NEAR the end of World War II, U.S. foreign policy was not prepared to meet the challenge of Central American politics. The reasons are found in the history of United States-Central American relations and twentieth-century economic and social trends in the region. One was not compatible with the other.
U.S. interest in the Caribbean was not fully awakened until late in the nineteenth century. Until then, the primary policy objective had been to prevent European countries from expanding their possessions in the area. The Monroe Doctrine ( 1823) was evidence of this policy in general, and the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty ( 1850) its application in a particular instance. The Americans lacked any regional imperialistic ambitions worth taking into account. The periodic interest in the annexation of Cuba, William Walker's filibustering in the 1850s, and Secretary of State William H. Seward's desire to acquire islands during the 1860s verified the limited national concern with the Caribbean region.
In the late 1880s, however, several factors influenced a change in the U.S. attitude. Economic considerations came first. Investment in Cuban sugar production, the search for markets, and a concomitant need for coaling stations aroused the interests of the business and commercial communities. The Americans also joined the world's altruistic crusade to