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1 From Rapprochement to the House-Grey Memorandum The roots of cobelligerency with its underlying tension can be traced to the Anglo-American rapprochement that developed from 1898 to 1914 as America entered the world stage. Throughout much of the nineteenth century, international trends had favored both Britain and the United States over all other powers. The defeat of Napoleon and the 1814-15 peace settlement created a rare equilibrium in Europe, and Britain's supremacy on the high seas served to shelter both countries from any realistic threat of invasion. Both consequently enjoyed the luxury of maintaining limited peacetime land forces. Britain refused to embrace the mass conscript army that all great European powers possessed, relying instead on a small professional force. The United States, which had momentarily been the world's greatest land power at the end of its Civil War in 1865, maintained at the turn of the century an army more suitable to a Portugal or a Norway than to a great world power. Without a serious rival on the world scene for most of the nineteenth century, Britain continued to add to its vast empire. On the eve of World War I, Britain had an empire 140 times its own size, constituting almost a quarter of the earth's land surface; some 400,000,000 people at home and abroad were the subjects of George V. The world map with portions of every continent colored in British red, however, belied Britain's real position at the beginning of the new century. It is true that Britain in absolute terms was the world's premier power if measured by its fleet, financial resources, industrial capacity, trade, and colonies.1 But fundamental trends in the international situation no longer favored Britain. Industrialization in countries such as Germany, the United States, and Japan created powerful commercial competitors. Japan built a world-class navy and embarked on an expansionist policy in Asia; French overseas expansion, especially in Africa, at times threatened British holdings; Russian imperial designs often collided with British interests in such areas as Persia, India, and the Far East. Germany, with its determination to build a From Rapprochement to the House-Grey Memorandum 5 battle fleet that would challenge Britain's and its aggressive policies in Europe and abroad, came to represent the greatest threat after 1905. Consequently, Britain was forced to shift its attention increasingly to European affairs, forming the Triple Entente with France and Russia. The nation's naval strength was concentrated in home waters, and a rapid deployment force—the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), capable of a limited role in any European war—was created. As British policy became increasingly "defensive" in nature, Washington and London drew closer. Of all the emerging powers the United States seemed most benign to British vital interests. Throughout much of the nineteenth century, Washington had divorced military policy from its foreign policies. Safe from any real foreign threat, the United States was able to make a virtue out of military weakness both before and after the costly Civil War. Even after it extended its influence overseas around the turn of the century—acquiring territories and protectorates in the Caribbean; expanding across the Pacific with the acquisition of Hawaii, Wake, Guam, Samoa, and the Philippine Islands; and taking an activist role in China—American policymakers established no real connection between these new foreign commitments and their country's ability to uphold them. Nor did American leaders believe that the nature of their expansionism, despite its paternalistic disregard for the national sentiment of the colonial peoples, could be compared to British or European imperialism. In one sense American expansion was different: America was a satisfied nation with no emotional or strategical need for additional territory. Its colonies were not considered permanent; rather, they were thought of as temporary dependencies to be "civilized" before being given their independence. It is significant that the United States was the one major power that began and finished World War I without any intention of annexing territory.2 America's construction of a modern fleet even seemed to work to Britain's advantage. Unable to disperse its own fleet to every latitude of the globe, London began to turn over to the United States the responsibility of protecting the Western Hemisphere. Another advantage of this informal entente was that the United States, with the notable exception of its difficulties with Japan, pursued policies in the decade before the war that did not threaten to entangle...


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