Ludwell Denny, We Fight for Oil, ch 1
Britain’s long commercial and naval supremacy.Modern international power is economic. The nation which controls oil and other raw materials,foreign markets, and credits will rule the world.
Before the Great War the United States was a debtor nation, owing the world $5,000,000,000. By1927 the world owed the United States $25,600,000,000. Great Britain at the height of her poweras world banker had less than $20,000,000,000 of foreign investments. Foreign debts to the UnitedStates Government total more than $11,000,000,000. Foreign investments of Americans in 1927amounted to $14,500,000,000, and were increasing at a rate above $2,000,000,000, a year. Theworld is paying America an annual tribute, in dividends and interest alone, well over$1,000,000,000. The yearly American foreign trade turnover exceeds $9,000,000,000.
This economic power carries inevitable international responsibilities. Political isolation—ordainedby the fathers of the Republic as the basis of American foreign policy—ceased with the Spanish-American war and resulting territorial expansion overseas. “Isolation is no longer possible ordesirable,” President McKinley said. Later President Wilson for a time convinced a scepticalAmerica that: “We are participants whether we would or not in the life of the world. The interestsof all nations are ours also. We are partners with the rest. What effects mankind is inevitably ouraffair as well as the affair of the nations of Europe and Asia.” We could not keep out of the GreatWar. From that vast destruction of men and wealth, other Powers both victor and vanquishedemerged terribly weakened. The balance of international power moved westward toward America.The United States became an economic empire, circling seas and continents, penetrating the verycapitals of older empires. Now no major development can occur in any foreign country withouttouching some American interest.America apparently cannot stop the historic process which is extending her empire. She cannotescape the accompanying entanglements. With Europe poor from the war, with undevelopedcontinents opening to exploitation, America’s surplus wealth will continue to flow outward. Toprotect that wealth, American diplomacy follows. And sometimes American battleships.American entanglements abroad are only a matter of degree. In western Europe our politicalinfluence is exercised indirectly, as in the Dawes reparations system or in the credit embargo againstFrance. In eastern Europe and the Near East there are American financial advisers with almost asmuch authority as dictators. In Liberia, America rules in all but name. We share in China withother Powers control of tariffs and finance, maintain our own courts and army.In the Western Hemisphere, under a much-stretched Monroe Doctrine, our control is wider. TheCaribbean is an American lake. No Central American government can defy the will of Washingtonand live. Virtual American protectorates extend over Cuba and Panama. American marines occupyHaiti and Nicaragua. In 14 of the 20 Latin American republics, there is some form of fiscal,political, or military power wielded by the United States.There is also our territorial empire, acquired by purchase or conquest—the Philippines, Alaska,Hawaii, Guam, Porto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.But these territorial possessions and larger economic domains are not enough. We reach for more.
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