The Growth of Our Foreign Policy

Be it assumed, however, that all that is said about the value of commerce with China—be it assumed, indeed for present purposes that all that is said about the value of both the Philippine and the China trade—is fully borne out by the facts—what follows? That we were compelled to buy the Philippines in order to get our share? That is so far from being evident—is indeed so far from what seems to be the truth—that it is not too much to assert quite positively that we should have been in a better position to command our share of the Philippine and Chinese trade without the Philippines than with them. Chinese territory, it may be taken for granted, is not coveted by the most advanced of American jingoes. What they may come to in the future no one can predict, of course, but as yet no party and no section of any party in this country claims that, for the purposes of trade with China or for any other purpose, we should be one of the Powers to demand and extort territory or territorial rights in China. The efforts of the United States are limited—and wisely limited—to seeking for its ships and its merchants equal opportunities in China—to promoting in Chinese waters and on Chinese soil the policy known as the "open door." Is, then, the position of the United States, as insisting upon the "open door" in China, strengthened or weakened by its having the Philippine Islands on its hands? The administration has apparently memorialized European Powers on the ground of our legal rights to the "open door" under our treaties with China. But, if those powers have been rightly appealed to, it must be because they have become paramount in China—because by conquest or unrestricted cession they have displaced China's sovereignty and substituted their own—in which case any observance by them of our treaty stipulations with China becomes matter of grace and favor purely. Our appeals are said to have brought satisfactory "assurances." But such "assurances" can hardly be regarded as definite obligations, nor as more than expressions of present views and intentions, nor as being more unchangeable than the views and intentions themselves. In these commercial days, governments do not give something for nothing—if they accord trade privileges, it is for value received or expected—and the official representative of the Czar in this country has already risen to explain as follows: "The extraordinary privileges for the importation of machinery and breadstuffs into Russia will of course not last forever. Americans understand the principle of the protective tariff too well to make lengthy explanation necessary. When Russian industries reach a stage where reasonable encouragement will produce results, of course the necessary protection will be extended." We should indeed be credulous if we were to believe that, when the time comes which the Russian Ambassador anticipates, either any "assurances" now given will prevent such customs regulations by Russia as her own interest requires, or will lead her to distinguish for our benefit between her Chinese possessions and her territory generally. We can count upon the maintenance of the "open door" in China, therefore, only if we can influence the Powers concerned in one of two ways—by making it their interest to grant it through reciprocal concessions on our own part or by a manifest readiness to back our demand for it by physical force as they will not care to encounter. To the successful use of the first method, our Philippine possessions are a serious drawback if not an insuperable obstacle.

If we claim the "open door" of the Powers dominating China, how are we to deny it to them in our own dependencies and especially in the Philippines? One inconsiderate foreign office is already said to have answered us by asking our intentions as to the Philippines, and might, in view of the alleged vast extent of the Chinese markets, have not impertinently inquired if some other American territory would not also be opened to free trade. If the Philippines rather embarrass than help us in securing the "open door" in China by amicable arrangement, what is to be said upon the point of their enabling or aiding us to enforce it? We are told that they place us in the "front door-yard" of the "Orient" and, from that graphic figure of speech, are desired to infer and believe that the entire Philippine archipelago was and is necessary to our possession of power and authority in the Pacific. But it might as well be claimed that Gibraltar did not suffice for England's control of the Mediterranean and that for that purpose she ought to have in addition a large slice of Africa or of Spain. Assume to be true all that is said of the value of trade with China—assume, that, if we can not get our share in any other way, we ought to be in a position to get it by force—assume that, to use such force or be prepared to use it, we must have a large navy which must be enabled to supply itself with coal—assume all this—and there is still no satisfactory proof that we had any occasion to buy the entire Philippine archipelago. Nothing, indeed, follows except that it would have been wise for us to acquire such part of the Philippines as was necessary to give us proper coaling stations and an adequate naval base. If that and that only had been done, we should have been in a better position to secure and protect our interests in trade with China than we are with the Philippine load on our backs. We should have been more likely to reach our end by friendly negotiations because we should have seemed less aggressive; should have excited to a less degree the jealousies and the rivalries of foreign peoples; and should have had less difficulty with our anomalous attitude in demanding free trade with the dependencies of other countries while hampering free trade with our own by the severest restrictions. We should also have been stronger for accomplishing our object by force because, as compared with a proper naval base in the Philippines adequately supplied, fortified, and garrisoned, our possession of the entire Philippine group is a source of weakness rather than of strength. The Islands offer innumerable points of attack to any Power with a hostile animus. Yet we must always be prepared to defend each and all of them at all hazards and with all our resources—the Islands are ours as much as Massachusetts or Illinois—and not to maintain the integrity of American soil everywhere and against all comers, would deservedly expose us to universal contempt and derision. It follows, that whereas our trade with China would have been amply secured and protected by the enlarged navy we must and should have under any circumstances supplemented by an adequate naval base and coaling stations in the Philippines, the taking over of the whole archipelago enfeebles us for all purposes—by the immense, remote, and peculiarly vulnerable area we must defend; by the large permanent army we must transport and maintain, not merely to prevent and deter aggression from without, but to hold down a native population thoroughly disaffected and resentful of the tactless and brutal policy hitherto pursued towards it; and by the tremendous drain on our resources which the civil and military administration of the Islands will inevitably entail.

