For a long time the term Neo-Imperialism has been used by academic historians to define a change in the foreign policies of European empires in the decades following the American Revolution of 1776 when the imperial influence of England was somewhat diminished. But, this article takes a different, more modern view.
In this view, traditional Imperialism continued and even increased for a long time after 1776. In fact, the U.S. became like a European empire, partly with the "Doctrine of Discovery" in 1823 (which meant that the lands of Native Americans could be taken by force of arms), and especially after the Spanish-American War of 1889, when the U.S. Military took Cuba, the Philippines, and Guam.
American Imperialism continued, and by 1914 it contributed to the causes of World War I, and it peaked in the 1920s and 1930s, which inevitably contributed to the causes of World War II. Then it continued but began to take on new forms during the following first "Cold War" between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. And that's when Neo-Imperialism actually began.
Like Imperialism, Neo-Imperialism is not seen as such by the people in countries that indulge in it. They see it ostensibly as "beneficent foreign policy" addressing the welfare of all the people of the world, through the auspices of their religious military industrial establishment. However, even though it is in some ways better than blatant Imperialism, it is just a more subtle form of Imperialism, and its victims suffer harm and loss in one way or another nonetheless.
The problem is that is still goes on, because it's really about a fight for domain, natural resources and strategic military footholds. That's one of the reasons why there have been recurring cold wars between the U.S. and Russia, and it's why the latest one was heated up again over the battle for Ukraine. It is rather like the old children's game of "King of the Mountain" -- about who's the toughest, who's got the most power, and who rules. And it's not new. It's been going on since ancient times, because nations are ruled by people who fight for the power to rule. Thus nations fight for the power to rule.
It's all about arrogance, self-importance and self-righteousness based on The Big Lie of superiority (whether based on egotism, religion, race, ethnicity, nationality, or wealth). And that will continue until humanity realizes that we must allow ourselves to evolve, and advance forward to a better and higher consciousness.
Emperors rose to power for two basic reasons. One was from the rationalization that a tribe or nation must be ruled by an absolute monarch, because otherwise men would compete for power and the tribe or nation would either be rife with conflict or broken up into different groups. And that rationalization was used when a nation became an empire that conquered and took over other nations.
However, the other basic reason was because emperors with absolute power tend to want more power, more wealth, and more domain. And the trouble with that is that the more Emperors gained in wealth, power and domain, the more corrupt they became.
There are some exceptions, of course. For example, the Prophet Isaiah wrote that God said Cyrus, the great Emperor King of Persia, was an "anointed one" of God, even though he didn't know God had anointed him (Isaiah 44:28 and 45:1). And Cyrus was a relatively good emperor, because when he defeated the Babylonians, he freed the Jews from captivity and enabled them to return to Jerusalem and build a temple.
The majority of emperors, however, have been far from good. Throughout history many warrior chiefs, kings, emperors and other heads of military industrial nations have sought greater wealth and domain, rationalizing and justifying themselves by assuming that they and their nations deserved to rule because their religion, race and culture was superior to all others.
They did so blatantly, originally to conquer foreign peoples, lands and countries — to make slaves of foreign peoples and to seize and occupy their land. Then it was also to extract natural resources like gold, minerals, jewels, spices, tea, coffee, hardwood, exotic produce, coal and oil; to establish military footholds for strategic purposes; and to establish colonies and expand their empire.
The biggest military-industrial powers simply imposed upon and even fought and killed other people in other countries in order to gain and maintain ever-greater wealth, power and domain in the world. And they still do. It’s just that during the last half of the 20th Century most of them learned how to get away with it while building and maintaining their image as national "superpowers" who were motivated by humanitarian ideals. But now things are changing. People are wising up.
Of course, there are benefits to a strong central government, and there were some good things accomplished even by the most tyrannical and cruel military industrial empires. For example, the ancient Roman Empire's aqueducts and water systems, roads and architecture were of benefit to everyone, and they exacted taxes from all the subjects in their domain to accomplish that. And that, along with the riches and booty they plundered, made the elite ruling class very wealthy and powerful, while the vast majority of the people were poor and lived to serve them.
Thus they were able to establish relative peace within their empires only by intimidation, fear, and lethal armed force to enforce laws, squash any dissent, and exact obedience to the emperor, king, or head of state.
