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Review of Anthony Best's 'International History of the Twentieth Century and Beyond'

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Chapter 6 titled as ‘Good Neighbors? The United States and the Americans 1900-1945’ covers in depth how United States used various policies of expansionism to develop a firm grip on the western hemisphere placing them on a strong footing with the Europeans and paving way to United States becoming one of the most powerful nations of the World. This chapter also discusses in detail the significance of world events such as the World War II, Spanish American War in dictating specific means by which the United States excercised its dominance in Latin Countries. American policies such as the Gunboat Policy, Good Neighbor Policy and Monroe Doctrine Policy for Intervention and developing Pan Americanism are discussed. The author of this chapter primarily believes that the Americans justified their dominance during the mentioned period by using altruistic principles presenting examples of cases where America resorted to alternatives to direct military interventions which were equally unethical and promoted the same goal. The Study of this period and these American policies is a pivotal part of International Relations as it demonstrates how the Americans operate. The United States play a significant role in shaping international policies in the modern world and therefore it is necessary to become aware of how dominance can be asserted in a realist world that is power oriented. All these policies that America adopted were an example of realist policies and show us how the United States successfully countered European Imperialism.

Monroe Doctrine

The Monroe Doctrine was the longest lasting American foreign policy. It was pronounced initially by the President John Monroe in his speech to Congress on December 2nd 1823. It consisted of three important statements.

The Doctrine stated that various parts of the western hemisphere should not be considered a subject for colonization by any European power. Secondly it stated that there were vast differences between the European political system of monarchies and the Western hemisphere system of democratic republics. Lastly the Doctrine stated that if the Europeans would not interfere in American matters then the Americans would do the same. The author points out that even though at the time the Monroe Doctrine held very little significance it was later used by the United States as means of justification for American involvement in their Southern neighbors. Monroe Doctrine as stated by the Author “acted as a smokescreen for a new kind of colonialism directed from the Washington” (page 145). An example of this is the taking over of Cuba by the Americans to provide them control of the Carribbean and taking over Philippines by using this doctrine as a justification. The Americans also justified this as it was an alternative to European Protectionism and prevented Europeans from cutting of the Americans from lucrative markets such as China. The Americans as stated by the Monroe doctrine asserted that the Europeans had no right to interfere in their matters.

Gunboat Diplomacy to Good Neighbour Policy

In the 1920’s anti interventionist ideas were on the rise portraying a negative American Imperial image therefore the Republican government which was in power at that time decided to withdraw and decrease military presence in Nicaragua , Dominican Republic and Haiti. However in 1926 America sent back troops in the Caribbean due to bloody civil wars that followed showing that direct rule in the Carribbean created more trouble for the Americans then solving them. An example highlighted by the author is that of Nicaragua where a general Augusto Sandino continued to wage guerrilla war against the Americans and soon became a symbol of resistance for American Imperialism throughout Latin America. As per the order of Herbert Hoover troops were withdrawn form America in 1931. A year later Sandino was murdered after leaving a negotiating session with the American supported Nicaraguan government and therefore in 1936 Nicaragua fell in the hands of military dictator Anastazio Somoza. American critics pointed out that there was no achievement in American policy of being good neighbors with brutal rulers who only ruled for their gain and forutne. Therefore there was a shift in policy by the Americans. An example of this presented by the author is that of compromise reached with the Mexico in the late 1930’s. The United States had an oil dispute with the mexicans. In 1917 the mexicans nationalised all mineral resources including oil. Only after extended negotiations in which the Mexican government agreed to recognize pre-1917 American property rights did the United States grant Mexico full diplomatic recognition in 1924. However, in 1938 the Mexican President, Lazaro Cardenas, nationalized all property held by foreign oil companies. Roosevelt didnot resort to military expedition and acknowledged Mexico’s right to control its raw materials and the Mexican government agreed to pay restitution to those Americans whose property had been nationalized. This example illustrates how americans deviated from their typical policy of interventionism and resorted to good neighbors policy.

Pan-Americanism

Pan Americanism is defined as the political, cultural and commercial cooperation between North and South America. Prior to the world war II America was in fear that Mexico and other Latin countries might be inclined towards fascist Italy and Nazi Germany as both European countries as well as Japan had increased their trade and investment in Latin America. Thus Roosevelt administration set it as their goal to strengthen the Pan American movement. In 1910 Pan American Union was established to increase inter relations in America but however the author views it as a vehicle for promoting hemispheric trade. Latin Americans used the body as a means to voice their discontent and frustration at the involvement of America in internal affairs. With Nazi activists continuosly prevalent in Latin America the Americans used the Pan American Movement to justify the need for hemispheric cooperation. In 1939 the Declaration of Panama went even further by effectively creating a security perimeter around the Western Hemisphere and establishing an economic co-ordination committee. At the time of election Rossevelt had said he would never send Americans to fight a foreign war but however at time of World War II Rossevelt used the Pan American movement and said it was the duty of Americans to become the ‘Arsenal of Democracy’ (page 159).

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Author Background

Dr Best studied for his undergraduate degree at the University of Leeds before moving to London where he studied for his PhD at the London School of Economics. He joined the LSE as a Lecturer in 1989.

In June 2016, Dr Antony Best won an LSE Excellence in Education Award with other members of the Department. Designed to support the School’s aspiration of creating ‘a culture where excellence in teaching is valued and rewarded on a level with excellence in research’ (LSE Strategy 2020), the Excellence in Education Awards are made, on the recommendations of Heads of Department, to staff who have demonstrated outstanding teaching contribution and educational leadership in their departments.

Dr Best’s main fields of research interests lie in Anglo-Japanese relations, the origins of the Pacific War; the international history of East Asia; the history of modern Japan, and intelligence and International history.

Personal Evaluation

The reason why I chose this topic is solely to study how America tackled European Imperalism and established its own dominance. This topic successfully covers in depth American politics and narrates the journey of America in becoming a “Great Power”. The topic that intrigues me the most is how the Americans adapted to change and resorted to an agile change in policies. An example of this is transitioning from a policy of direct interventionism to good neighbor policy. Another topic of interest for me is how the Americans used their supreme tactics successfully in masking their Imperialism and portraying it as a necessity for all Latin Countries. The Monroe Doctrine played a pivotal role in cleaning American conscience and hid the atrocities of America.

Conclusion

The author successfully narrates in depth all historical events and uses modern day examples to support these facts. Each policy employed is covered in depth with cause, effects and criticism. The author accomplishes his ultimate goal of capturing the attention of its readers and inculcating in them a new profound interest for international relations. Therefore I would strongly recommend this book to all avid readers who wish to study history in depth from a neutral perspective.

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Review of Anthony Best’s ‘International History of the Twentieth Century and Beyond’. (2022, August 25). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 8, 2023, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/review-of-anthony-bests-international-history-of-the-twentieth-century-and-beyond/
“Review of Anthony Best’s ‘International History of the Twentieth Century and Beyond’.” Edubirdie, 25 Aug. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/review-of-anthony-bests-international-history-of-the-twentieth-century-and-beyond/
Review of Anthony Best’s ‘International History of the Twentieth Century and Beyond’. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/review-of-anthony-bests-international-history-of-the-twentieth-century-and-beyond/> [Accessed 8 Feb. 2023].
Review of Anthony Best’s ‘International History of the Twentieth Century and Beyond’ [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Aug 25 [cited 2023 Feb 8]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/review-of-anthony-bests-international-history-of-the-twentieth-century-and-beyond/
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