After the Civil War, the United States embraced its “manifest destiny” to expand not only westward to the Pacific Ocean but also southward into the Caribbean. U.S. leaders actively considered the annexation of Cuba and the Dominican Republic, spurred by the lobbying of wealthy pro-annexation elites from both nations, who found a ready audience in corrupt, Gilded Age Washington. The case for annexation fell apart after wrangling between Congress and the Grant administration; however, a consensus emerged in Washington that the United States should replace Spain and the United Kingdom as the dominant foreign power in the Caribbean and that it was necessary to set up naval bases and coaling stations across the basin to protect an eventual transoceanic canal in Central America. U.S. officials differed on how to achieve these goals. Some argued for direct military intervention; others preached patience in allowing U.S. commercial power to organically secure greater influence in the Caribbean. These opposing visions of how the United States should project its power in the world still lie at the heart of foreign policy debates today.
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