How did Progressivism result in America justifying empire building?

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pholland14 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the great ideals of Progressivism was that its founders knew what was best for people and if they only followed the Progressive way, society would be cured of its ills.  Food would be safer.  Families would be free from alcoholism.  Children would learn.  The imperialistic mood of the late 1800s and early 1900s reflects this.  America thought that it knew what was best for the people of the Spanish Empire and the Pacific.  It would be hard to justify to the American people that we invaded Cuba in order to protect our sugar interests, so the government kept tying the war to humanitarian reasons.  Also, America had a right to intervene anytime the government was unstable; of course, this was interpreted as America could intervene anytime the government was not friendly to it.  This was especially true in the Filipino insurrection that took place after the Spanish-American War.  With the help of Emilio Aguinaldo, America defeated the Spanish garrisons on the Philippine Islands.  Aguinaldo thought that he should be in charge of the country, but American idealists thought that the people of the Philippines were not ready for self-government.  This sparked the Filipino Insurrection which killed more people than the Spanish-American War.  Progressivism led to many valuable changes domestically for America, but the people it affected internationally thought American actions were too high-handed.  

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