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JFK at Rice University in September 1962. Image via Wiki Commons.

Rethinking the JFK Legacy

Steven M. Gillo

huffingtonpost.com October 27, 2013

As we approach the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination we are reminded of his enduring hold on the popular imagination. Once again countless magazine articles, newspaper stories, books, and television stories will focus on the man, his presidency, and his death. Politicians from both parties continue to invoke his name to sell themselves and their policies. Polls show that Kennedy is America’s favorite president, ranking above Washington, Lincoln, and Roosevelt.

Public adulation of Kennedy baffles many historians who have spent the past twenty years assaulting the foundation of Camelot. The public sees him as a bold and gallant leader who inspired the young, helped the disadvantaged, pushed for civil rights, stood down the Russians, and added glamor and style to the White House.

In recent years, however, many historians have focused attention on Kennedy’s shortcomings: the obsession with Fidel Castro, his reluctant support of civil rights, and the escalation in Vietnam. They have also probed beneath the glossy Kennedy charm and discovered a man who was dependent on prescription medication and who possessed an insatiable sexual appetite. Kennedy, a recent critic charged, was “deficient in integrity, compassion, and temperance.” That is a harsh judgment, and certainly not one shared by most historians. Most would agree, however, that his short time in office prevented JFK from leaving a lasting legacy of accomplishment.

Why the wide gap between the way historians view Kennedy and how the public perceives him? Part of the problem is that historians have difficulty appreciating Kennedy’s emotional impact on the public. Kennedy was the first president to use television to bypass the Washington opinion-makers and communicate directly with the American public. Television made obsolete traditional models which used legislative accomplishments to determine influence.

Because of the intimate relationship Kennedy established with the American public many people felt a sense of personal loss at his death. The assassination affected America unlike any other single event in modern history — with the possible exception of 9/11. No American born prior to 1960 can forget where he or she was the moment they heard the news of the President’s death. Seventy-five hours of television coverage helped create a shared sense of national grief. Four of five Americans felt “the loss of someone very close and dear,” and more than half cried.

Inevitably, in the years that followed Americans have searched to give his death some meaning. Our refusal to accept that Kennedy’s death could have been the result of a random, inexplicable act of violence has led us to search for more satisfying explanations. We refuse to accept that a loser like Lee Harvey Oswald could single-handedly kill a man as great as JFK. That search for meaning has lead to the creation of a mythical, heroic Kennedy. The thread that runs through most conspiracy theories, and permeates the popular view of JFK, is that nefarious individuals conspired to kill the President because he offered a new direction for the country.

But the Kennedy mystique is based on more than his photogenic qualities and his tragic death. In trying to understand Kennedy’s appeal I am reminded of what our first professional biographer, James Parton, wrote about Thomas Jefferson. “If Jefferson was wrong,” he wrote, “America is wrong. If Jefferson was right. America is right.”

Since the Puritans came to America searching for deliverance from the corruption of the Old World, Americans have believed in national destiny. Thomas Jefferson declared the new nation “the last best hope of mankind.” Herman Melville compared Americans to the biblical tribes of Israel, calling them “the peculiar chosen people… the Israel of our time.” At the heart of this belief was a faith that the future would always be better than the past. America stood as the exception to the historical rules which dictated that great civilizations eventually peaked and crumbled. Devoid of the class conflict, racial tensions, and the imperial designs that characterized other civilizations, America would move inevitably toward realizing its divinely inspired mission to be “as a city upon a hill.”

More than any president since FDR, Kennedy embodied these ideals of American greatness. Kennedy, like the nation he led, seemed larger than life. Every dimension of the New Frontier projected an image of strength and vitality: the inspirational rhetoric of sacrifice and idealism; the aristocratic elegance and democratic demeanor; the brilliant but compassionate advisers. Robert Frost captured the mood of the nation when he predicted that the Kennedy years would be an “Augustan age of poetry and power.”

The tragic series of events that followed Kennedy’s death challenged our faith in national destiny. A lost war in Vietnam and a crippling oil embargo reminded us that we could not shape the world in our own image. At home, racial violence, student protests, and government corruption revealed that America remained a deeply divided nation. During our time of trouble we turned to a heroic Kennedy for comfort. He reminded us of a time when America stood strong in the world, our nation felt united, and life seemed simpler. As the American dream slips further from the grasp of most people, as our faith in government and our hope for the future diminishes, we cling more tenaciously than ever to a mythic view of Kennedy.

