American Civilization II Research Paper

Submitted By AddamHusayin
Words: 2107
Pages: 9

Adam Rodriguez
Professor Cuddy
American Civilization II
13 September 2014
Research Paper A misunderstanding of history can lead to assumptions about what kind of nation America was and has become over many centuries. Robert Kagan’s book, “A Dangerous Nation”, details his interpretations of the political, social, economic factors, and the aftermath of the Spanish-American War. This paper will make an informed decision on whether the war was justified or not by taking into account St. Augustine’s theory. Kagan introduces America as a nation that is misunderstood when it comes to interpretations of foreign policies in the last few centuries. These misconceptions of American foreign policies are significant to understanding the causes and effects of the Spanish-American War. The following research will analyze and interpret the writings of Kagan to set the record straight on what actually happened before, during, and after the Spanish-American War. According to Kagan, America is often seen as being on the sidelines while claiming to be neutral when it comes to foreign matters. He is correct in the respect when it comes to the United States during World War I and World War II. During both wars, the U.S. maintained neutrality until it was forced into the war from coming under attack. Kagan paints a picture of a very different United States in the 1890s due to Anti-Spanish propaganda concocted by newspaper journalists such as Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolf Hearst. Both Pulizter and Hearst sensationalized stories about atrocities such as Cubans dying of starvation and disease. Kagan makes the assertion that, “Even Hearst could not sensationalize the horrible events in Cuba” (Kagan 391). It can be argued that both the politicians and the public were outraged by these events and call to action against the Spaniards. Historians such as Perloff maintain that, “This is a press-driven war which fueled the public’s passion for war” (Perloff 31). Kagan cannot deny that Hearst did exaggerate stories in the yellow press and that it had great influence on the American people along with President William McKinley. It was McKinley who stopped resisting the war after the yellow press claimed the Spanish had destroyed the USS Maine, so he was influenced by this false reporting. In reality, the USS Maine is concluded to have been destroyed by its own powder magazines which caught fire and exploded, sinking the ship. Without sensationalizing events such as claiming the Spanish sunk the USS Maine, Cuban intervention probably would have been handled differently. The political causes of the war stemmed from Republicans and Democrats in Congress itself pressuring McKinley to go to war. Kagan makes it clear that McKinley avoided war with Spain at all costs. As surmised by Kagan, “McKinley was not diverting attention from the economy, rescue the oppressed, or reliving the white man of his burden” (406). So why exactly did McKinley go to war when he was so hesitant all this time? Kagan believes that McKinley asked Congress to go to war because it was his duty to uphold humanitarian standards of practice. It is arguable whether this message is true because McKinley only speaks of this in his message to the American people. Kagan also wrote that McKinley had “no choice and made a decision he did not believe was correct despite there being little evidence that he was forced to make this decision” (406). I believe the intervention could have been prevented and McKinley would have been able to negotiate with Spain had he not caved to the demands of Congress and the American people. Kagan could have written about how McKinley should have investigated the sinking of the USS Maine to find out if the Spanish were truly responsible. Of course the what-if scenarios of history are difficult to interpret and analyze sine they never actually happened. One could argue that it is superfluous to discussing what McKinley could have, would have, and should have