The late nineteen and early twentieth century marked the American interventions in South America and some part of Asia particularly Mexico and the Philippines. Events such as these established America as the credible and true superpower in the whole world. Its strategic involvement in many internal disputes of many countries paved the way in its recognition being a hegemony and symbol of peace and democracy. America’s involvement in many wars such as the First World War and Second World War resulted to enormous expansion of its political and economic power in the international arena.
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This is because America’s influence has gained the support of many countries especially those that adhere to freedom and democracy. The United Nations also found an ally in America in the promotion of world peace. One might question as to how America established credibility at the center of world conflict during that period. Another question would be what possible mistake America has committed that led to its defeat in wars in Vietnam, Somalia, and Iraq.
In the light of history some factors that resulted to either victory or defeat of America in its involvement in different events in history might provide answers, and perhaps lesson to learn in its fight for freedom and democracy. The insurrection in the Philippines that took place after the United States bought it from Spanish was so intense that led to the killing of many American soldiers because Aguinaldo’s men were scattered around the Philippines to support the newly established government.
On the other hand, the American intervention in Mexico during its revolution in 1911 was not as violent as what it did to the Philippines because Mexico was at the point of securing a government that was previously and legally established unlike the Philippines where it cost the United States large amount of money for its ownership. America’s effort could be presumed as for the purpose of annexation and expansion of its power and to utilize the resources of its colonies.
Generally, the United States’ success and failure in its intervention in the internal conflict of the Philippines and Mexico during the early twentieth century was due to its ability to display knowledge of the cultural and historical background of the subjects. A careful analysis of the culture and its history was obviously helpful in formulating strategies to invade the country using its weakest point. At this point, it is important to view both Philippine revolution in 1898 and Mexican revolution in 1902 as the people’s reaction to end social struggles in their country.
Philippines dreamed to gain freedom from the bondage of three-hundred years of oppressive colonial rule of Spain, while Mexico wanted to end its labor dispute and social conflict. American’s action to end Filipinos’ struggle for freedom was both noble and intruding Epifanio San Juan described the Filipino-American in 1898 to 1902 as a “fierce campaign of suppression” of Filipinos’ right for independence (p. 228). In the statement of President Aguinaldo’s adviser, Apolinario Mabini, Americans wrestled with weak people to rob them of their rights, which “believed to be inherent in natural law” (p.
229). Philippines after achieving long dreamed liberation from Spanish colonization woke up one morning with new colonizer – the Americans. Brian Dirck stated that Filipinos’ effort to establish new government on its own “turned their attention to throwing the Americans out” (p. 50). The Filipinos’ reaction against the new colonizer could be easily link to their antagonistic feeling towards foreign powers imposing their will upon them.
The three hundred years of oppressive colonial rule had left an enduring mark among the natives, thus they tend to be violent to the new colonial master which are now starting to impose their own will. Dirk stated that the Filipinos effort led to “violent confrontations …, with insurgents destroying military targets, harassing and killing American soldiers, and persuading (by force, if necessary) wavering Philippine civilians to join the independence movement” (p. 50-51). Americans’ response to this condition according to Dirck was characterized by both “a carrot and a stick” (p.
51), which means that Americans tried to win the hearts and minds of the Filipinos through civic efforts such as construction of roads, schools, hospitals, etc, and at the same time combating the insurgent through its brutal tactics aiming at those involved in the resistance. The American efforts of re-establishing the Philippines however, were commendable. Unlike the Spanish rule which were marred with corruption, exploitation, oppression, discrimination, and injustice, the Americans were sincere in their efforts towards developing the Philippine nation.
Unfortunately, the new colonizer for Filipinos was truly traumatic while the need for self-government was perceived as necessary that despite regional differences the people were united to attain that dream. Americans understood it well; the government’s promised independence served as the strong tie between the two countries. The Americans were indeed a better colonizer, as they were determined to develop the country by educating the people by fostering infrastructure developments and by putting the country towards the right direction. In his letter to the Atlantic Monthly for February, 1909: W.
Cameron Forbes, then governor wrote, “We have completed the separation of Church and State, buying out from the religious orders their large agricultural properties, which are now administered by the government for the benefit of the tenants. We have put the finances on a sound basis… We have established schools throughout the archipelago, teaching upward half a million children” (Ford, R. p. 213). The American intervention in the Philippines can be considered successful in view of the three critical factors that were important in achieving their goals.