That’s been the case with most military industrial empires throughout history, and that hasn't changed much. That's why we have to face the truth about it, and advance and progress beyond it.
We can make central government strong and prosperous, while at the same time making it fair, equitable, just, by the consent of all the people, and with truly representative government of the people, by the people, and for the people.
However, we must learn the lessons of history and start with Rome, because while there were many tyrannical military industrial empires before the ancient Roman Empire established itself, it is probably the most infamous one because it was so long lasting, expansive and influential, and its military industrial Imperialism did not stop in the fourth century C.E. or A.D. when the Roman Empire adopted Christianity as its official state religion.
Such Imperialism didn’t even stop after the Protestant Reformation concluded in the mid 1600s, because the Protestant Christian empires perpetuated the doctrine and belief that they had an "evangelical mandate to spread the Word of God, civilize the heathen, and save souls." And that just happened to justify their military industrial imperialism and colonialism, because it gave them an ostensibly beneficent rationale.
However, we now have to be honest and acknowledge that the European Christian monarchies and aristocracies had a very dark side, because they did not tolerate anyone standing in their way as they indulged themselves in gaining strategic military footholds in foreign lands, exploiting and controlling foreign peoples, and plundering their natural resources.
After all, the idea of "God's terrible swift sword" of Christians was established during the Crusades for Jerusalem, particularly in the failed Third Crusade in 1191 by England’s King Richard the "Lion Heart," during which he slaughtered thousands of unarmed Muslim prisoners he had taken.
Even after the Protestant Reformation, England, Spain and other European Christian empires perpetuated the idea of the "Christian Soldier" conquering the world in the name of Christianity, despite the core message and advice of Jesus about peace, compassion, pacifism and loving even your enemy. (See the article About Christianity.)
In the 1700s, however, there was a growing awareness of how wrong all that theocratic Imperialism was, and it was actually what the Founding Fathers of the United States of America in 1776 intended to stop and prevent in America.
The Founding Fathers declared and won freedom from the British Christian Military Industrial Empire, and they did not want the U.S. to be another one (which is why Article 6 and the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution were written). That's why Thomas Jefferson wrote that the religious freedom clause in the Constitution was meant to establish "a wall of separation between church and state."
Unfortunately, it was not long before the Constitution and the intent of the Founding Fathers was ignored in America, not only with regard to military imperialism, but also with regard to religious freedom. Their intent in both respects has simply been ignored, particularly since 1823 and especially since 1898, when the U.S. became just another global religious military industrial empire in the European tradition.
In the 1930s many people in America and some other nations that had a history of religious military industrial imperialism began to develop a conscience about it. But, unfortunately and at the same time, the people of Germany and Japan were being misled in the opposite direction by tyrants who wanted to completely dominate and rule the world by force of arms.
That set in motion the events that led to the ensuing Second World War, which freed the world from the tyrannical fascist rule and threat — but, it produced a different set of problems.
Neo-Imperialism was invented by the nations that emerged from that World War II as the world’s biggest military super-powers. For when the victorious U.S.A. and U.S.S.R. began competing for the hearts and minds of the people of the world, for appearances sake they adopted new methods of operation.
With such great power came great temptations, and when the people who had global ambitions and a global military industrial agenda gained and held power in those two superpowers, those nations reverted to their imperialistic bent, and in their competition for global dominance, they tended to think the ends would justify any means.
That is what started the first "Cold War," which was somewhat ironic because those two most powerful nations had been "allies" in World War II. But then, having common enemies in Germany and Japan created an uncommon alliance between the two, even though their political and economic ideologies were very different.
The U.S. was at that time the product of the democratic values, wisdom, ingenuity and fairness of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, while the U.S.S.R. was the product of the murderous, tyrannical abuse of power by Communist Chairman Joseph Stalin. But, both countries operated as if their form of government to be superior to the other, and both believed that theirs should be the model for the whole world. But both modified their rationale and methodology to make them seem more beneficent, for political expediency and appearances sake.
The military industrial empires of the world did not want to be seen as blatant imperialists. So the idea was to win the hearts and minds of the people of the world, and, to try to do that, America sold its idea of democratic capitalism and global commerce, and Russia sold its idea of an authoritarian form of socialism and communism.
