The Tragedy of American Diplomacy (50th Anniversary Edition)

The Tragedy of American Diplomacy (50th Anniversary Edition)

William Appleman Williams

Language: English

Pages: 384

ISBN: 0393334740

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

“A brilliant book on foreign affairs.”―Adolf A. Berle Jr., New York Times Book Review

This incisive interpretation of American foreign policy ranks as a classic in American thought. First published in 1959, the book offered an analysis of the wellsprings of American foreign policy that shed light on the tensions of the Cold War and the deeper impulses leading to the American intervention in Vietnam. William Appleman Williams brilliantly explores the ways in which ideology and political economy intertwined over time to propel American expansion and empire in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The powerful relevance of Williams’s interpretation to world politics has only been strengthened by recent events in Central Asia and the Persian Gulf. Williams allows us to see that the interests and beliefs that once sent American troops into Texas and California, or Latin America and East Asia, also propelled American forces into Iraq.


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expansion. From the outset, moreover, these economic organizations enjoyed close ties with leading politicians. The founding convention of the N.A.M. was keynoted, for example, by McKinley. He similarly pushed overseas economic expansion in his address at the opening of the Philadelphia Commercial Museum in 1897. And the N.A.M., no doubt encouraged by McKinley’s appointment of Frank A. Vanderlip (Vice President of the National City Bank) as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, maintained the

long instructions given his new minister to Spain (who was also a close friend). The document should also serve to correct once and for all the mistaken impression that McKinley drifted this way and that in response to whatever political winds were blowing. He knew quite well what he desired to accomplish. “The chronic condition of trouble . . . ,” it was explained, “causes disturbance in the social and political condition of our own peoples. . . . A continuous irritation within our own borders

occupied. A section in Volume V (which reads like a close paraphrase of some essays written by Brooks Adams) recommended increased efficiency in government so that the United States “might command the economic fortunes of the world.” Referring a bit later to the Philippines as “new frontiers,” he concluded his analysis by stressing the need for markets—markets “to which diplomacy, and if need be power, must make an open way.” In a series of lectures at Columbia University in April 1907, he was

saving the Chinese from their own folly.” This remark, a somewhat astringent and blunt synthesis of all the themes implicit in open-door imperialism, characterized an attitude which limited America to a very few alternatives. Since they ignored, or disapproved of, the possibility of working either with Russia to check Japan or with liberal Chinese nationalists, American leaders had one basic choice. They could join four-power action against the left-wing revolutionary movement in China, but

and reasoning also served to guide later policy-makers, and that their objective was to sustain the overseas economic expansion and political influence of the United States under the strategy of the Open Door Policy. Elsewhere throughout the world during the years after World War I, American policy developed within that framework. In every instance, the key move was the assertion of the policy of the open door. And in each case, the objectives were markets for American industrial exports, raw

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