100 Years

  • Category: American History
  • Words: 561
  • Grade: 100
October 1901: Full reports of the Filipino victory at Balangiga reach the United States; the U.S. military launches a brutal counterinsurgency campaign on Samar; Gen. Jacob Smith issues orders that lead to widepread atrocities: "I want no prisoners. I wish you to kill and burn, the more you kill and burn the better you will please me. I want all persons killed who are capable of bearing arms in actual hostilities against the United States." When asked for clarification, Smith orders that all Filipinos on Samar over the age of ten should be killed.

Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the most heatedly debated question in dominant U.S. foreign policy circles has been whether the country should assume leadership in a "one-superpower world" or subordinate itself to the decisions of international organizations like the United Nations. From outside of these elite circles, another voice has been raised in the foreign policy debate during the last two decades by organizations concerned with the effects of U.S. policy on specific countries and regions of the world. Coalitions of peace and human rights activists and veterans of religious and secular voluntary overseas programs have formed numerous solidarity organizations that combine direct criticism of U.S. foreign policy with support for opposition movements in their countries of concern. For them, the question is not so much whether or not the United States should exercise world power, but how that power is used to influence the political, military and economic policies of other countries, especially those of the so-called Third World.

Although the Cold War and its end have framed these recent debates, the issues involved have much deeper roots in U.S. political traditions and were thoroughly debated at the turn of the century as the United States was just beginning to gain its world power status. Formed to protest direct territorial imperialism, the Anti-Imperialist League was the primary organized opposition to the Philippine-American War that began in 1899. The League addressed issues of economic imperialism with increasing frequency during its last ten years and, by the 1920s, when the second generation of anti-imperialist organizations was formed, that was the primary focus of both scholars and activists concerned with the issue. Defying neat categorization as either "isolationist" or "internationalist" as those words are usually defined, the anti-imperialists combined criticism of specific aspects of U.S. involvement in world affairs with a non-governmental internationalism that found expression in both close alliances with like-minded opposition groups overseas and advocacy of multilateral solutions to international problems.

This site introduces the first organizations formed to oppose U.S. territorial and economic imperialism and makes available many of the otherwise hard-to-find documents they produced. Among them is a large collection of anti-imperialist literature. Much of it was written by authors whose works are still appreciated and studied today but whose roles in the anti-imperialist movement are not widely known. Other literary responses, like the numerous newspaper and magazine verses written in response to Rudyard Kipling's "The White Man's Burden," are restored here from near-total obscurity. These writings, and the many pro- and anti-imperialist political cartoons scattered throughout the site, represent part of the important cultural response to imperialism. Organizational platforms, speeches, and pamphlets might clearly state the political issues involved, but the cultural expressions give us our best indications of the extent to which the debate about imperialism influenced U.S. society as a whole.

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