Of course, Americans regarded the goals of their foreign policy to bring modernization, freedom and democracy to the whole world, and that is still the ostensible goal of the U.S. Government. However, in certain ways the goals of its foreign policies remained much the same as they had been for a long time — to expand the reach of American industry to exploit the natural resources of foreign lands, and/or to establish or maintain strategic military footholds on foreign lands.
Of course, the "Cold War" wasn't always cold. The Korean War (1950–1953) was the first significant armed conflict of the Cold War. It was between South Korea, which was supported by the U.S. and the U.N., and North Korea, which was supported by Communist China with military aid from the Russian Soviet Union. The war was a result of the divisions created after World War II, because in 1945 the Russians and Americans divided Korea in half, with U.S. troops controlling the south and Russian troops controlling the north.
When the war ended in 1953 it was a stalemate. It wound up serving no purpose, except to strengthen and expand both the Russian and the U.S. Military Industrial Complexes. (And that, by the way, is why later in 1961 President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned Americans about the dangers of putting too much emphasis and giving too much power to the military industrial complex.)
Then the 20 year long Vietnam War (1955-1975) was another significant consequence of the Cold War. South Vietnam had been a French colony, and when France finally gave up fighting to maintain its grasp and pulled out, fighting erupted between South Vietnam and North Vietnam. So the U.S. Government decided to prop up the French-designed South Vietnamese government in order to prevent a communist takeover, and U.S. Military advisers were sent in beginning in 1950. (At that time the U.S. Government believed in a "domino theory," based on the fear that if South Vietnam became communist, all surrounding countries would follow.)
U.S. Military involvement then escalated and the number of non-combatant advisers tripled by 1962. However, most Americans do no know that before he was assassinated, President Kennedy had planned to pull all advisers out by 1965.
Unfortunately, after Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, the U.S. instead did the opposite. They not only gave up the previously non-combatant role. They engaged in direct combat, and started sending many more combat troops into the direct fighting in 1964.
Gradually U.S. Military operations expanded and eventually North Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia were also heavily bombed by the U.S. For eight long years tons of Agent Orange were dropped to "defoliate" the land, causing long-lasting, devastating consequences. Estimates of the number of Vietnamese soldiers and civilians killed range to more than three million. Some 300,000 Cambodians, 200,000 Laotians and 58,159 U.S. Military members also died in the war.
Then in the 1980s under Ronald Reagan U.S. foreign policy took a turn for the worse due to the hegemony of the Reaganites. Despite the facts and lessons of history that America should have learned from, Ronald Reagan claimed the U.S. should be proud and had nothing to be ashamed of, even for its horrendous actions in Vietnam. And, because he was supported by the emerging American Christian Right and there was a lot of flag waving and bible thumping along with the sword rattling, most Americans were willing and some were even eager to believe in Reagan's dominionist, hegemonic, militant foreign policies.
That’s when U.S. Government foreign policy linked both military and industrial interests to such a point that it started to become euphemistically known as "globalism" and "international free trade." However, even though it was touted as a good system that would be beneficial to all peoples, its main beneficiaries are American multi-national corporations, and research has shown that it has actually been harmful to many people.
In other words, Reaganism repackaged and sold the same old imperial and dominionist ideas cloaked as something good for all the people in the whole world, and that gave a green light not only for extreme military measures, operations and facilities in other countries, but also a green light for American corporations and industry to out-source jobs and exploit cheap foreign labor and cheap foreign energy sources.
Of course, free and fair international trade is a good thing. However, what was sold by the Reaganites and then the Bushites has not been fair or good. In fact, while it has been good for American corporations and the foreign governments supported by the U.S., it has not been good for the American people or the people in any of the involved countries.
Now Americans should realize how things got to this point, and why things have gotten this bad — because while the U.S. was considered a hero by most of the people in the world in 1945, gradually and increasingly since 1981, and particularly since 2000, the U.S. has not been seen as a hero. In fact, it’s been seen as a villain by many people in the world, especially when it has been controlled by right-wing politicians with a global religious military industrial imperial agenda.
Specifics About U.S. Imperialism and Neo-Imperialism
Reaganism opened the door to modern corporate global dominance, and the Clinton Administration did not stop it but chose to do what was politically expedient, considering the popularity of Reaganism.