We have transformed Kennedy into a metaphor of American greatness and judged all of his successors by that standard. Not surprisingly, they look dull by comparison. Politicians, eager to win the hearts of American voters, have tried to mimic Kennedy’s style and to steal his message. Republicans have invoked Kennedy’s memory to sell programs — supply-side economics, for example — that were antithetical to JFK’s own policies. President Obama flexed his political and legislative muscle to push through legislation that was far more ambitious than anything JFK could have imagined, yet even he, and his accomplishments, appear diminished by the comparison to a mythical Kennedy.

Over the years, the public, which has grown cynical and angry over raised expectations and diminished results, has moved to the sidelines of American politics waiting for the “next JFK.” Powerful, well-organized and well-funded, interest groups have moved to fill the void.

It is ironic that the memory of JFK would weaken political institutions. Kennedy won the presidency in 1960 by advocating change and, at least on a rhetorical level, he challenged us to confront old ideas. “For the great enemy of truth,” he said in a famous Yale commencement address in 1963, “is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived, and dishonest — but the myth — persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic.”

Ultimately, our fascination with Kennedy tells us more about ourselves, our deeply rooted beliefs and our need for heroes, then it does shed light on the man or his times. Kennedy was a very mortal man, very much a product of his times. In life he offered few solutions to the pressing issues of his time. His memory, burdened by the weight of myth, limits our ability to find answers to the problems of our own time.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steven-m-gillon/rethinking-the-jfk-legacy_b_4167729.html

Steven M Gillon is Scholar-in-Residence at History and Professor of History at the University of Oklahoma

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Huellas2

Acaba de salir el úlimo número de la revista Huellas de Estados Unidos de la Cátedra de Historia de Estados Unidos de la UBA. Componen este número un interesante grupo de trabajos sobre aspectos ideológicos de política exterior estadounidense y sobre el tema del consenso político. Completan este número un par de valiosos documentos sobre el racismo. Todos los ensayos y reseñas están disponibles en PDF.

Comparto aquí el índice de este número.
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Opinionator - A Gathering of Opinion From Around the Web

Maximilian in Mexico

By PHIL LEIGH
 
New York Times, October 4, 2013

On Oct. 3, 1863, a Mexican delegation arrived in the Austrian port city of Trieste to officially offer Mexico’s imperial crown to the 31-year-old Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian, a scion of the Austrian branch of the Hapsburg royal family and the brother of the Austrian emperor, Franz Josef I.

For 300 years the family’s Spanish branch and its successors had, by virtue of its seat in Madrid, ruled over colonial Mexico and much of the Western Hemisphere. After Mexico won independence in 1821, it fell into a constant state of near anarchy; There were 75 government successions by the time the American Civil War started. Conservative Mexicans and wealthy ex-patriots longed for the stability that a European monarchy might provide, and some of them recalled wistfully the steady hand of the Hapsburgs.

Maximilian was interested for two reasons. The liberal-minded archduke felt he could improve Mexico. Perhaps more important, there was nothing for him at home: his brother was just two years older, and was looking forward to a long reign (in fact, he ruled until his death during World War I).

Still, Maximilian would never have ascended the Mexican throne were it not for yet another emperor, Napoleon III of France. Since Napoleon III’s famous uncle sold Louisiana to the United States in 1803, France had no major stake in the Western Hemisphere. With the advent of America’s Civil War, the French monarch sensed an opportunity to change that, with Maximilian as his puppet.

In early 1862, as America convulsed through the first year of its Civil War, France began placing troops in Mexico to collect customs duties on goods, in order to force the country to make payments on a defaulted debt to several European countries. But the Mexican government was too poor to concurrently make the payments and at the same time support the army of President Benito Juárez. Initially, soldiers from Spain and Britain joined the French, but were withdrawn once they realized Napoleon was scheming to establish a puppet monarchy. As a result, Maximilian would have no power without the presence of the 40,000-man French Army.

Napoleon had hoped to get Maximilian installed a year or so earlier, but he did not capture Mexico City until June 1863. Additionally, the archduke’s October ’63 acceptance of the crown was conditioned on “a vote of the whole country,” which was quickly achieved by gathering signatures under the glitter of French bayonets.