Thus, adequate grounds for the purchase of the Philippines by the United States, for considering it to be demanded by duty, or honor, or interest, are not apparent. Nevertheless, however bad the blunder, the possession of sufficient legal power to commit us on the part of those in charge of the government for the time being must be conceded. Whether we want the Philippines or not, whether we ought to have them or not, and that we have got them is something to be denied. They are our "old man of the sea"—with this difference in favor of Sindbad, that by intoxicating his monster he managed to get rid of him. It is tolerably certain there is no such way out for us, and that if intoxication is any element in the case at all, it must have supervened at the time our "old man of the sea" was foisted upon us.

The thing is done. We were an American Empire purely—and the United States, in taking its seat at the international council table and joining in the deliberations of civilized states, might have been in an ideal position, combining the height of authority and prestige with complete independence and with a liberty of action which would enable is to always make our own interests our first care and yet allow us, when permitted by those interests, to say a timely word or do a timely deed wherever and whenever the cause of civilization seemed to require. This possible—this natural—ideal position, an exercise of the treaty power by the national executive and senate has deprived us of. We are no longer an American Empire simply—we are become an Asiatic Empire also, environed by all the rivalries, jealousies, embarrassments, and perils attaching to every Power now struggling for commercial and political supremacy in the East, and starting the second century of national existence with all our energies and resources, which have proved more than adequate to the good government and civilization of the white and black races of North America, pledged and mortgaged for the like services to be rendered by us to seven or eight millions of the brown men of the tropics. Nevertheless as already stated, we are committed—the Philippines are ours—how we shall deal with them is a domestic question simply—so that, in this connection and at this time, what remains to be considered is the effect of this exact situation upon the future of our foreign relations. The United States now asserting itself not only as one of the great Powers of the world but as a Power with very large Asiatic dependencies—what consequent changes in respect of its foreign relations must reasonably be anticipated?

It goes without saying that the United States cannot play the part in the world's affairs it has just assumed without equipping itself for the part with all the instrumentalities necessary to make its will felt either through pacific intercourse and negotiation or through force. Its diplomatic agencies must, therefore, be greatly enlarged, strengthened, and improved, while a powerful navy up to date in all points of construction, armament, general efficiency and readiness for instant service, becomes of equal necessity. Our Philippine possessions will not merely emphasize the urgent occasion for such innovations. They will make the innovations greater and more burdensome while at the same time compelling others which we could have done without. The Philippines inevitably make our navy larger than it would have to be without them—they inevitably enhance the extent and the quality and the cost of the diplomatic establishment with which we must provide ourselves. But besides aggravating the weight and the expense of the necessary burdens involved in our assuming our true place among the nations, the Philippines add burdens of their own. There will be no respectable government of the Islands until they are furnished with a large force of highly educated and trained administrators. Further, as already observed, were it not for the Philippines, we might have escaped the curse of any very large additions to our regular standing army. But the equipment required for our new international role need not be discussed at any length. We must save it—the need will be forced upon us by facts the logic of which will be irresistible—and however slow to move or indisposed to face the facts, the national government must sooner or later provide it. It is more important as well as interesting to inquire how the new phase of our foreign relations will affect the principles regulating our policy and conduct towards foreign states.

In dealing with that topic, it should be kept in mind that membership of the society of civilized states does not mean that each member has the same rights and duties as respects every subject-matter. On the contrary, the immediate interests of a nation often give it rights and charge it with duties which do not attach to any other. By common consent, for example, the right and duty of stopping the Spanish-Cuban hostilities were deemed to be in the United States on account of a special interest arising from Cuba's proximity to the United States and from the intimate relations of all sorts inevitably growing out of that proximity. So, though England is an insular Power, her home territory lies so near the European continent that the internal affairs of the European states directly interest her almost as much as if the English Channel were solid land. On the other hand, while the United States as regards Europe in general may also be regarded as an insular Power, its remoteness and separation from Europe by a great expanse of ocean make its interest in the internal affairs of European states almost altogether speculative and sentimental. Abstention from interference in any such affairs—in changes of dynasty, forms of government, alterations of boundaries and social and domestic institutions—should be and must be the rule of the United States for the future as it has been in the past.