Then in 2000 Reaganite-Bushite Neo-Conservatives established The Project for a New American Century (PNAC), and wrote a blueprint for American global dominance.
The PNAC document, entitled Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategies, Forces And Resources For A New Century, confirmed the worst suspicions and fears of many people in America and all over the world. It talks about "American global leadership" that will "shape a new century favorable to American principles and interests," and it calls not only for a dominant American role in the Mid-East. It describes American armed forces abroad as "the cavalry on the new American frontier." It even calls for the creation of "U.S. Space Forces" to dominate space.
That is why the U.S. has increasingly become much like the British Empire from which the Founding Fathers declared independence in 1776.
Granted, most Americans are the most generous and possibly the least appreciated people on all the earth. Germany, Japan and, to a lesser extent, Britain and Italy were lifted out of the debris of World War II by the Americans who poured in billions of dollars and forgave other billions in debts. When France was in danger of collapsing in 1956, Americans propped it up. The Marshall Plan and the Truman Policy pumped billions of dollars into discouraged countries. When the railways of France, Germany and India were breaking down, Americans helped to rebuild them. When earthquakes hit distant cities, Americans hurry in to help. When famines hit Africa, Americans were there to help. In fact, there have been many thousands of times when Americans have raced to help other people in trouble around the world, and there have been many thousands of times that the American people have proven to be good humanitarians and good world citizens.
However, Americans have to admit and confess how and why the U.S. Government has not always been good, and has in fact been bad in many instances.
Americans should acknowledge that the original thirteen British colonies that existed in America in 1776 were products of British imperialism and colonialism, and the American Revolution and Declaration of Independence did not magically negate or correct the losses suffered by Native Americans because of it.
Granted, the Founding Fathers of the American Revolution did actually try to stop the European tradition of military industrial imperialism and prevent the U.S. from being an empire in that tradition. They wanted to do things differently, and because of their relatively enlightened and more fair attitude, the growth of the independent U.S. territory after the revolution was less forceful, albeit still imposing.
By the time Thomas Jefferson became president in 1801, the U.S. territory had grown and several states had been added, but it was still about a quarter of the size it is now. The rest of the North American continent had been claimed and was still "owned" by England, France, Russia and Spain.
At that time the basic justification for European nations claiming the lands of the "New World" was a doctrine dating back to the Fifteenth Century, following the Protestant Reformation. It was called the "Doctrine of Discovery." It declared the "divine right" of Christian nations and empires to invade, occupy and take over the lands of native indigenous peoples all over the world, because they were declared to be "heathens and uncivilized savages" with no rights to land.
Today we can see how absurd that was. But, so did people like Thomas Jefferson. Many of the Founding Fathers had realized the unfairness of such a doctrine. Jefferson and his progressive fellows wanted to do things differently, and they did not want the U.S. to be like the European empires who simply took what they wanted.
However, Jefferson was worried about the possibility of France and/or Spain blocking trade routes from the Gulf coast up the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. Therefore, Jefferson encouraged Congress to double the size of U.S. Territory by buying land from France in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.
Jefferson’s purchase protected American trading in the Gulf and on the rivers that flowed into the Gulf. And then, in 1804, Jefferson sought to expand trade routes. He commissioned Lewis and Clark to form a Corps of Discovery as a peaceful expedition to find a trade route to the Pacific Ocean.
Jefferson’s instructions and policies were based on good will and respect for Native American Indians, and Lewis and Clark followed Jefferson’s instructions. The Corps of Discovery was just that, an expedition to explore the land, discover the nature of the inhabitants of the land, as well as it’s flora and fauna, try to discover a Northwest Passage to the Pacific Ocean for the purposes of trade and commerce, and obtain permission from all the Native American Indian nations and tribes in order to do that.
Unfortunately, Jefferson’s policies and his precedent of good will toward Native Americans was not followed.
In spite of the intent of the Founding Fathers, and in spite of Jefferson’s efforts and precedents, in 1823 an American Doctrine of Discovery negated Jefferson’s policies with respect to Native American Indians. It was officially incorporated into U.S. Indian policies in a Supreme Court ruling, declaring that Native American Indians had no rights, and it opened the door to unconscionable Westward expansion by force of arms by European Americans.