Still, Napoleon knew how drawn out the war was becoming and reasoned that President Abraham Lincoln would be too focused on suppressing the Confederacy to oppose him. The Monroe Doctrine would be temporarily impotent, while the future offered possibilities to render it permanently ineffective.

Although Juárez was forced out of Mexico City, he remained in the country opposing Maximilian during the entire American Civil War. Juárez quickly sided with Lincoln. Early in the war he granted the United States the right to land troops on Mexico’s west coast, where they could march rapidly into Arizona territory if needed to confront a possible Confederate drive westward. On doubtful authority the first Confederate minister to Mexico, John Pickett, countered by offering to support Mexico in the reoccupation of territories lost in the Mexican War, including the present states of California, Arizona, and New Mexico, if Juarez would cancel his deal with Lincoln.

Although Juárez declined, Washington realized that the Confederates could make a similar offer to Maximilian, turning the Mexican crisis into a proxy war. As one visitor to the archduke’s castle in Trieste wrote the Confederate minister in Paris,

Maximilian expressed the warmest possible interest in the Confederate cause. He said he considered it identical with that of the new Mexican Empire … that he was particularly desirous that his sentiments upon this subject should be known to the Confederate President.

The presence of a monarchy supported by a French army south of the border alarmed Washington and the far western states. In January 1864 Senator James McDougall of California proposed a Congressional resolution stating that French intervention in Mexico was “an act unfriendly to the republic of the United States.” It called upon the French to withdraw by March 15, and threatened war if they didn’t. But Lincoln wanted only one war at a time and had the motion sidetracked.

Nonetheless, three months later the House of Representatives unanimously approved a resolution that stated:

The Congress of the United States are unwilling … to leave … the impression that they are indifferent … [to] the deplorable events … in Mexico and … declare that it does not … acknowledge any monarchial government … in America under the auspices of any European power.

Although the Union’s concerns had validity, France wanted to avoid open warfare. In a Paris meeting before departing for Mexico, Napoleon, hopeful of territorial gains whichever side was victorious, convinced Maximilian to avoid endorsing the Confederacy until it won independence. As early as January 1863 the French consuls in Galveston and Richmond had been urging Texans to secede from the Confederacy..

After hearing about the French agitation in Texas, the Confederate Secretary of State, Judah Benjamin, instructed his Belgium minister to investigate. The man replied, “Mexico as she was previous to her dismemberment is the … cherished end at which [Napoleon III] aims.” Lincoln’s government captured Benjamin’s letter and asked its Brussels representative for his opinion. He confirmed that Napoleon III wanted Mexico to restore the borders applicable before the Mexican War. In short, he wanted Mexico to reclaim not only the Mexican Cession, but also Texas. Indeed, owing to its French traditions, Napoleon III believed that he might even be able to recover Louisiana. If all went as he hoped, France would once again have a major stake in the New World and the Monroe Doctrine would be meaningless.

The Confederacy reacted by expelling the offending diplomats, but Lincoln changed military priorities. After the fall of Vicksburg, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant wanted to lead an army reinforced by Gen. Nathaniel Banks against Mobile, Ala. A glance at a map confirms the obvious logic of the movement. Lincoln would not permit the advance, writing Grant, “in view of recent events in Mexico, I am greatly impressed with the importance of reestablishing the national authority in Western Texas as soon as possible.”

After a modest move against Brownsville and the Texas coast in November 1863, General in Chief Henry Halleck and cotton speculators urged a modification to the Union’s plans in the coastal Southwest that resulted in General Banks’s disastrous Red River Campaign in the spring of 1864. The goal was to capture the rebel stronghold at Shreveport, La., and then occupy the cotton fields of east Texas, while incidentally seizing up to 300,000 cotton bales (worth about $2 billion in today’s dollars) along the way. Unfortunately, even though Union forces outnumbered the rebels by more than two-to-one the Confederates turned back the federal offensive. Banks returned to New Orleans with fewer than 5,000 cotton bales, and the drive into Texas was halted.

Fortunately for the Union, the French and Maximilian were having a much harder time stabilizing their hold on Mexico than they had expected. After the end of the war, in an effort to help Juárez, Grant sent Gen. Philip Sheridan to the Rio Grande with an army of 50,000 men. Since Secretary of State William H. Seward did not want a war with Mexico or the French, he persuaded President Andrew Johnson to issue a ban on exports of weapons and ammunition. But Grant secretly ordered Sheridan to supply Juárez with matériel and weapons, including about 30,000 rifles.