Again, as between itself and the states of Europe, the primacy of the United States as respects the affairs of the American continents is a principle of its foreign policy which will no doubt hold good and be as firmly asserted in the future as in the past. A particular application and illustration of the principle are found in what is known as the Monroe doctrine, which will be as important in the future as in the past; our uncompromising adherence to which we have lately proclaimed to all the world; and which may and should command general acquiescence since it requires of Europe to abstain from doing in America nothing more than we should and must abstain from doing in Europe.

It is to be remembered, however, that no rule of policy is so inflexible as not to bend to the force of extraordinary and anomalous conditions. During the Napoleonic wars, the United States wisely though with the utmost difficulty preserved a strict neutrality. But our weakness, not our will consented—we were the passive prey of both belligerents—publicly and privately we suffered the extreme of humiliation and indignity—and it is safe to say that were the career of the first Napoleon to approach or even threaten repetition, not merely sentiment and sympathy but the strongest considerations of self-preservation and self-defense might drive us to take sides. It is hardly necessary to add that the status of the United States as an Asiatic Power must have some tendency to qualify the attitude which, as a strictly American Power, the United States has hitherto successfully maintained towards the states of Europe. They are Asiatic Powers as well as ourselves—we shall be brought in contact with them as never before—competition and irritation are inevitable and controversies not improbable—and when and how far a conflict in the East may spread and what domestic as well as foreign interests and policies may be involved, is altogether beyond the reach of human sagacity to foretell.

Subject to these exceptions—to exceptions arising from extraordinary and anomalous European conditions and from difficulties into which the United States as an Asiatic Power may draw the United States as an American Power—subject to these exceptions, our new departure in foreign affairs will require no change in the cardinal rules already alluded to. Hereafter as heretofore, our general policy must be and will be noninterference in the internal affairs of European states—hereafter as heretofore we shall claim paramountcy in things purely American—and hereafter as heretofore we shall antagonize any attempt by an European Power to forcibly plant its flag on the American continents. It can not be doubted, however, that our new departure not merely unties our hands but fairly binds us to use them in a manner we have thus far not been accustomed to. We can not assert ourselves as a Power whose interests and sympathies are as wide as civilization without assuming obligations corresponding to the claim—obligations to be all the more scrupulously recognized and performed that they lack the sanction of physical force. The first duty of every nation, as already observed, is to itself—is the promotion and conservation of its own interests. Its position as an active member of the international family does not require it ever to lose sight of that principle. But, just weight being given to that principle, and its abilities and resources and opportunities permitting, there is no reason why the United States should not act for the relief of suffering humanity and for the advancement of civilization wherever and whenever such action would be timely and effective. Should there, for example, be a recurrence of the Turkish massacres of Armenian Christians, not to stop them alone or in concert with others, could we do so without imperiling our own substantial interests, would be unworthy of us and inconsistent with our claims and aspirations as a great Power. We certainly could no longer shelter ourselves behind the time-honored excuse that we are an American Power exclusively, without concern with the affairs of the world at large.

On similar grounds, the position we have assumed in the world and mean to maintain justifies us in undertaking to influence and enables us to greatly influence the industrial development of the American people. The "home market" fallacy disappears with the proved inadequacy of the home market. Nothing will satisfy us in the future but free access to foreign markets—especially to those markets in the East now for the first time beginning to fully open themselves to the Western nations. Hitherto, in introducing his wares and in seeking commercial opportunities of any sort in foreign countries, the American citizen has necessarily relied almost altogether upon his own unaided talents, tact, and enterprise. The United States as a whole has counted for little, if anything, in his favor—our notorious policy of isolation, commercial and political, together with our notorious unreadiness for any exertion of our strength, divesting the government of all real prestige. In the markets of the Orient especially, American citizens have always been at a decided disadvantage as compared with those of the great European Powers. The latter impress themselves upon the native imagination by their display of warlike resources and their willingness to use them in aid not merely of the legal rights of their citizens but in many cases of their desires and ambitions as well. If the native government itself is in the market, it of course prefers to trade with the citizen of a Power in whose prowess it believes and whose friendship it may thus hope to obtain. If its subjects are the traders, they are affected by the same considerations as their government and naturally follow its lead in their views and their preferences. Obstacles of this sort to the extension of American trade can not but be greatly lessened in the future under the operation of the new foreign policy of the United States and its inevitable accompaniments. Our new interest in foreign markets can not fail to be recognized. Our claim to equal opportunities for our citizens and to exemption from unfriendly discrimination against them, will hardly be ignored if known to be backed by a present readiness and ability to make it good. "To be weak is miserable" and to seem weak, however strong in reality, often comes to about the same thing. Our diplomatic representatives, no matter how certain of the greatness of their country, have hitherto labored under the difficulty that nations to whom they were accredited, especially the Oriental nations, were not appreciative of the fact. That difficulty is unlikely to embarrass them in the future. They will, like the nation itself, cease to be isolated and of small consideration, and will speak and act with something of the same persuasiveness and authority as the representatives of European Powers.

