defeated and demoralized, ready to surrender, when the atom bomb became available. Roosevelt had urged the Russians to help with Japan so when they finally entered that front in Korea, Truman wanted a demonstration of the atomic bomb to threaten the Soviets. The war in Europe had ended with 10 million German troops on the Russian front and 5 million German troops on the Western front. When the mayor of Hiroshima asked why the bomb was dropped on them, Truman used Pearl Harbor as his reason why. The Cold War became the rationale for the high levels of military spending at the five or ten percent of the economy level, instantly making America an empire. The 1947 National Security Act launched the Cold War economically. The large standing peacetime army avoided for America’s first century and a half gave way to the rationale of empire, with the false illusion of military Keynesianism pretending America could afford it. Eisenhower Truman and the Secretary of State outvoted the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of War who wanted to continue the founding persons conservative approach. The Act changed the Department of War to the Department of Defense and created the CIA which immediately established Operation Mockingbird to control the media. Like when Rome went to the emperor system, the imperial presidency and Pax Americana were born.
Cold War America
Covert Operations of the CIA was the American mechanism of controlling the world. For about a generation after World War Two, the old America still existed culturally, but after 1980 the empire was firmly put in charge. President Kennedy tried to reverse course with the Peace Corp, the Alliance for Progress in Latin America, and plans to pull out of Vietnam, abolish the CIA covert operations, and a negotiated mutual disarmament with the Soviet Union. Khrushchev cried when Kennedy died, and Johnson stopped the peace plans. Brezhnev deposed Khrushchev in 1964 and immediately began the military buildup that doomed the Soviet Union in the eighties. When the Germans doubled military spending in the sixties after the Berlin Wall of 1961, that decade is remembered by the Germans as the lost decade.
Problems of Empire
Development tends to stall and many social indicators tend to worsen as empire gains a tighter grip over a society. These changes tend to be closely related to changes in military spending, worse when military spending increases and better when military spending decreases. Ronald Reagan worked for the number one nuclear weapons contractor, General Electric, for many years with his Death Valley Days show in the fifties. He implemented many of the changes that have haunted America to this very day. His Budget Director David Stockman called his 25 % income tax cut plan a “Trojan Horse” to bring the top tax rate down 60% from 70% down to 28%. This has led to quadrupling the income of the top 1% over the next thirty years. Meanwhile he fired the PATCO air traffic controllers for going on strike, even though they had donated to his campaign. Then the middle class who got only a 15% income tax cut from Reagan have had no gains since 1973. He shamelessly promoted the military, blaming Carter for the second recession in three years. The relatively mild Carter oil shock recession of 1980 have been followed by the 1981 recovery year 2.1% growth. Reagan’s biggest military increase in peacetime US history in fiscal year 1982, took the 1981 recovery year back into recession with a highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression of 10.8% for the year or 11.2% for the worst month. Even the 2008-2009 Great Recession only reached 10.2% unemployment rate for its worst month. Republicans blamed that Bush recession on Obama to recapture the congress and 26 states in 2010 and lock in control for ten years with gerrymandering. Reagan also abolished the “equal time” rule for political coverage by the media in 1987 leading directly to the rise of Rush Limbaugh and the FOX News channel giving Trump a propaganda channel. Russia has used bots for years to promote American division through the issues of guns, immigration, and white supremacy and along comes Trump to take advantage of these new propaganda vehicles. Russian donations have tripled NRA funding from $10 billion four years before to $30 billion to help the Trump election. The Cold War and Reagan policies still haunt America. While America leads the developed world in 16 negative socioeconomic categories, US is still #1 in military spending with triple the economic percentage of other developed countries and even the rest of the world combined. A major cost of empire is the economic and social decay that comes with the slow collapse of empire.
For additional information please see these thirteen pages about empire ideas:
Please cite this work as follows:
Reuschlein, Robert. (2018, January 28), “How Empire America Emerged” Madison, WI: Real Economy Institute. Retrieved from: https://www.expertclick.com/NewsRelease/How-Empire-America-Emerged,2018153441.aspx
Academics, Politicians, can nominate Robert Reuschlein by February 1st for Nobel Peace Prize: https://www.nobelpeaceprize.org/Nomination.
Dr. Peace, Professor Robert Reuschlein, Real Economy Institute, Nominated Vetted 2016, and Given Odds for the Nobel Peace Prize 2017, Possible Favorite in 2018 Nobel Peace Prize November 5th.
Contact: email@example.com, Info: www.realeconomy.com