The current United States is the most powerful country in human history. With over 800 military camps and 37% of global military spending, the United States has grown as the leader of a large interconnected global arrangement that has helped guide in a period of modern prosperity and low levels of conflict.
During the first 70 years of its presence, the United States increased in both territory and influence in North America, eventually approaching the Pacific Ocean in a wave of expansion that occurred in the widespread slaughter of the indigenous people who populated the region. But early Americans were strongly split as to whether the country should extend beyond the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. This became a major discussion after the civil war, when some administrators, like post-war Secretary of State Seward, explained that America should push to become a global power. Seward succeeded in proposing a plan to obtain Alaska from Russia, but his attempts to purchase Greenland and Iceland, as well as annex region in the Caribbean, were all prevented by Congress.
That is because some Americans, including several on Capitol Hill, had a strong anti-imperialist tendency. These people were concerned about America getting more engaged in global politics, as well as having to unite populations from “inferior” races. And this restriction applied major checks on the imperialist urge to grow.
After World War 1 President Wilson accompanied the Paris Peace Conference which stopped the war and tried to set the terms of the peace. He initiated America’s most difficult foreign policy initiative yet, an international organization, called the League of Nations, created to promote peace and harmony globally.
During the Great Depression and the growth of Hitler, the US was much more focused on its territory than on European affairs. Eventually, though, America’s ever-growing involvement abroad made it unlikely for it to stay out of global affairs completely. In East Asia, the expanding Japanese empire posed a direct threat to American territories and troops bringing the United States and Japan into battle. This climaxed in the Pearl Harbor attack bringing the United States into World War II.
World War II had made associates out of the democratic West and communist East in the fight versus Hitler, but that couldn’t continue. The United States saw Soviet enlargement in Eastern Europe and subsequently as a direct threat to its concept of a free-trading world. Fearful of Soviet intentions towards Western Europe, the US and other European countries created the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a military agreement meant to stop Russia from attacking other countries in Europe.
After the Berlin wall collapsed, the US could have retired from this system, severing relations with its allies and drawing down the size of its military. And while the US did decrease military spending, much of the military foundation and connections from the Cold War remained. Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton determined that it was in both America and the world’s concerns for the United States, now the sole superpower on earth, to continue actively leading global operations.