Rubric for evaluation (out of 7 points)1.  Does the paper have an explicit why question? (1 out of 7)Do you find the why question interesting, powerful, important, engaging?  Explain why you find it interesting etc (or what you don’t find compelling and why). Do you think it is an appropriate why question for the subject being discussed? Is it too broad a question or too narrow a question?  (or is it too general a question or too specific a question?)  [Comment on the appropriateness of the why question.] 2.  Is there an answer to the why question?  (1 out of 7)Is the answer interesting, powerful, important, engaging? Does the answer fit with the question?  (Is the answer too specific or too general?). Does the answer make sense?[Comment on the answer to the why question.]3.  Does the paper (as is) give a persuasive sense of how your answer is a good/the best answer to the why question? (1 out of 7)Is evidence presented in concrete, analytical ways?  [The writer may need to provide some historical background to the issue, but is the body of the essay all historical background, with little or no concrete evidence?]  Does the evidence support the argument?  Does the evidence also support other arguments? [Comment on the fit of the evidence and the argument.]Is the evidence presented the best evidence to support the argument?  (Does it present a “smoking gun”—conclusive evidence needed to make the author’s argument?)[Comment generally on how well or how poorly the evidence and the answer to the why question go together.]4.  Is the paper four full pages, with specified margins and font? (1 out of 7)The paper, with a minimum of four pages.  The research question and argument must be laid out clearly and the draft should give a sense of how you will prove your argument.  Is this real, potentially usable text or is the writer filling in space to get to four full pages? [Comment on whether you think the writer is well along on the paper or whether the writer really has to get down to work.] 5.  Does the paper show signs of using primary sources and secondary sources (has actual research been done)? (1 out of 7)  Does the writer actually mention or cite his/her sources?[Comment on whether you think the writer has done enough research and if not enough, what you think the writer has to do.]6.  Realizing this is a draft, is the paper reasonably well organized and written? (1 out of 7; 14 out of 100) Is it written in a reasonably logical way?   Did the writer take care in writing—not too many typos, spelling mistakes, grammatical errors? [Comment on clarity of expression, organization, style, and other presentational aspects of the draft/]7.  General comments on the draft.  (1 out of 7)  Is this a good paper so far?  What needs to be done for the final version?  Where does it need work?  What needs to be done to improve the paper? peer_review_paper.docxThe foreign policy of a nation depends on how, and where various matters of importance
(such as politics, geographic concerns, and public opinion) converge. When looking at the US,
we are confronted by a somewhat unique circumstance. Prior to the Spanish-American war, the
US was fairly isolationist. Most conflicts that occurred were in the Americas, and rarely
involving European powers on the opposing side. This begs the question of “Why did US foreign
policy change after the Spanish-American war?”. I posit that the change in how the US
conducted its foreign policy was largely based on the acquisition of territories in the Asia Pacific,
which made the US a colonial power, as well as drastically reducing the extent to which it was
isolated from the rest of the world by geography.
Isolationism played a large shaping role in US foreign policy for a very long time.
However, American isolationism was not comparable to Japan’s 鎖国/Sakoku (Lit. “Closed
Country”) as we did not prohibit the entry/exit of people to and from the United States, nor did
we sever diplomatic relations with other nations. That being said, when looking at major
engagements that United States was party to, nearly all of them (with some exceptions such as
the XYZ Affair and the First Barbary War) took place in the Americas, rarely did they include
Europeans, and if they did, it was even rarer that they were on the opposing side. Rather, the
isolationism that the US engaged in was pointed towards diplomatic institutions such as
alliances, to which George Washington famously said “It is our true policy to steer clear of
permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world”. Widely regarded as the father of the
US, advice that he imparted on that fledgling country would undoubtedly be held in high regard.
However, given that other advice he gave was not heeded – such as not forming political parties
-, it stands to reason that other factors than just parting words influenced the direction of early
American foreign policy.
Geography makes a compelling case for being another major influence on the foreign
policy of the newly independent United States. To the north lay the British territory of Canada,
which was a point of some contention until the war of 1812, at which point the Treaty of Ghent
more or less allayed any future concerns about hostilities with the British Empire. To be sure, in
the two centuries since then, the US and Britain have not been at odds. South of the United States
lay Mexico, which was never a threat to the US as Britain had been, exemplified by the United
States victory in all wars opposing them (including, but not limited to: The Mexican American
War [1846-1848], The First and Second Cortina Wars [1859-1861], and the Reform War
[1860]). Then, to the east and west were the Atlantic and Pacific oceans respectively. This was
very unlike the European landscape, where all nations had potentially hostile forces on any given
border. Even the British faced numerous threats from nations such as France, Castille/Spain, and
the Dutch. Alliances in Europe could make, or break a nation’s continued existence. The United
States on the other hand was a regional hegemon, buttressed by literal oceans.
