The term imperialism refers to political, economic or cultural expansion of one's influence over any other geographical or political territory. Imperialist activities carried out by the United States of America, are often termed as 'overseas intervention'. The motive behind these interventions is variable. Sometimes it is conducted to establish peace in a specific region and sometimes to implement a cease-fire. More recently, United States has implemented overseas interventions and imperialist policies, in order to wipe out terrorism. The following are some major incidences in the history of American imperialism.
1801 to 1815
This was the first overseas war that was fought by United States. President Thomas Jefferson initiated the war to wipe out the pirates of Barbary coast. The United States Navy was sent to Tripoli, and after some defeats it emerged successful, and the defeated pirates were forced to sign a treaty with the US to allow a safe passage for American merchant ships.
Conflicts with Spain
In 1812, General George Matthews and his troops, backed with permission of President Madison, invaded Amelia island, which was under Spanish rule. Matthews also conquered the harbor of Fernandina. In the following year, Spanish Florida and Mobile bay were invaded by General Wilkinson, upon authorization by Congress. The Spanish garrison that was stationed in the region was overrun, and soldiers inside surrendered. In 1814 and 1816, United States again invaded Spanish Florida. President Monroe ordered an attack to wipe out smugglers and pirates. In 1817, after the purchase of Florida, Seminole Indians were expelled out of the region.
Conflicts with Britain
One of the important wars that was fought by United States was the War of 1812. This war was known as 'War Hawks'. The war was waged to check British expansion in North America. During the War of 1812, US troops built a fort on Marquesas islands, to defend four ships that had been captured from the British navy.
Some of the other imperialist invasions by the United States in the 19th century included, occupations or interventions in regions like Puerto Rico (1824), Greece (1827), Falkland Islands (1831), Sumatra (1832 and 1838), Argentina (1833), Peru (1835) etc. The United States Army was deployed to protect its national interests.
The United States annexed the region of Texas in 1845, and thus initiated a war against Mexico to decide upon the border of the region. Abraham Lincoln, who was a congressman at that time, strongly recommended a withdrawal of troops and opposed the war. The United States, unheeded by the warnings of Lincoln, declared the war on 23rd April 1846, and won it, at a very heavy price. The army lost 13,780 personnel and the war was recorded to be one of the bloodiest wars in the nation's history.
The rule of Shoguns in Japan and nearby islands, had isolated the trade in entire Pacific. In the year 1853 a fleet led by Commodore Matthew Perry forced open the trade with Japan that had been dwindling for about a century.
In the remaining of 19th century AD, the United States attacked and conquered territories for imperialist purposes. Most of the time, the authorities justified the expansions by commenting that the intervention was initiated to protect vested interests.
One of the intervention that was not of imperialist nature was put into force in 1857 to arrest slave trader and owner William Walker, who had forced many in the region of Nicaragua. Another intervention was initiated, against Ottoman empire the very next year, to bring the issue of massacre of US citizens under control.
The Spanish-American war was also one of the examples of imperial expansion by United Sates. The United States actively participated in both World War I and II, however these operations that were put into force were not of imperialist nature.
The intervention by the United States in Vietnam, from 1950 to 1963, was initiated in order to check the influence of communism in Asia. This intervention can be termed as an imperialist invasion. It was followed by a war in Iran, that lasted from 1953 to 1979. The CIA (intelligence force of USA) interfered in Cuban politics, thereby earning the wrath of Fidel Castro. Among the many interventions during the cold war, both powers never defied each other openly, but supported two opposite local groups fighting for the domination of a region. Some examples of such war-torn region are Vietnam, Afghanistan, Cuba, Iraq and Iran. Such nations, all over the world have lost huge populations due to aimless violence. In many nations, innocent locals have been severely affected as a result of selfish motives of both nations.
The modern-day United States is a highly developed industrial nation. The gulf wars that include wars against Iran and Iraq (1991 to 1998) were distinctly of imperialist nature and have eventually helped United States gain sources of valuable crude oil in the gulf.
The overseas intervention, especially after World War II, have made the regions suffer terribly in economic, demographic and environmental sense. Some of these invasions, like the one against the Taliban in Afghanistan, were justified and essential. However, many of these regions are still recovering from the aftermath of the war. The rational values like liberty, freedom and justice that were preached by the founding fathers of the United States and other leaders like Abraham Lincoln, have been forgotten by man.