That same sort of idea was imposed in the U.S. doctrine of "Manifest Destiny" in the 1840s and 1850s, which expanded the U.S. empire westward by imposition and force of arms against Native Americans, and against Mexico.
In 1848, as a result of the Mexican-American War, the U.S. had won territory that included parts of present-day Arizona, California, New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, Nevada and Utah. And that was only the beginning of blatant U.S. military industrial imperialism.
The U.S. then indulged in even more blatant foreign imperialism in 1898, following the Spanish-American War. It enabled the U.S. to gain control and "ownership" of Cuba, the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico, and thus the U.S. became just like the European empires that the Founding Fathers wanted freedom from.
Interestingly, in 1898 a Republican president and a Republican-dominated Senate negotiated, signed and ratified the treaty with Spain at the end of that war, and the debate whether or not to ratify that treaty was not much different than it would be today.
Democrats argued that "This treaty will make us a vulgar, commonplace empire, controlling subject races and vassal states, in which one class must rule and other classes must obey." But, in stark contrast, the Republicans argued that "Providence has given the United States the duty of extending Christian civilization. We come as ministering angels, not despots."
In other words, the Republicans in 1898, like their modern-day counterparts, considered such imperialism to be an "evangelical mandate," even if it meant taking control and ruling by force of arms, and even killing resisters if necessary. So, in essence, the Doctrine of Discovery was revived yet again, this time on a global scale, and it thrived.
However, it was established because those who ruled the U.S. Government had either forgotten or ignored the fact that the United States of America were founded by revolutionaries who demanded and won independence and freedom from the British "Christian" military industrial empire that operated on an "evangelical mandate" to rule by "divine right." And that was actually in violation of Article 6 and the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and in violation of the intent of the Founding Fathers.
In spite of that, the evangelical and military industrial imperialism continued. Hawaii was taken by the U.S. in 1893 because of its strategic military importance, and because of its natural resources. The Panama Canal Zone was taken in the early 1900s. Wake Island, Samoa, the Virgin Islands and the Marshall Islands followed, along with others. And similar policies justified U.S. Military actions in the "banana republics" in Central America, in order to secure access to natural resources and pave the way for U.S. Corporate Industry.
The U.S. continued these policies through the 1920s, and not only had America become just like the European Christian military industrial empires that the Founding Fathers wanted freedom from, many of the wealthiest few Americans had become very greedy, and thus very corrupt.
In 1929, however, all the greed and the corruption of the wealthiest few in America finally resulted in a stock market crash, economic collapse, failure of 10,000 U.S. banks, and the Great Depression. And all those crises finally forced Americans to face the fact that big changes and reforms were needed.
In 1932, President Franklin D. Roosevelt brought to mind the Jeffersonian ideal, and Jeffersonian thinking. After all, Jefferson had said: "Banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies," and he warned of the danger of private banks and corporations having too much power. Jefferson’s influence in that respect, however, had not taken hold. Unfortunately, in the economic area, Alexander Hamilton’s agenda had prevailed over Jefferson’s ideals, and the financial power of banks and corporations had steadily grown and flourished, with free rein.
That is why in 1929 Jefferson was proven quite right. That’s why in 1932 Roosevelt established needed reforms, regulations and government oversight of banks, corporations and industry, and provided a New Deal to the American people that significantly changed things.
Unfortunately, while Roosevelt was busy saving America, the German Fuhrer Adolf Hitler and the Japanese Emperor Hirohito had been and were busy invading and occupying other countries, aggressively extending their empires. And when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941 to weaken the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet, the U.S. declared war on Japan and entered the Second World War.
Within five years, thanks to the ingenuity, prudence and policies of Roosevelt, the U.S. emerged victorious over Germany’s Fuhrer Hitler and Japan’s Emperor Hirohito, and had become the greatest military power on earth. That's when Cold War began, and when the U.S. and Russia started to compete for control of the world.
That was actually why, in 1948, the U.S. used its influence to get the United Nations to authorize the new State of Israel, because it was felt that the new nation of Israel would be an anti-Soviet, pro-American ally. So the U.N. dismantled British Palestine and divided it up between Israel, Jordan, and Egypt. And the U.S. immediately began supplying Israel with an immense amount of financial and military aid, and a whole lot of military weapons.
