Since the United States gained independence from Britain, the country maintained a policy of isolationism from the rest of the world. The United States had not become a major player in world affairs and was more confined to its own internal affairs. While other countries were exerting their rule in the world through colonization the later 19th century and early 20th century American was inward. When European countries met in Berlin to partition Africa, the United States did not attend or raise an objection to what was happening. Throughout the 19th century to the early years of 20th century, the united state was more concerned with the development of its economy which had been devastated by the civil wars. In the early years of 20th century, the united states did not respond to the events that were taking place in the world and even in the starting of the first world war, the country remained inward. However, there were major events like the first and second world, the cold war, Vietnam, the formation of the United Nations, and many others. The response to these events was the result of the realization that the United States was a part of the global system and therefore it had to play a major role in world affairs. Since the day United States entered into the First World War, it had laid down it path to rise to a major superpower in the world. It played a crucial role in the end of the First World War. However, it was the Second World War and the consequent four-decade cold war that changed the United States from an inward state to a major player in the global affairs. it was the realization that the united states were a part of a global system that made the country move from away from isolationism to a major player in global affairs. It was the series of the wars in the 20th century that changed the society and made the United States become intervene in global affairs.
Events and ideas that pushed the US from isolationism
One of the most important documents that defined the relationship between the independent United States and European counties was the Monroe document. This document shaped the foreign policies that were adopted by the United States for more than one and a half century later. Monroe Document which was enunciated by President James Monroe marked the seventh annual State of Union Address while addressing the congress. The main objective of the Monroe document was to free the limit European influence on the newly independent Latin American states. While this document was as a result of the concern from the United States and Great Britain the Spain would restore its influence on its former colonies, it defined a new relationship between the United States and European countries (Gretchen, 2005).
The agreement under the doctrine was that the United States which was only by then a fledgling state would not have anything to do with European affairs. This meant that it would not interfere with Europeans affairs and in return, it expected European counties not to interfere with the affairs of the new world. The western hemisphere would not be colonized again by any European country and any attempt to do so would be seen as a threat directed to the United States.
The Monroe Document was, therefore, one of the factors that lead to the isolationism of the United States. It was one of those documents which defined the relationship between the United States and European countries who were major players in global affrays. Europe was to leave America for Americans while American was not to interfere with European affairs. Since the United States had committed itself with this document not to interfere with European affair, the country found it difficult to play a major role in the global affairs. It remained entirely concerned with American and Latin American affairs (Gretchen, 2005).
The other reason why the country retained an isolationist policy was its military capability. The United States was not very strong in term of military after the civil war. Military power is one of the moist important factor the determined the status power of a country in the world. The current super power status of the United States is defined by its military power. For example, the military weakness of the United States was very evident during the First World War when the country delayed in entering the war due to its limited military capability.
The isolationist policy of the United States continued to the early years of the 20th century. However there were specific events in the 20th century that turned the inward United States to a major player in the global affairs. Let us review some of these events.
(i) World War 1
The World War 1 was one of the events that changed the relationship of the United States with the rest of the world (Rhodes, 2007). When the war broke out, the United States was entangled in issue of election and President Woodrow Wilson in his address to the congress called for upholding of policy of neutrality for the country. As it has been laid down in the Monroe Doctrine, the First World War was an affair for European countries and United States considered itself as an outsider in the affairs. However it has been argued that President Woodrow Wilson was seeking a second term in office and therefore he did not want to draw the country into the war. However as we argued earlier, the world was becoming connected through trade and United States was a major beneficiary in this trade. The country was a trade partner with both parties in the world war and therefore it could not determine which side of the conflict it could support. However Germany started unlimited marine warfare, it attacked united state ship merchants and therefore the country was left with no alternative but to enter into the wary. President Roosevelt was one of those leaders who supported the entry of the united state into the war and had his sons fighting in the war. After the war, American was beginning to play a major role in the world by coming up with an initiative to form the League of Nation which would arbitrate conflict between nations.