Analysis of American Foreign Policy in Hawaii and Iran

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American Foreign Policy and Self-Determination

American Statesmen often maintain that United States foreign policy is shaped and driven by the nation’s commitment to self-determination and indigenous economic development. Yet this is challenged throughout Stephen Kinzer’s text, “Overthrow”. Focusing on these two principles, the essay will analyze and assess American’s foreign policy in Hawaii and Iran. The US is a super power nation and in most cases, it invades weaker nations like Hawaii and Iran to impose its ideologies, increase its strength or gain control of valuable resources in these countries. In the past two decades, the US has overthrown fourteen governments who dissatisfied them with their different political, ideological and economic reasons. The US uses different means to convince other nations to accept their proposals on different matters including diplomacy, rewards to governments that support them and threats for those that refuse their agenda. In 1893 America overthrew Hawaiian monarchy using their troops to impose their agenda and in 1953 the Iranian prime minister was overthrown to benefit America and Britain economically. Thus, America’s foreign policy is not shaped and driven by the country’s commitment to self-determination to protect its local economic development but rather to gain control of other nations for economic, political and ideological benefits.

Hawaii: Control Over Economic Interests

America overthrew the Hawaiian government to protect the US economic interests by promoting, establishing and defending the American citizens to do business in the foreign nation without interference (p. 12). The foreigners controlled both the political and economic scenes in Hawaii, ruling through a succession of native emperors who were mere figureheads but were controlled by the foreigners. This arrangement served the elites and whites interests and left the natives suffering in their own land. The Queen Liliuokalani decided to end their control and introduced a new rule that only the natives of Hawaii would vote to curtail the power the nonnatives enjoyed. The plan was successful and the whites left Hawaii. One year later, they came back seeking supplies from Hawaii, a bloody revenge happened and American introduced venereal diseases that killed thousands of Hawaiians (p. 11). Missionaries also invaded Hawaii to impose their Christian religious ideologies on the natives. The missionaries identified rich fields and cultivated them. The market for refined sugar was in America and to protect the American farmers, the US imposed tariffs to prohibit imported sugar. The Hawaii planters persuaded the American government to lift the tariffs and in exchange, they would allow America to exclusive right to maintain military and commercial bases in Hawaii. The American government agreed to it since they would benefit both economically and politically. The Americans invaded the Hawaiian economy and they controlled the expanding sugar industry (p. 9). The Queen who threatened their position she was overthrown to pave way for America’s economic and political gains.

Iran: Safeguarding Oil Interests

America invaded Iran giving the reason that the country was threat to the world peace. On the contrary, the main aim of invading Iran was to make the Middle East safe for foreign oil corporations (p. 13). The British had oil companies in Iran, which contributed greatly to the economy of Britain, and in 1958, the Iranian government decided to nationalize the oil resource and promised they would repay back the British government for their investment in infrastructure and refinery machinery. The British did not agree to that and vowed to fight to retain their control of their oil companies. The leader of the Iran knew their motive and acted fast by closing down the British embassy and the Britons organizing the coup left the country, thus disarming them. The British developed a relationship with America after Eisenhower was elected president and appointed Dulles as his secretary of state. The new found relationship made Britons plan to seek help from America. Britain knew that telling Dulles to help overthrow the Iranian government for nationalizing British oil companies would not win America’s support, and thus they changed and said that the president Mossadegh was leading Iran towards communism (p. 130), which would deprive other nations of the privilege to control the oil reserves in Iran. However, this was not true and America had to spend millions to bribe journalists, Islamic leaders and other opinion leaders to make the public believe that Mossadegh was brutal and hostile. The parliament was also bribed to vote against the leadership of Mossadegh and there were many stage managed attacks against Iranian great people to make the nation believe that it was Mossadegh doing that. Mossadegh knew about the plan by parliament to have a plan of no confidence and called for a national referendum to dissolve the parliament. The referendum was in his favor and the plan was frustrated. America has another plan and mage the Shah and the nationalist fight against each other.

Aftermath and Consequences

The plan to overthrow the prime minister was successful, finally Mossadegh was deposed, and General Zahedi the shah, was enthroned as the new prime minister of Iran. General Zahedi was indebted to Roosevelt, the American who helped him get the position, thus would do as commanded by him. America became Iran’s most important military, economic and political partner. America won the benefit of being able to control Iran’s oil resources since they had helped Britain get their company back. However, the role of America in overthrowing Mossadegh made the Iranians develop an anti-Americanism phenomenon. The conflicts remain to date and other Middle East and Islamic countries joined in, including Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan. The security of America was forever threatened, with evidence from the September 11, 2001 terror attack. If America would not have agreed to attack Iran, Iran would be a stable democracy and many nations in the Middle East would be secure and the damage to the US would be averted.


America invasion of both Iran and Hawaii achieved their short-term objective of gaining control of the nation’s politically and economically, however, the turmoil and instability caused became a threat to the security of America. The conflicts lead to bloody revenge and America has to invest heavily in weapons and defense, to protect its borders from invasion and terror attacks by the nations they overthrew their governments. However, America achieves the immediate results of being in power and in control of the country’s economy and political fronts. Clearly, from Stephen Kinzer’s text, “Overthrow”, America foreign policy of forcibly deposing their governments is not to protect their indigenous economic development, but to impose their ideologies and gain control and power over their resources.

Work Cited

Kinzer, Stephen. Overthrow: America's century of regime change from Hawaii to Iraq. Macmillan, 2007.

November 13, 2023


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Foreign Policy

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