It seems logical that these two factors, the wisdom of a respected statesmen and the
fortunes of geography, are key in how early US foreign policy was determined. Indeed, George
Washington’s farewell address went on to say “Taking care always to keep ourselves by suitable
establishments on a respectable defensive posture, we may safely trust to temporary alliances for
extraordinary emergencies”, as this “respectable defensive posture” was guaranteed by the
landscape and the treaty of Ghent, alliances were unnecessary and therefore went unpursued.
Yet, as touched on briefly, this state of isolationism did not preclude the many wars that
the United States was party to. But, also as noted before these wars were largely conducted in the
Americas, and did not often involve foreign powers, such as those in Europe. Though the United
States was involved in conflicts in Asia, such as the Shimonoseki War, the participation in them
was token at best, representative of the isolationist, Americas centric perspective that foreign
policy had been based off of. However, the Spanish-American war marked a turning point for the
United States, as it began to become more involved in international affairs.
In keeping with the Monroe Doctrine, (keeping European colonial powers out of the
Americas, by force if necessary), the United States supported Spain retaining sovereignty over
Cuba, and other Caribbean territories since Spain was fairly weak. This would prevent Spanish
holdings in the Americas to come under dominion of stronger powers such as France or Britain,
and would perhaps, lead to the eventual control of the islands by the United States. However, as
time went on (particularly following the Mexican American War) and feelings of Manifest
Destiny – the belief in the “god ordained” right of the United States to come to control most, if
not all of North America (“Sea to Shining Sea”) led to this support of Spanish rule transitioning
to desires of openly contesting it (Hendrickson, 1).
On the outset, this was a difficult proposition. Americans desired the island, and
Spaniards had no desire of relinquishing control of it, leading Spain to reject offers from the US
to purchase the colony leading to a rise in tensions. A few minor diplomatic incidents arose,
possibly as a result of these tensions in the interim to war. Once such incident was that of
Filibusterer Narciso Lopez’s failed attempts to incite rebellion in 1850-1851, who was executed
during these attempts. Subsequently, anti-Spain riots took place across the southern United
States, leading Spain to demand and receive compensation for damages sustained to Spanish
property, though less than had been requested. Later, after the election of Franklin Pierce as
President of the United States, another incident in 1854 known as the Black Warrior Affair,
further inflamed tensions when an American steamship’s cargo was seized by Cuban officials,
causing the United States minister to Spain, Pierre Soule (a sympathizer of Narciso Lopez) to
demand an apology, along with an indemnity. However, Spanish officials went around Soule and
directly reached a settlement with the owners of Black Warrior, rather than the United States
government. Despite the contentious state of affairs, tensions faded until 1868, though American
designs on the island did not (Hendrickson 4).
In 1868, one year prior to when Ulysses Grant would be elected president, Cuba had
declared its nominal independence. In response to abysmal treatment under the Spanish, a
Republican government was created, though many were skeptical as to its capabilities.
Nevertheless, an active interest in Cuba by the United States had been reignited, and the US
moved to mediate the conflict between Spain and the rebellious territory, though this overture
was rejected by Spain. Despite executive reluctance, Congress and American public opinion
were increasingly supportive of recognizing, and/or supporting the rebels. However, it was not
until 1896 when Spain began to suppress rebellions in the Philippines and Cuba, and sent
General Valeriano Nicolau to Cuba to restore order, that the collision course between Spain and
the United States had been set. General Nicolau undertook a policy known as reconcentration,
similar to putting people in concentration camps. This resulted in thousands of deaths of the
innocent, as well as causing further outrage in the United States, and its media juggernaut.
Works Cited
Washington, George. “Washington’s Farewell Address.” Avalon Project. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Feb.
2016.
Hendrickson, Kenneth E. “Background and Overview of the Spanish-American War.” The
Spanish-American War. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood, 2003. ABC-CLIO eBook
Collection. Web. 10 Feb 2016.
Frost, John. The Book of the Army: Comprising a General Military History of the United States
from the Period of the Revolution to the Present Time, with Particular Accounts of All the
Most Celebrated Battles. D. Appleton ;–Geo. S. Appleton, 1845. Web.

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