It was during this period of time following the Second World War, and increasing gradually and sporadically over the next six decades (depending on the swing of the partisan political pendulum in Washington D.C.), that the U.S. became involved in Neo-Imperialism.
Of course, it was justified by the idea that it was to foster freedom and democracy, spread Christian civilization, and help "undeveloped" or "underdeveloped" peoples and nations of the world -- even though it could be seen as a self-serving, somewhat arrogant and condescending idea.
Furthermore, even though its impact has been and is admittedly not all bad, and in some ways has done and still does some good, no matter what they call it or how much they try to justify it today as "just good business," "free trade" and "globalism," it’s still Neo-Imperialism and serves the interests of the wealthiest few Americans. That is now undeniable and obvious.
Again, actual free trade and global commerce is good. However, Neo-Imperialism is really about pretense and exploitation, and one way or another it is at the expense of its victims. It exploits them and takes their natural resources, just as surely as blatant imperialism and colonialism has done.
Granted, in certain respects it is more beneficent, and we have advanced and evolved, and our consciousness has been raised in many respects. However, in certain respects, America has been pushed backward by those who have claimed they want to "restore religious values" and "restore American pride and status," which is just euphemistic jargon for a Nineteenth Century world view, when Republicans in 1898 claimed to be "ministering angels" to further their imperialistic goals.
That is why America declined and reached its low point in 2008, and is having a terrible time trying to come out of the hole --- all because too many Americans listened to the wrong voices — voices that appealed to hegemonic nationalism and religious bigotry, and to the ego, pride and prejudices of the people — voices that had a hidden agenda that served the forces of greed and self-interest.
The Rise of Reaganism, and Its Roots
In the 1980s Republican President Reagan enabled most Americans to forget or ignore the terribly misguided abuse of government power against the American civil rights movement, against the free speech movement, against the anti-war movement, and against the Vietnamese, Laotian and Cambodian people.
Supported by American corporations and the "Christian Right" and claiming to "restore American pride,"Reagan rose to power also demonizing the Soviet Union as the "evil empire." But, even though Stalinist Russia was indeed evil, by then the leaders of the Soviet Union had become increasingly less imperialistic and realized they could not continue the arms race and the competition for global power. In other words, Reagan wanted to appear as a "conquering hero" even though he was beating a dead horse.
In fact, President Jimmy Carter, who preceded Reagan, had taken significant steps to end the Cold War with the Soviet Union. Carter's foreign policy had started making it possible for the last Soviet Premier to hold that office, Mikhail Gorbachev, to step in and establish radical reforms. That is what eventually dismantled the Soviet Union. Therefore, even though Ronald Reagan made a big show of saying "Tear down this wall, Mr. Gorbachev," referring to the Berlin Wall, it would have come down without Reagan, due to Gorbachev's reforms.
Unfortunately, many Americans pay attention only to sound clips and brief news stories. And many Americans simply wanted and still want to believe in Reagan, because he touted "religious values" and said that America had nothing to be ashamed of, and that Americans should righteously rule the world from the "shining city on the hill."
Because Reagan could be very charming, he was able to revive the idea of America being the perfectly beneficent big brother and good policeman of the world.
Unfortunately, power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. People in power always find good excuses to increase their power, wealth and domain. But, invariable and inevitably, they abuse that power.
That's happened increasingly during the last 30 years because Republicans are usually driven by self-interest and short-term, quick profits and wealth, power and domain, and they have utterly failed to learn from the lessons of history.
For example, consider the historical consequences of the Spanish-American War, discussed above. The U.S. initiated that war ostensibly as a "rescue operation" in both Cuba and the Philippines and justified it with mere suspicion that Spain had sunk the U.S. Battleship Maine. (After all, it has never been determined what caused the explosion aboard the ship that made it sink). But, Americans with an imperial and dominionist mind set, along with newspaper headlines such as “Remember the Maine, and to Hell With Spain!” were very effective in inciting Americans and causing war fever.
Even so, at first, the Cubans and Filipinos actually did look at the Americans as liberators, because prior to that both Cuba and the Philippines were Spanish colonies subject to imposed Spanish rule, which, like any occupying imperialist rule, was often cruel to those who objected to it.