Soon thereafter, Napoleon III announced a staged withdrawal of French troops, which left Maximilian nearly defenseless within two years. Juárez regained power in 1867, and promptly executed the naïve archduke.

 

Sources: “James J. Horgan, ““A Confederate Bull in a Mexican China Shop,” from “Divided We Fall: Essays on Confederate Nation Building,” John M. Belohlave, ed.; Henry Martyn Flint, “Mexico Under Maximilian”; Gene Smith, “Maximilian and Carlota”; Donald Miles, “Cinco de Mayo”; Robert Kerby, “Kirby Smith’s Confederacy”; Dean Mahin, “One War at a Time”; Frank Owlsey, “King Cotton Diplomacy”; Ludwell Johnson, “Red River Campaign”; G. J. Meyer, “A World Undone.”

disunion-phil-leigh-thumbStandardPhil Leigh is an independent Civil War historian and author. He is writing a book about wartime intersectional trade between North and South, “Trading With the Enemy.”

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The Republican Party’s Hidden Racial History

by Timothy N. Thurber

History News Network

On September 17, lawyers from the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University joined the Texas State Conference of the NAACP, the Mexican American Legislative Caucus of the Texas House of Representatives, and others in a lawsuit to overturn a new state voter identification law (Brennan Center).

A month earlier, North Carolina enacted a statute containing several reforms, including a requirement that voters produce government-issued photo identification and a seven-day reduction in the period for early voting.

These and similar proposals in other states have sparked sharp partisan fights. Democrats believe that they violate the Voting Rights Act and constitute deliberate efforts by Republicans to suppress voting by nonwhites, students, and others who by and large do not favor the GOP. Firmly denying any intent of malice against any demographic group, Republicans insist that reforms are needed to combat voter fraud.

Conflicts over voting are as old as the republic, but they have intensified since President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election and the Supreme Court’s June 2013 decision striking down Section Four of the Voting Rights Act, which determined the states and localities required to seek federal approval for changes in election laws. “Preclearance,” as this policy was commonly known, applied primarily to the South. Republicans have tended to applaud the Court’s ruling, arguing that discrimination against nonwhites once was a problem but is now so rare that federal oversight is no longer needed. Colin Powell stands a rare exception within the GOP; he has denounced the North Carolina statute as morally wrong, based on inaccurate beliefs about the extent of fraud, and politically suicidal. The Republican Party, he contends, should be reaching out to blacks and other nonwhites.

For some observers, these developments are the latest chapter in the shift of the pro-civil rights “party of Lincoln” to a southern-controlled, states’ rights GOP that has little room for African Americans. Didn’t overwhelming majorities of congressional Republicans favor the Voting Rights Act in 1965? Yes. In the Senate, thirty Republicans backed the legislation, and only two opposed. House Republicans voted five-to-one for it. As Republicans have been noting ever since, that was a higher percentage of support than registered by Democrats.

A closer look at the events of 1965, however, reveals that the current Republican approach to voting is more similar to that of a half century ago than the final congressional tallies indicate. So, too, is the contemporary political context.

In March 1965, President Lyndon Johnson proposed legislation that greatly expanded federal authority over state election laws, particularly in the South. The bill contained a “trigger” provision that used voter participation data from 1964 to automatically suspend literacy tests in several southern states and bring those states under the preclearance requirement. This approach would relieve individuals and organizations of many of the considerable legal hurdles (and, in numerous instances, personal risk) of filing lawsuits. That case-by-case method had been tried under the 1957 and 1960 civil rights laws but had resulted in few new black voters.

Led by Everett Dirksen (Ill.), Senate Republicans allied with non-southern Democrats to defeat southerners’ efforts to preserve local autonomy, most notably their attempts to delete the trigger and preclearance provisions. Republicans also backed cloture, which ended the southern Democrats’ filibuster and ensured that the bill would pass.

House Republicans initially rallied behind legislation, offered by Gerald Ford (Mi.) and William McCulloch (Oh.), that enhanced federal jurisdiction compared to earlier civil rights laws but nevertheless preserved more state autonomy compared to Johnson’s. Their bill did not automatically ban literacy tests or contain preclearance requirements. Since the early twentieth century, Republicans had favored literacy tests in their own states and insisted upon maximizing state authority over voting rules, largely in response to high levels of immigration to the Northeast and Midwest. Low levels of black voting, Ford and McCulloch argued, might stem from factors unrelated to discrimination. The pair also pointed out that their legislation would apply to more southern states than did the president’s. Prominent civil rights groups and leaders preferred Johnson’s approach, however.

