On October 20, 1898, the USS Maine was bombed by Spain, which resulted in the death of 260 men in the Harbor of Havana, Cuba.  During this time, Cuba was controlled by Spain; a fact that many Americans found unacceptable. Spain’s domination and brutality against Cuba’s attempts to find independence was so severe that most Americans were sympathetic to Cuba’s independence uprising movements.  The American public opinion was convinced that Spain mistreated, misgoverned and abused the people living on the Spanish controlled islands off of Central America.  Worse of all, Cuba is the island country closest to the United States as it is only 90 miles away from Florida. Also, America and Cuba had been trading partners since the 17th Century, which was a fact that antagonized Spain.  While Spain controlled Cuba, they would often cut off the trade between the United States and Cuba, which resulted in serious damages to both countries economies.  All this tension grew until finally the USS Maine was bombed, which sparked America to blame Spain, then to quickly declare war on Spain on April 20, 1898. (Hearst, 57)  The resulting war that ensued became known as the “Spanish-American War.”

However, what if Spain was not the culprit in the bombing of the USS Maine?  It seems clear now that the United States would have still felt righteous to go to war for all the other reasons they were upset with Spain, as well as the fact that they had just become a “world power.”(Hearst, 87)   A country determined to be a “world power” often feels it has a responsibility to protect less powerful countries.  A more cynical take on the “world power” mantle is that it is nothing more than an imaginary responsibility used to advocate for their self-interest in the name of other less fortunate countries, such as Cuba. 

When the USS Maine was bombed, America was already frustrated with other countries controlling land in the western hemisphere.  This frustration went all the way to President James Monroe issuing a proclamation called “The Monroe Doctrine,” which stated that one goal of the United States government was to prevent further European influences in the Western Hemisphere. (Bachrach, 23) Yet, Spain was interfering with this proclamation, and America for quite a while tried to overlook this fact, but Spain was making that increasingly difficult by interfering with American-Cuban trade.  The USS Maine was just a spark to a gas leak that had been leaking since Spain claimed Cuba.

Yet, at the same time, there is an equally valid less cynical way of viewing the right to declare war just because a country can—because you happen to be a  “world power,” and that is the conviction that all world citizens are entitled to the right of our Constitution.   But even if right is in spirit—still it cannot be ignored that declaring war in the name of infringement upon the rights of a less fortunate nation is to advocate for the expansion of the rights of the United States Constitution.

The cynical view of advocating for the less powerful country is an act of self interest that what is also true is that in the case of the United States the self-interest is the expansion of the U.S. Constitutional rights, which happens to be really great thing for humankind.

Therefore, it did not matter who the culprit was in the attack of the USS Maine, as it was the United States’ s rightful place to step in and help the Cubans who had been living in fear under Spain’s rule.

Now that history can look back at what occurred in response to the attack the USS Maine, the Spanish-American War appears to have been worthwhile.  Because the situation between America and Spain, as well as Cubans and Spain, had to get worst before it could get better and America’s declaration of war expedited that fact.  The war only lasted ten weeks and resulted in America purchasing the Philippine Islands, Puerto Rico, and Guam for only $20 million, but the prize for humankind was the fact that Cuba, was released from Spain’s brutal domination. (Bachrach, 25)

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