US By TR

Graham Allison’s Destined for War is a study of contemporary politics, Sino-American relations in particular. Along the way, he asks what we would think if China started acting like the U.S. did as we rose to global prominence. The career of Teddy Roosevelt makes the point:

“ In the decade that followed [TR’s] arrival in Washington, the US declared war on Spain, expelling it from the Western Hemisphere and acquiring Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines; threatened Germany and Britain with war unless they agreed to settle disputes on American terms; supported an insurrection in Colombia to create a new country, Panama, in order to build a canal; and declared itself the policeman of the Western Hemisphere, asserting the right to intervene whenever and wherever it judged necessary—a right it exercised nine times in the seven years of TR’s presidency alone. Never before or since has a president so fundamentally shaped the country’s sense of its role in the world. TR led the nation to a new understanding of what it meant to be an American. National greatness, he insisted, rested on two imperatives: the mission to advance civilization at home and abroad, and the muscle to achieve it—in particular a superior military composed of men who embodied strength, courage, and the will to fight.”

He saw the global expansion of American power as a logical extension of its manifest destiny to conquer the American continent: “TR called America’s westward expansion the ‘crowning and greatest achievement’ of the English-speaking peoples’ march of civilization ‘over the world’s waste spaces.’ Moreover, for TR, America’s mission did not end at its Pacific coast. Along with like-minded military and congressional figures, he raised the banner of expansionism not just to expel Spain from Cuba and the Western Hemisphere, but also to make the United States a power in the Atlantic and Pacific. As Roosevelt put it after the Hawaiian coup: ‘I believe in more ships; I believe in ultimately driving every European power off of this continent, and I don’t want to see our flag hauled down where it has been hauled up.'”

I think it fair to say that the vast majority of Americans don’t want China to mimic us.

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