Along with the Monroe doctrine and noninterference in the internal concerns of European states—rules of policy which generally speaking will stand unaffected—has gone another which our changed international attitude will undoubtedly tend to modify. It has heretofore been considered that anything like an alliance between the United States and an European Power, for any purpose or any time, was something not to be thought of. To give a thing a bad name, however undeservedly, is to do much to discredit it, and there is no doubt that the epithet "entangling"—almost invariably applied—has contributed largely to make "alliances" popularly and politically odious. Yet there may be "alliances" which are not "entangling" but wholly advantageous, and without the French alliance, American independence, if not prevented, might have been long postponed. It has been a prevalent notion that Washington was inimical to all alliances as such and left on record a solemn warning to his countrymen against them. Yet Washington clearly discriminated between alliances that would entangle and those that would not, and between alliances that were permanent and those that were temporary. Justly construed, Washington's utterances are as wise today as when they were made and are no more applicable to the United States than to any other nation. It must be the policy of every state to avoid alliances that entangle, while temporary and limited are better than general and permanent alliances because friends and partners should be chosen in view of actually existing exigencies rather than in reliance upon doubtful forecasts of the uncertain future. Nevertheless, up to this time the theory and practice of the United States have been against all alliances peremptorily, and, were the Philippines not on our bands, might perhaps have been persisted in for a longer or shorter period. Whether they could have been or not is a contingency not worth discussing. We start our career as a world Power with the Philippine handicap firmly fastened to us, and that situation being accepted, how about "alliances"? The true, the ideal position for us, would be complete freedom of action, perfect liberty to pick allies from time to time as special occasions might warrant and an enlightened view of our own interests might dictate. Without the Philippines, we might closely approach that position. With them, not merely is our need of friendship imperative, but it is a need which only one of the great Powers can satisfy or is disposed to satisfy. Except for Great Britain's countenance, we should almost certainly never have got the Philippines—except for her continued support, our hold upon them would be likely to prove precarious, perhaps altogether unstable. It followed that we now find ourselves actually caught in an entangling alliance, forced there not by any treaty, or compact of any sort, formal or informal, but by the stress of the inexorable facts of the situation. It is an alliance that entangles because we might be and should be friends with all the world and because our necessary intimacy with and dependence upon one of them is certain to excite the suspicion and ill-will of other nations. Still, however much better off we might have been, regrets, the irrevocable having happened, are often worse than useless, and it is much more profitable to note such compensatory advantages as the actual situation offers. In that view, it is consoling to reflect that, if we must single out an ally from among the nations at the cost of alienating all others, and consequently have thrown ourselves into the arms of England, our choice is probably unexceptionable. We join ourselves to that one of the great Powers most formidable as a foe and most effective as a friend; whose people make with our own but one family, whose internal differences should not prevent a united front as against the world outside; whose influence upon the material and spiritual conditions of the human race has on the whole been elevating and beneficent; and whose empire and experience cannot help being of the utmost service in our dealing with the difficult problems before us.

In undertaking any forecast of the future of our foreign relations, it is manifestly impracticable to attempt more than to note certain leading principles which, it would seem, must inevitably govern the policy of the United States. It is not rash to affirm in addition, however, that a consequence of the new international position of the United States must be to give to foreign affairs a measure of popular interest and importance far beyond what they have hitherto enjoyed. Domestic affairs will cease to be regarded as alone deserving the serious attention of Americans generally, who, in their characters, interests, and sympathies can not fail to respond to the momentous change which has come to the nation at large. Such a change will import no decline of patriotism, no lessening of the loyalty justly expected of every man to the country of his nativity or adoption. But it will import, if not for us, for coming generations, a larger knowledge of the earth and its diverse peoples; a familiarity with problems worldwide in their bearings; the abatement of racial prejudices; in short, such enlarged mental and moral vision as is ascribed to the Roman citizen in the memorable saying that, being a man, nothing human was foreign to him.

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