One of the arguments that your textbook author makes about American military activity abroad in the late 1800s and the early 1900s – in the Spanish American War and in military interventions in Latin American countries – is that America, as a democratic nation, is acting counter to its principles when it uses the military to decide what will happen in other countries. That is to say, your textbook argues that when America acts imperialistically, it is not being democratic.

This view is directly opposed to the way that American leaders have talked (and sometimes continue to talk) about why we go to war. We almost always say that war is because of democracy – upholding it, sharing it, protecting it. This is the logic behind the phrase “freedom isn’t free.”

In this discussion, I’d like you to think about imperialism and democracy. It might be important here to think about what you think counts as “imperialism” in order to consider which American military interventions you count as imperialistic. Then, consider: do you think that empire is incompatible with democracy? Why/why not? Use examples from the late 1800s and early 1900s to support your ideas.

A related question here: How does reading about this period affect your view of American military action today? Do you think that American involvement in Iraq or Afghanistan compares to involvement in the Spanish American War, for example? Why or why not? Make sure to use evidence to support your ideas.

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