The Senate’s action, plus the sizable Democratic majority in the House, meant that the Ford-McCulloch legislation had no chance. House Republicans then fell in line with the winning side. Just one of the seventeen Republicans from the ex-Confederate states voted for Johnson’s measure. Southern Republicans, in other words, were just as eager as southern Democrats to limit Washington’s reach.

The political context of the mid-1960s also echoes the present. In 1965, Republicans were debating how to rebuild their party. The 1964 election had been a disaster not just for presidential nominee Barry Goldwater, but for the party as well. A handful of Republicans wanted to more closely align the GOP with the civil rights movement. Doing so, they argued, would increase African American support and help the party with the expanding number of whites, in the South and elsewhere, who favored a more racially egalitarian society. “We have got to get the party away from being an Anglo-Saxon Protestant white party,” Charles Percy asserted. Percy had just lost his bid to be governor of Illinois; he would be elected to the Senate in 1966. Likewise, Governor George Romney (Mi.) fired off a twelve page letter to Goldwater in which he noted that the Arizona senator had received eight million fewer votes than Richard Nixon did in 1960 and voiced alarm over the “southern-rural-white” thrust of the senator’s campaign. “The party’s need to become more broadly inclusive and attractive,” Romney emphasized, “should be obvious to anyone.”

Romney and Percy were minority voices within their party. Most Republicans continued to agree with Goldwater that the black vote was largely unwinnable and essentially irrelevant. Whites far outnumbered African Americans in most of the nation, including most of the South. As Johnson’s bill was being debated, state and local Republicans from Dixie warned northern GOP lawmakers that allying with president would undermine the party’s recent growth in Dixie. Worried that the elimination of literacy tests would mean a large influx of black voters, one Louisiana organization appealed to Nixon to lobby congressional Republicans on the South’s behalf. Illiterate African Americans, they wrote the former vice president, simply followed Democrats’ instructions or sold their votes for beer or a few dollars. The head of the Mississippi GOP predicted chaos “if large numbers of ignorant, illiterate persons are suddenly given the vote.”

Concerns over fraud were not limited to the South. Believing that the Democrats had stolen the 1960 election through fraud in Chicago and elsewhere, the RNC had launched Operation Eagle Eye in 1964. Republicans across the nation tried a variety of techniques to prove that many African American voters were ineligible. Republicans also worked to dissuade blacks from voting by spreading false information in African American neighborhoods regarding the voting process. Operation Eagle Eye flopped, but Republicans would continue to use many of these methods in the decades ahead.

Timothy N. Thurber is Associate Professor of History at Virginia Commonwealth University, and author of The Politics of Equality: Hubert H. Humphrey and the African American Freedom Struggle, and, most recently, Republicans and Race: The GOP’s Frayed Relationship with African Americans, 1945–1974.
– See more at: http://hnn.us/article/153358#sthash.xPizvkxg.dpuf

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El enfoque histórico-cultural de Emely Rosenberg y la política expansionista estadounidense

