Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts Chapter 11: ¡Cuba Libre!

Chapter 11: ¡Cuba Libre!

The Tragedy of U.S. Foreign Policy:

How America’s Civil Religion Betrayed the National Interest


McDougall Book Jacket

The original draft of this book contained 172 pages of endnotes, which had to be shed in the name of economy. Thanks to the Internet, readers can access them here. Unfortunately, of course, the author had to substitute page and paragraph numbers for the original superscripts in the text, but in most cases it should be clear which sentences in a given paragraph match up with which sources.

Paragraphs appearing in their entirety on a single page are identified by the page number (e.g., p. 122). Paragraphs divided between two pages are identified by those pages (e.g., pp. 92-93). Paragraphs that share a page with another complete paragraph are identified by the page number and paragraph number (e.g., p. 103, ¶ 1).





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Chapter 11: ¡Cuba Libre!

107: James A. Field, Jr., “American Imperialism: The Worst Chapter in Almost Any Book,” The American Historical Review 83, no. 3 (June 1978): 644-68; Walter LaFeber and Robert Beisner, “Comments,” pp. 669-78. Eric T. L. Love, Race over Empire: Racism and U.S. Imperialism 1865-1900 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 2004) demonstrates how American racism was a deterrent to imperialism. The White Man’s Burden, Social Darwinism, and Manifest Destiny were mostly ex post facto justifications for a fait accompli.  Prior to that Americans showed no interest in planting their flag among colored nations even when it meant forgoing such economic benefits as access to Hawaiian sugar and Chinese “coolie” labor.  Missionaries, discussed below, were the exception because their racial and religious categories required that they stoop to conquer.  William G. Sumner, “The Conquest of the United States by Spain: A Lecture before the Phi Beta Kappa Society of Yale University,” January 16, 1899 (Boston: Dana Estes, 1899), damned U.S. colonialism.   But George Santayana, a Spaniard born in the Philippines, held high-minded Ivy League critics of U.S. war and imperialism in bemused contempt.  So he wrote a poem called “Young Sammy’s First Wild Oats: Lines Written before the Presidential Election of 1900,” that mocked Harvard’s genteel prudery as much as adolescent jingoism.  For the “aberration” see Samuel Flagg Bemis, A Diplomatic History of the United States (New York: Henry Holt, 1936), chapter 26.

108, ¶ 1: Richard F. Hamilton, President McKinley, War and Empire, Vol. 1: President McKinley and the Coming of War, 1898 (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 2006), cites H. W. Brands, The Reckless Decade: America in the 1890s (New York: St. Martin’s, 1995), p. 41, who observes that Turner’s 1893 address to the AHA meeting in Chicago received just one minor notice in one newspaper and no mention in the longer story that appeared in a weekly.

108-9: Warren Zimmermann, First Great Triumph: How Five Americans Made Their Country a World Power (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002), proudly describes the interlocking roles played by John Hay, A. T. Mahan, Elihu Root, H. C. Lodge, and Theodore Roosevelt in forging what Roosevelt called “national greatness” partly through war. See also Evan Thomas, The War Lovers: Roosevelt, Hearst, and the Rush to Empire, 1898 (New York: Little, Brown, 2010). My own article – – examines the paradox that whereas the enemy appeared to fire the first shot in every major American war, a vocal war party ins U.S. politics was already beating the drums.

109-10: The Maine inquiry was reopened in 1976 by Admiral Hyman G. Rickover. His scientific team reexamined the documents from the first two investigations and concluded that the damage was inconsistent with that caused by a mine. The most likely cause was a coal dust fire.  These finding have in turn been challenged, so the mystery of the Maine lives on.  On diplomatic opinion, see Woodford to McKinley (March 31, 1898-April 3, 1898): Foreign Relations of the United States, 1898: pp. 727-32; on the president’s judgment see Henry S. Pritchett, “Some Reflections of President McKinley and the Cuban Intervention,” North American Review 189 (1909): 397-403.

110, ¶ 1: Richard Bartholdt, From Steerage to Congress: Reminiscences and Reflections (Philadelphia: Dorrance, 1930), pp. 160-161.

111: Louis A. Pérez, Jr., The War of 1898: The United States and Cuba in History and Historiography (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 1998), pp. 1-22 (quotes pp. 12-14, 20-21).

111-12: Ibid, pp. 81-107, quotes following p. 84. The New York Times said of Cuban self-rule, “It would be a tragedy, a crime, to deliver the island into their hands.” (84) The New York Tribune asked why the war was made and answered “Because Cuban leaders declared, and their friends here declared, that the people of the island were ready for self-government…. Have our troops found such to be the case?  The answer is an unhesitating and emphatic No.”  The New York Evening Post echoed the sentiment: “We have bought a gold brick in Cuba Libre.”  On the U.S. military’s incompetence see Graham A. Cosmas, An Army for Empire: The United States Army in the Spanish American War (Columbia: University of Missouri, 1971).  “The realities of the mentalities of the localities I owe to the glib political scientist James Kurth.

112: Richard F. Hamilton, President McKinley, War and Empire, Vol. 2: President McKinley and America’s “New Empire” (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 2007). See also the classic Julius W. Pratt, Expansionists of 1898 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University, 1936); Robert Beisner, Twelve Against Empire (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1968); Walter Lafeber, The New Empire: An Interpretation of American Expansion, 1860-1898 (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University, 1998 <orig. ed. 1963>).

112-13: H. W. Brands, “The Idea of the National Interest,” Diplomatic History 23, no. 2 (Spring 1999): 239-261 (quote p. 243). On various motives see also George F. Kennan, American Diplomacy, expanded edition (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1984 <1951>), p. 17; Walter A. McDougall, Promised Land, Crusader State: The American Encounter With the World Since 1776 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997), p. 121; Norman A. Graebner, Foundations of American Foreign Policy: A Realist Appraisal from Franklin to McKinley (Wilmington, Del.: Scholarly Resources, 1985), p. 352; Robert W. Beisner, From the Old Diplomacy to the New, 1865-1900 (Arlington Heights, Ill.: AHM Publishing, 1975), p. 76; and not least, Winthrop S. Hudson, “Protestant Clergy Debate the Nation’s Vocation,” Church History 42, no. 1 (1973): 110-18 (quotes pp. 117-18).

113: The Status of Liberty anecdote is from Bonnie M. Miller, From Liberation to Conquest: The Visual and Popular Cultures of the Spanish-American War of 1898 (Amherst: University of Massachusetts, 2011), p. 30.

113-14: McKinley Inaugural Address (March 4, 1897):

115, ¶ 1-2: McKinley Inaugural Address (March 4, 1901):

116: Robert E. Osgood, Ideals and Self-Interest in America’s Foreign Relations: The Great Transformation of the Twentieth Century (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1953), p. 49.



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