Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

Monthly Update sign up
Mailing List signup
15. Global Politics: U.S.A. and the World, Readings
Topic Overview Using the Video Readings Critical Thinking Activity Web-Based Resources




Readings Unit 15

The Readings for Democracy in America unit 15 are available here for download as a PDF file. You'll need a copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader to read the files. Acrobat Reader is available free for download from adobe.com.

Download Unit 15 Readings, Global Politics: U.S.A. and the World

  • Introduction—Global Politics: USA and the World

  • Tocqueville, Democracy in America: “The Present and Probable Future Condition of the Indian Tribes That Inhabit the Territory Possessed by the Union” and “Why Democratic Nations Naturally Desire Peace, and Democratic Armies, War”

  • The Monroe Doctrine

  • The Marshall Plan

  • Twain, “The War Prayer”


  1. What nasty “modern” discovery destroyed the way of lives of many native Americans?

  2. How did Tocqueville believe the American government treated the native populations? How did the federal government’s treatment compare to the treatment offered by the states?

  3. What are the differences, according to Monroe, between the interests of Europe and those of the western hemisphere?

  4. Compare the discussion of production and distribution of goods and materials in the Marshall plan with Jefferson’s Query 19 (Readings, Unit 13).

  5. What was Mark Twain trying to convey about war?

Introduction—Global Politics: USA and the World

“We will not renounce our part in the mission of our race, trustee, under God, of the civilization of the world,” said President McKinley in his 1898 speech concerning the Spanish-American War and the American occupation of the Philippines. “And we will move forward to our work, not howling out regrets like slaves whipped to their burdens, but with gratitude for a task worthy of our strength, and thanksgiving to Almighty God that he has marked us as his chosen people, henceforth to lead in the generation of the world.”
Similarly, George W. Bush at a prayer breakfast, February 6, 2003, said, “One thing is for certain: We didn’t ask for these challenges, but we will meet them. I say that with certainty, because this nation has strong foundations that won’t be shaken.” Or his father, on announcing his attack on Iraq for invading Kuwait in 1991: “We have before us the opportunity to forge for ourselves and for future generations a new world order—a world where the rule of law, not the law of the jungle, governs the conduct of nations. When we are successful—and we will be—we have a real chance at this new world order, an order in which a credible United Nations can use its peacekeeping role to fulfill the promise and vision of the U.N.’s founders.” What these presidential war statements have in common is the suggestion of American hesitancy to war, the reluctance to accept the responsibility of war, and finally, the redemptive power of military violence. They also, regrettably, suggest the commonplace of war in American politics.

“There are at the present time two great nations in the world,” wrote Tocqueville of the Americans and the Russians in a passage that was often quoted during the cold war. “The Anglo-American relies upon personal interest to accomplish his ends and gives free scope to the unguided strength and common sense of the people; the Russian centers all the authority of society in a single arm.... Their starting-point is different and their courses are not the same; yet each of them seems marked out by the will of Heaven to sway the destinies of half the globe.” Today, one could say that he perhaps underestimated the influence of the United States.

If Americans are serious about making the world, and themselves, more democratic they need to reflect on the role of force in American nationalism and examine the problems for democracy that exist in the vast international power that the United States now wields. American power touches the lives of virtually everyone in the world—through inaction as well as action. Democracy suffers when people’s lives are affected and, to some extent, controlled by powers over which they have no control. This is a serious intellectual and political problem for a nation such as the United States which is identified as democratic yet occupies a position of undemocratic power and influence over so much of the world. Such power presents a great challenge to democracy in the world and in the United States, a challenge that this collection has tried to meet by providing readings in every chapter demonstrating that America has always been an active international power and the ways in which America has attempted to utilize this power for democracy.

From its very inception as the product of British expansionism, the United States has consistently relied on territorial and non-territorial adventures to solidify national identify and affiliation, to facilitate commerce, to secure resources, to expand markets, divert attention from domestic crises, respond to outrageous or tyrannical political behavior of other states, and to inject capital into the economy. The importance of the Native American border threat for national unification in the earliest period of nation building should not be forgotten. Many of the readings collected here attempt to shed some light on all these reasons for war and international meddling and to highlight the value in confronting the problems of democracy and power in the world.

Examining historical accounts of the international power of the United States can make American citizens more aware of how they are viewed from other places. Readers can also begin to examine, hopefully, the central role that violence, war, expansion, and control has played in their own notions of national freedom, national destiny, and the nation itself.

The readings in this chapter relate to many of the readings in earlier chapters. For example, throughout the book the readings have consistently utilized such things as the border disputes with Native Americans and the American control of the Philippines to place international questions in a variety of contexts. There are other connections to earlier chapters, such as Henry David Thoreau’s connections to Jefferson. In the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson suggested that at some point honest people should proclaim their lack of affiliation with the political body that governs them; Thoreau directed a similar statement at the United States, when he suggested that the government must stop supporting slavery and stop making war on Mexico or its ties of respect should be dissolved.

The opening reading of this reader was Pericles’s speech to the citizens of Athens, proclaiming to them the glory of those who had died in battle. In conclusion, this reader can offer no such stirring call to arms and blood, but it can offer the unspoken part of Pericles’s speech as Mark Twain might have heard it. In “War Prayer,” a short anti-war story by Twain, an angel explains the cost of military glory—the inglorious nature of that glory—in the death of others. If nationals in a powerful nation-state like the United States are going to avoid the fate of the gathered parishioners who ignored the words of the angel, that is, if they can see the other side of power and the challenges it presents to democratic life, then there is hope that the United States and the world can become democratic.


Site Map Home 15. Global Politics: U.S.A. and the World, Readings Democracy In America

© Annenberg Foundation 2017. All rights reserved. Legal Policy