However, the Cubans and Filipinos soon awoke to reality. It didn't take long for them to learn that they were not going to be liberated. In fact, it turned out that the U.S. victory over Spain in both Cuba and the Philippines resulted only in replacing one occupying imperial power with another.
After the U.S. had gained control of their new "possessions," some American Republicans actually said they considered themselves "ministering angels." But they also decided that the Cuban and Filipino people were simply "not suited for self-rule," and "for their own good" had to be governed and ruled by Americans. And that actually betrayed the Cuban and Filipino people, and rather than being liberated as they had expected, they simply became American subjects against their will. (And that was similar to the British betrayal of the Palestinians following the First World War.)
One of the worst consequences of the Spanish American War and the U.S. occupation of Cuba and the Philippines was that the U.S., in what its leaders would have called a "war on terror," wound up killing thousands of Filipino freedom fighters (or insurgents) in order to gain and maintain firm control of the Philippines.
In fact, in that war 4,234 American soldiers, 16,000 Filipino freedom and independence fighters, and as many as 200,000 Filipino civilians were killed. Then, for the next 34 years, the U.S. had to use forceful rule to maintain control so American industrialists could harvest mahogany and many other natural resources, and so the U.S. Military could establish and maintain a strategic military-naval base in Subic Bay.
By 1934, though, the U.S. government realized it had to at least allow the appearance of Philippine independence. That was partly because of the leadership of democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt, but it was also because during the time between 1898 and 1934 American people and even their leadership had learned some hard lessons about being a traditional militaristic imperial power.
Additionally, many conscientious, fair Americans like Mark Twain had objected strenuously against it. That’s why American values regarding fairness and equal rights finally caused the U.S. to try to create at least the appearance of independence in the Philippines and Cuba.
Unfortunately, the power and influence of American industry and corporations caused the U.S. Government to continue to operate in their self-interests. Consequently, American Neo-Imperialism established the policy of supporting proxy governments and even "puppet dictators" in certain foreign countries to serve American strategic and economic interests.
Perhaps the most notable and infamous examples of that were Juan Batista in Cuba, Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines, the Shah of Iran, Lon Nol in Cambodia, Somoza in Nicaragua, Mobutu in The Congo or Zaire, Idi Amin in Uganda, Suharto in Indonesia, and Manuel Noriega in Panama. And those are just a few of the most well known and infamous dictators supported by the U.S. Government.
A more recent example was Hosni Mubarak, the dictator of Egypt from 1981 to 2011, who received a lot of financial "aid" from American taxpayers. The U.S. gave $45.6 Billion to Egypt since 1979 when Egypt agreed to be peaceful toward Israel. Prior to that, since 1953, the U.S. had given $4.2 Billion to Egypt, and even though U.S. foreign aid to Egypt is about two-thirds the amount the U.S. gives to Israel per year, it has still amounted to an average of $2.2 Billion per year. (And, by the way, when Mubarak left office he walked away with an estimated $80 Billion, which he amassed while 40 percent of the Egyptian population has to live on about $2 a day.)
Of course, not all of the leaders of foreign countries that the U.S. has supported were "puppet dictators." There has been a lot of legitimate foreign aid that was actually to help the people of foreign countries, rather than just their governments. But there have been dictators and other national leaders in the world who have been bribed by American foreign aid, because the U.S. Government had realized that colonialism or imperialism "by proxy" could serve American just as well as blatant imperialism, and be far less obvious.
Therefore, to claim the main purpose of all American foreign aid was and is purely beneficent is ostensible, misleading justification. The rationale and justification for it has changed over time, but the doctrines of discovery and manifest destiny, and the doctrines of ostensibly "helping developing countries fight off the evil forces of communism" and supplying money and modern weapons to countries so they could "fight communism and maintain law and order," are all, or should be, obsolete doctrines. After all, history has shown clearly that such doctrines have been actually harmful to the majority of the people in the countries the U.S. has "aided." And that because American self-interests have usually trumped any other concerns.
(Continued at Neo-Imperialism, Part 2, which discusses how and why America became the "Big Brother" and "The World's Policeman," even though there should be no such thing. Ultimately all nations should be equal but sovereign members of a truly United Nations General Assembly, with truly representational administration consisting of an executive council.)