We Were Sure That We Would Win, That We Should Score The First Great Triumph In A Mighty World Movement Theodore Roosevelt, 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 , 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 Just a bit dense for a summer read, but really interesting history. In 2016 the United States has over 700 military bases across the world As the sole superpower, it feels entitled to intervene anywhere it chooses and goes to great lengths to provide the network of facilities that will enable it to do so.This situation is relatively new When I was a young man, it was the Cold War that was used to explain American global military expansion, but as events since the end of the USSR in 1991 have shown, there has been something driving the U.S to dominate the world militarily, something at work, as this book describes, many decades before the Cold War.First Great Triumph investigates the time at the turn of the 20th century when the United States took advantage of the feeble state of the Spanish Empire to make an appearance for the first time on the stage of great power deployment The famous sinking of the U.S.S Maine in Havana harbor, now thought to have been due to an explosion of coal fumes, provided the excuse to declare war on Spain and in short order take over authority in Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines.Warren Zimmerman chose as the backbone of his book, five people who played important roles in turning the U.S toward expansion John Hay started as a young aide to Lincoln and ended up Secretary of State under Teddy Roosevelt Alfred Mahan, a lover of history and an irritating misfit in the U.S Navy, composed his classic The Influence of Sea Power on History with perfect timing for it provide a template for the expansion and deployment of sea power by the United States Elihu Root was one of those people who succeed at everything they try, going from a lawyer representing corporations to become Secretary of War under TR Henry Cabot Lodge, an aristocratic U.S Senator from Massachusetts played an essential role in shepherding legislation through Congress that was necessary for the handling of the newly acquired territories won from Spain Theodore Roosevelt unsurprisingly completes the list of characters chosen by Zimmerman TR s zest for war did not start the Spanish American war, coming as it did before he became president, but his relentless support for military action, enthusiasm for Mahan s recipe for sea power and his close connection with the other four principals in the book, all of whom were part of or worked with his administration, make him the centerpiece of the story.And what a rich and deep account is provided Opening with individual biographies, Zimmerman continues with an examination of the social conditions and ideas that dominated the times Social Darwinism in America is examined along with the bigotry it justified, present to some extent in all of the characters Brief histories of the lands the U.S took from Spain are included along with a history of Hawaii, another in the chain of properties that provided stepping stones across the Pacific to the big prize of the Philippines One thing is clear, the interests of the people of the lands the U.S took to itself were quite secondary to American global aspirations, this being the nature of imperialism.Above all, it is the interplay of personalities and the description of how each challenge is met by the five protagonists that make the book an enjoyable read Zimmerman states in his introduction that the book is not written to either praise or condemn American imperialism, but to approach the times in a fair way, giving an account of all sides The triumph in the title refers to the victory for the Unites States in the war with Spain, giving it a place at the table of major powers, the opening move in the building of an empire that is still being maintained, somewhat shakily and at huge expense, over a hundred years later I leave you with a few quotes I found in the book that I found thought provoking for Americans in the 21st century America does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy John Quincy Adams There is a wide difference between taking a suitable part and bearing responsibility in world affairs and plunging the United States into every conflict on the face of the globe Henry Cabot Lodge Our chief usefulness to humanity rests on our combining power with high purpose Theodore Roosevelt I have mixed emotions about this book The author argues that the US is, and has always been, an Imperialist nation He cites the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the Westward Expansion across the continent as proof of his premise and the Spanish American War as the fruition of American Imperialism that has since matured throughout the 20th Century I think his analysis deeply flawed, although an argument can certainly be made that the Spanish American War was in fact an American dalliance with Imperialism That said, and I think it to be true, that does not validate America s Imperialist tendencies before the war, nor did it lead to continued American Imperialism.On the other hand, his history is informative, detailed and greatly interesting He lays out extensive biographies of his five principal Imperialists John Hay, Alfred Thayer Mahan, Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Cabot Lodge and Elihu Root that are revealing and informative I was especially interested in the personal histories of John Hay and Alfred Thayer Mahan much here you may not find elsewhere, and concisely presented I question the overarching primacy of these five men in creating the Imperialist outburst of 1898 They were important and influential figures, to be sure but not the only ones.Also, his recounting of the events, personalities, politics, diplomatic maneuverings, strategies, tactics and cultural influences surrounding the war with Spain, the annexation of Hawaii, the takings of Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines is excellent Disappointingly, the actual war with Spain gets fairly short shrift in one chapter And clearly the author disapproves of the Imperialist tendencies of the US even when they are being exercised at the expense of other Imperialist powers He recognizes, but quickly glosses over, the certain fates of Hawaii, Guam and the Philippines at the hands of the Germans, the French and particularly the Japanese all of which were REAL Imperialist powers looking for acquisitions It is his analysis of underlying causes and meanings that is flawed, so read the history don t spend a lot of time on the rest.The author would also benefit from better editing There are frequent annoying errors, and inexplicable word choices, that shouldn t be there For example, discussing General Miles of the American forces in Cuba, the author mentions that he was an Indian fighter and had captured the great Sioux chieftain Geronimo except Geronimo was Apache A second reference much later in the text correctly identifies Geronimo as Apache Another example, he dotes on the word filibuster using it repeatedly as a verb to describe fleet movements That is an esoteric definition that will puzzle most readers the word can mean a free booter in the sense of one engaging in unauthorized warfare, but the author uses it in a general sense perhaps in accordance with his palpable disapproval of the Navy s authorized maneuvers i.e., the US Naval ships filibustered from Key West towards Cuba it just doesn t fit. Writing en route to Cuba during the Spanish American War, Theodore Roosevelt envisioned the coming campaign as the first great triumph in what will be a world movement That movement the emergence of the United States as a world power is the subject of this thoughtful approach to the history and diplomacy of the era of the Spanish American War The first half of the book, after an overview of the United States in 1898, consist of essays on five men who exemplified the expansionist movement and played a part in its development They include the poet, journalist, and diplomat John Hay Alfred T Mahan, theorist of sea power Elihu Root, corporation lawyer, government administrator, and presidential adviser Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, expansionist spokesman and mentor of Theodore Roosevelt, and finally, TR himself Mahan narrates the stories of these lives of the leaders of this era with attention to their accomplishments and, in the cases of Alfred T Mahan and Elihu Root, these were a revelation to me The second half of the book was a traditional history of the era and in it the author, while decrying the advent of American imperialism, betrayed his own preference for big government He concludes with an analysis of the legacy on the twentieth century of the expansion led by these five men the creation of an authentic American Imperialism for better or worse , the preparation of the United States to be a great power, the first comprehensive assertion of of U S security interests abroad, the creation of foreign policy priorities in human rights and stability, and finally strengthening the American presidency This final legacy has grown unwieldy at the beginning of our new century Overall Zimmermann s book was an excellent historical overview of a formative period for American foreign relations.
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- 576 pages
- First Great Triumph: How Five Americans Made Their Country a World Power
- Warren Zimmermann
- 02 August 2018 Warren Zimmermann