It was clear that the goals of the United States in were to establish their supremacy in Asia. These three factors include Education, Infrastructure developments, and Economic rehabilitation. These factors were clearly illustrated in the letter of Cameron Forbes above, in which the Americans did well, and eventually gained the support and loyalty of the Filipino people. Besides, the newly established government led by Aguinaldo was premature and the whole country was not prepared for self-government. The American intervention in Mexico appeared as for self-interest
American intervention in the civil war began when General Victoriano Huerta said “I will not recognize a government of butchers” (p. 866), which angered U. S. President Wilson. He supported new revolutionary army under Venustiano Carranza; American force took Veracruz but it was rejected by Mexican people who at that point united to rebuff foreign invasion. Since Carranza the leader of Constitutionalists who occupied the city in 1914 was chosen and supported by the American to lead the war, America thought it would interfere with its government once it was established (p.
866). However, disagreement between Carranza and Wilson over the interest of Mexico led to closer relations between Germany and Mexico, thus, the American intervention in Mexico “provoked strong sense of nationalism where Carranza adopted a firm anti-U. S. stance” (p. 869). The American intervention in Mexico was therefore a failure. There was no doubt that one of the causes of this failure was the U. S. display of arrogant colonial attitude at the Tampiko incident involving US sailors who were mistakenly arrested in the offshore of Tampico in April 9, 1914.
Upon realizing their mistakes, the Mexican officials quickly released the sailors and apologized for their mistakes. However, as Stacy pointed out, “… the naval commander demanded that the Mexican salute the US flag. Mexico’s response refusing US demand could be just the right thing to do being an independent and sovereign nation. However, the US action was punitive yet without justifiable cause. Despite the apology made by the Mexican officials, they invaded Veracruz killing more than two hundred Mexican in the process, all for the Huerta’s refusal to salute the American flag.
In effect, this action united Mexican of all factions against the Americans (Stacy, p. 866). Another cause of the failure of American intervention in Mexico was that the intervention lacked noble objective. While Mexico has been in the throes of social, political, and economic disorders, it appears that not one of these was the reason of American intervention in Mexico. Rather, as Stacy pointed out, the American action was triggered by the remark made by the acting president General Victoriano Huerta saying “I will not recognize a government of butchers” (Stacy, p.
866). Besides, the conflict between America and Mexico according to Alan McPherson “had a lasting impact in Mexico… [that] inspired both resentment about the past and trepidation about the future” (p. 39). The third factor for the American intervention was the political and economic interest of the U. S. Hart noted that the US alliance with prominent Mexican opposition yielded much of the Mexican land to American capitalist (Hart, p. 287). America wanted to protect its interest over the land.
Hart mentioned that “Wilson administration policies toward the Mexican Revolution continued the defense initiated by President Taft and the state government of Texas of American property and commercial interests inside Mexico and along the border” (Hart, p. 283). The American intervention in the Philippines and Mexico provides had some degree of similarities and differences. Both countries had been under Spanish colonial rule; both had experienced socio-economic and political disorders, oppression, exploitation, and poverty.
However, in contrast with Mexico, the American interventions in the Philippines were motivated by a more justifiable objectives and colonial policies. While the American objectives maybe was to protect its own personal interests in Asia, their policies towards the subdued people were nobler and were aimed towards the development of the nation and its people. American intervention in Mexico on the other hand was merely based on subjective political issues that may not be directly beneficial to the masses.
Conclusion Success and failure of American intervention was due largely on its ability to display knowledge of culture and history of the countries. America interfered in the internal affair of the Philippines by winning the heart and mind of much larger Filipinos through civic actions while torturing those who resisted America. Filipinos therefore developed loyalty to the Americans. Mexico on the other hand, rejected intervention from America because of the previous Mexican-American War that occurred in 1846.
America failed to draft policies that would end the social problem in the land; rather it appeared as invader who would rob the people of their rights over the properties of their land. There are two sources of learning from these two cases of US interventions not so much because it involved two countries, but because this situation involved two different approaches of interventions. First, military intervention in the Philippines was successful in view of their development effort.
They were successful in conveying to the natives their concern to educate them, to build roads projects and hospitals. On the other hand, Mexicans’ struggle to attain economic freedom and equality was not given attention; instead it resulted to more hostilities. It is therefore obvious that intervention should be made according to a clear purpose of building lasting relationship in which both countries will gain benefits. Primarily addressing the cause of conflict is the best strategy to employ to gain citizens’ loyalty.
Reference Dirck, B. (2003) Waging War on Trial. USA: ABC-CLIO. Hart, J. M. (1997) Revolutionary Mexico. USA: University of California Press. McPherson, A. (2006) Anti-Americanism in Latin America and the Caribbean. USA: Berghahn Books. Rhodes, J. F. (2007) The McKinley and Roosevelt Administration 1897-1909 USA: READ BOOKS San Juan, E. (2004) Working Through the Contradictions: From Cultural Theory to Critical Practice. USA: Bucknell University Press. Stacey, L. (2002) Mexico and the United States. USA: Marshall Cavendish.
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