por Pablo L. Crespo Vargas

Spreading the american dreamUno de los problemas, más significativos, que confrontaron los estudiosos de la historia diplomática estadounidense hasta comenzada la segunda mitad del siglo XX fue la falta de un acercamiento o una explicación cultural donde se analizaran los distintos aspectos del desarrollo de las relaciones internacionales de este país. Los cambios producidos en el pensamiento académico luego de finalizada la Segunda Guerra Mundial, donde se presentaron una serie de factores que incluyen mayores oportunidades de estudio gracias a los beneficios educativos a veteranos, el aumento de instituciones universitarias estatales, y los movimientos de derechos humanos, feministas e indigenistas, que motivaron a muchos a realizar estudios postsecundarios, sin importar la clase social de la que provenían, también se sintieron en la historiografía estadounidense.[1]
Los recién formados historiadores comenzaron a ver la historia desde una perspectiva fuera del punto de vista elitista que se había caracterizado hasta ese momento.[2] Uno de los mejores ejemplos de esta situación lo encontramos en la obra de Emily S. Rosenberg. Esta historiadora busca presentarnos como la cultura estadounidense jugó un papel trascendental en el desenvolvimiento de la política exterior de los Estados Unidos. Es importante señalar, que la autora, establece los límites a su trabajo en “examine the process by which some Americans, guided and justified by the faiths of liberal-developmentalism, sought to extend their technology-based economy and mass culture to nearly every part of the world.” En otras palabras, Rosenberg no trabaja el efecto de la americanización en otros países o culturas, aunque estos son estudiados con mayor detenimiento por otros investigadores, sino que se enfoca en cómo se dio este proceso desde la perspectiva estadounidense.
La tesis de la autora se centra en el desarrollo de una ideología llamada liberalismo-desarrollista [liberal-developmentalism], el cual tenía cinco puntos o ideas de gran importancia. El primero es la creencia de que todos los países debían copiar el desarrollo económico estadounidense. El segundo punto es la fe existente en el desarrollo de la economía a base de una iniciativa privada. Le seguía la creencia de mantener acceso libre al comercio y a las inversiones. La cuarta idea es el fomento del flujo continuo de la información y la cultura. Por último, se promovía la creencia de que el gobierno tenía la función de proteger la empresa privada, a la vez que se estimulaba y regulaba la participación estadounidense en la economía mundial y el intercambio cultural. Estas ideas se fueron desarrollando y utilizando para poder crear un ambiente favorable a los inversionistas estadounidenses que se aventuraran en el extranjero, teniendo el consentimiento del sistema gubernamental para ello.
En la obra se va presentando la evolución de estas ideas, que Rosenberg divide en tres periodos significativos. Primero, el estado promocional [Promotional State], desarrollado entre 1890 y 1912. En este periodo, el gobierno federal buscaba facilitar el desarrollo económico de las empresas privadas que se desarrollaron en el mercado internacional. Segundo, el estado cooperativista [Cooperative State], promovido después de la Primera Guerra Mundial. En él, el gobierno se inmiscuyó en el desarrollo de las inversiones estadounidenses en el extranjero, buscando posiciones ventajosas en el ámbito internacional; y a su vez, manteniendo la posición política que los Estados Unidos obtuvo al terminar este conflicto. Por último, se desarrolló el estado regulador [Regulatory State], que a partir de la década del 30 buscaba integrar las relaciones entre empresarios y gobierno federal para facilitan los objetivos de ambos.
Los dos puntos que la autora recalca son: (1) la estrecha relación entre la expansión económica estadounidense y los aspectos culturales que se desarrollaban en este país y (2) la correlación existente entre el grado de intromisión del gobierno de los Estados Unidos en los intereses económico y la proyección hegemónica desarrollada ante el resto del planeta. No ha de extrañarnos, que a mayor proyección mundial como potencia de primer orden, mayor era el grado de relación entre el gobierno y los intereses económicos. Sobre este último punto podemos observar dos hipótesis. En la primera, que el gobierno estadounidense utilizó la expansión económica desarrollada por los inversionistas para crear una plataforma que sirvió para promover y proyectar a los Estados Unidos como una potencia de primer orden. Segundo, que el gobierno fue empujado por los intereses económicos para desarrollar una hegemonía que los protegiera en el extranjero. Aunque podemos estar tentados a escoger solamente una explicación, la obra nos demuestra que en un principio los inversionistas y empresarios estadounidenses [los grupos misioneros también aprovecharon el momento] lograron atraer el interés gubernamental; pero, que al pasar el tiempo y los Estados Unidos transformarse en una nación de primer orden su interés por mantener un predominio económico era más latente y la proyección de la cultura estadounidense era vital para tales fines.
Dentro de los aspectos culturales se puede apreciar el surgimiento de ideas progresistas que son propagadas y asimiladas por la población en general. Algunas de estas ideas fueron vistas como precondiciones a una sociedad moderna y de avanzada de una nación destinada a ser modelo universal. Estas incluyen la supuesta superioridad de la sociedad cristiana protestante, la prepotencia anglosajona y el desarrollo económico de la sociedad estadounidense. Estas ideas crearon una mentalidad de superioridad que puede ser apreciada en las campañas misioneras, que buscaban expandir sus creencias religiosas en el extranjero, de la misma forma que los inversionistas buscaban prosperidad en los mercados internacionales.
Otro aspecto cultural que no podríamos dejar a un lado es la importancia que tuvo el llamado sueño americano [American Dream], el cual estaba relacionado con el desarrollo de alta tecnología y el consumo en masa. Si la proyección de este ideal anterior al periodo de la Segunda Guerra Mundial fue realizado por misioneros, misiones diplomáticas e intereses económicos; el desarrollo de los medios de comunicación masivos fue toda una innovación que se encargó de llevar a cada rincón del mundo el pensamiento y estilo de vida estadounidense luego de finalizada esta guerra. La intención, según nos indica la autora, era crear cierto grado de empatía hacia el estilo de vida democrático, de sabiduría e integración social estadounidense. Se puede pensar que la expansión cultural era parte importante en la creación de mercados económicos e intelectuales donde el pensamiento estadounidense predominaba.
Los planteamientos de la autora podrían estar presentando una fuerte influencia revisionista. De hecho, la presentación de una serie de problemas o contradicciones entre el ideal liberal desarrollista y lo practicado en realidad nos hace pensar en la obra del historiador William A. Williams: The Tragedy of American Diplomacy. Entre los puntos trágicos que presenta Rosenberg está la política de dos varas que el gobierno estadounidense utilizó para promover los intereses económicos y diplomáticos propios. El mejor ejemplo fue la política dirigida a condenar y demonizar los monopolios extranjeros; mientras que se promovía el que empresas estadounidenses monopolizaran en países de economía débil y con gobiernos de fácil corrupción.
Según la autora, las justificaciones que cada generación de estadounidenses presentó para el desarrollo de una conducta no liberal dentro del liberalismo-desarrollista son otro ejemplo de la importancia del aspecto cultural dentro de la historia diplomática. Estas son tres: “Doctrines of racial superiority and evangelical mission […], a faith in granting prerogatives to new middle-class professionals […] and a fervent anti-Communism”. Dos de ellas son de corte ideológico: la superioridad racial junto a la evangelización y el desarrollo del anti comunismo; pero su contenido está arraigado al desarrollo cultural de una nación que evolucionó en un marco anglosajón, de creencias religiosas protestantes y con una economía esencialmente capitalista donde el individuo era responsable de su prosperidad tanto terrenal como espiritual. A su vez, la responsabilidad del individuo al progreso llevó al desarrollo de una clase media profesional que promoviera cambios en la tecnología y en la calidad de vida que presentaba el llamado American Dream.
Los planteamientos de corte liberal que Rosenberg expone al presentar un punto de vista cultural pudieran molestar a historiadores conservadores que solo ven intereses estratégicos y económicos en sus señalamientos. Sin embargo, no podemos dejar a un lado, el desarrollo de una política exterior que no se basó únicamente en las pretensiones de grandeza que puede tener una élite, o en los deseos de riqueza que los empresarios vieron en los mercados internacionales, sino, que dentro de todo esto existe un intercambio de ideas, una proyección de lo que es el país y sus pobladores y cómo estos pueden interactuar con otras cultura, aunque en este caso se buscaba que otras culturas asimilaran la de ellos para así poder crear un cierto grado de identificación del cual se suponía que ambos lados se beneficiaran.
Obra principal:
Emily S. Rosenberg: Spreading the American Dream: American Economic and Cultural Expansion, 1890-1945 [1982], New York: Hill and Wang, 1999
Obras citadas:
Appleby, Joyce, Lynn Hunt & Margaret Jacob: Telling the Truth About History, New York, Norton, 1994
William, David: A Peoples History of the Civil War: Struggles for the Meaning of Freedom, New York, New Press, 2006
Williams, William A.: The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, New York, Delta Books, 1962
Otras obras de referencia sobre el tema:
Hogan, Michael J. & Thomas Paterson (eds.), Explaining the History of American Foreign Relations, 2nd ed., New York, Cambridge University Press, 2004
Joseph, Gilbert M, Catherine C. Legrand & Ricardo D. Salvatore (eds.): Close Encounters of Empire: Writing the Cultural History of U.S.-Latin American Relations, Duke University Press, 1998.
Kaplan, Amy & Donald E. Pease (eds.): Cultures of United States Imperialism, Duke University Press, 1999.

[1] David William: A Peoples History of the Civil War: Struggles for the Meaning of Freedom, 2006, pág. 11.
[2] Véase a Joyce Appleby, Lynn Hunt & Margaret Jacob: Telling the Truth About History, 1994, págs. 146-151.

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