Was the US a superpower before WWII?



  • The question sums it up.  What’s your rational?



  • Yes, but so was Britain, Russia, France, Germany and Japan.


  • 2020 2019 2018 2017 '16 '15 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    “Great powers” (see The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict From 1500 to 2000, by Paul Kennedy, for more on this topic) can arguably be defined as nations whose economic, military and political strength allows them to exert their influence on  a global scale.  A “superpower” can (also arguably) be defined as a nation considered to be one step above a “great power” – one which possesses the same kind of influence as a great power, but to an overwhelming degree.

    The term “superpower” was invented in 1944, so strictly speaking the word itself has no pre-WWII application. There were certainly a number of great powers before the Second World War, but whether the U.S. or any other country can be regarded as having been a superpower before the Second World War depends on where you put the dividing line between great powers and superpowers.



  • Marc, you should vote “it’s complicated.”


  • 2020 2019 2018 2017 '16 '15 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    @calvinhobbesliker:

    Marc, you should vote “it’s complicated.”

    Done.



  • According to wikipedia,
    A superpower is a state with a dominant position in the international system which has the ability to influence events and its own interests and project power on a worldwide scale to protect those interests.

    In 1944, when the term was coined, only the Big Three(US, UK, and USSR) were the superpowers.



  • Before WWII the U.S did not have the will to be a superpower. The ability was there no doubt.


  • 2017 '16 '15 Organizer '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    Yes since 1898. Back then they called them empires.


  • '10

    Before WW2 the USA was a “Great Power”.  The only remaining “Super Power” was the British Empire after WW1… Due to it’s intact global Empire and economic influence.  It was in decline however and was only a “Super Power” in Name by 1939.  The statute of Westminster basically dissolved this empire in 1935 creating the commonwealth of supposedly equal member nations (Plus India)

    After WW2 only the USSR and the USA were Super Powers and Britain was degraded to a Great Power… Thus the Cold War.

    Before the 1930s, the USA did not have the global influance or the armed forces to be a Super Power.



  • NO!



  • Most certainly yes. It didnt have the military might of the European powers yet but as it showed during WW2 it industry was an unstoppable force once mobilised.
    What many people dont know is that American surpassed the British empire (not just Britain but the whole empire) in the 1880’s but thanks to isolation in the Americas it didnt require such a large military force to defend itself. Much like the U.S of the later half of the 20th century the U.S could of easily had a military large enough to fight any war had they been so inclined.

    Its all about industrial capacity, man power and money. Of which the U.S had plenty perhaps not as much manpower as Britain or the Soviets but it had a lot more money and industrial capacity.



  • Superpower has to be a pretty exclusive term so I say no, not before WWII. Otherwise we need a new word for what us and the soviets became after the war.

    The war with dying Spain is a good point to begin marking America’s military influence off her own shores.

    Before that was recovery from the civil war. The war with cruddy Mexico was expansionistic, did see our troops off our own soil…… War of 1812 we were killing Brits mostly on our own soil…

    Yeah, I vote for after WWII. We definately had the resources. Something lime the oosition China is in today though. Plenty of resources but can they get their stuff together and go take over cruddy countries like Iran or Columbia at will like we can?



  • Was the US a superpower before WWII? Absolutly not.

    I like Mark’s definition.

    Besides sematics, USA was only 14th as army power.
    What allowed USA to be major player in WWII is distance (No axis power close by), unattacked homeland (please don’t argue this with Pearl Harbor or few U-Boats on East Coast… clearly not same scale!) and ability to quickly swap to war economy (which drag 2/3 of world gold after WWII…).

    There’s no way USA was a super power before WWII. I even doubt it was a great power… as his influence outside his land was mainly politics.


  • 2019 2018 2017 '16

    The U.S became Superpower with the end of WWII…



  • The U.S became Superpower with the end of WWII…

    You got it man….

    Yes since 1898. Back then they called them empires.
    Your mentor say Yes?


  • 2017 '16 '15 Organizer '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    Yes he says yes.

    Empires are the old world code word for “superpowers”, but became associated with militarism and nationalism.

    America entered the Empire age when it went to war with Spain as a pretext to gain overseas territories.  The economic potential that America created in WW2 could have been generated long before, it just depended on the opportunity to wage war. If WW1 was fought in 1870, and WW2 fought in 1892, US would still show this potential and would be labeled a “superpower”  It didn’t need a war to show the world what it could do. It needed the industrial revolution.



  • Thanks IL.  I loved that definition.  🙂


  • '12

    One point I would raise about the US being able to demonstrate superpower ability 1870ish would be a desire to fight and prove it.  No doubt economically they were, while they didn’t rank high on standing army/navy size, they didn’t need it due to geography.  I just wonder so soon after the civil war…how would the population feel, expansionist/militaristic or isolationist/minimalist approach to standing military size?  It might have taken a generation or three to get over the horror that the civil war was to the US.  Didn’t they lose more in the civil war than WW I and II combined?  Not that the US would EVER pull a 1940 France move, but they just might not have had the belly to fight for #1 ranking in 1870.


  • 2017 '16 '15 Organizer '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    The North used its economic might to overwhelm the better led and more capable Southern armies. US Grant and the long line of dismissed generals before were killing this this economic advantage by wasting human life by poor strategy, allowing the South to stay in the fight. Eventually they made a military mistake and they were already living on small margins so the struggle finally played out.

    If US was led by General LEE and Sheridan and fighting in Europe in 1860-70 it would be like Patton all over again running thru France, except with Cavalry



  • @Imperious:

    The North used its economic might to overwhelm the better led and more capable Southern armies. US Grant and the long line of dismissed generals before were killing this this economic advantage by wasting human life by poor strategy, allowing the South to stay in the fight. Eventually they made a military mistake and they were already living on small margins so the struggle finally played out.

    If US was led by General LEE and Sheridan and fighting in Europe in 1860-70 it would be like Patton all over again running thru France, except with Cavalry

    Agree completely…


  • 2017 '16 '15 Organizer '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    You know a global 1870 game seems like a neat idea…

    you could have those neat ironclads and cool looking “great white fleet” warships and you could make it balanced and still be historical since nobody can really claim anybody was much stronger than another and Japan would be represented

    Japan against Russia.

    England indirectly against Russia ( trying to deny them a warm water port in Europe, by diplomatic blockade)

    Ottomans involved against Russia

    France and England vs. Germany, Austria, and Italy

    US fighting a civil war then latter joining the war or not depending on which side wins ( north or south) If North wins they stay neutral and fight Spain, if South wins they fight in Europe with UK and France.

    Spain might join the triple alliance ( Germany , etc).



  • A 1870-80 World at War game would rock. I love that era, the height of European power.

    The U.S in 1865 had the largest and most powerful military in the World. Had the desire been there the US could have been a huge world power.


  • 2017 '16 '15 Organizer '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    http://www.greatwhitefleet.info/GWF-The_Battleships.html

    I really like how these ships looked, so perhaps this idea would be 1895 'ish, or be a hypothetical world war based on the 1905 (Moroccan incident, which almost started WW1).

    Looking at them around 1870 and its a big difference, plus larger artillery were developed and the game could have air-power as technology .

    The central idea is a global war was possible because this was the time when Africa was being colonized, and conflicts over empire building could have easily developed on a global scale.

    The look of the forces would still have all the goodies, but perhaps not poison gas.



  • I think a 1890-1905 geopolitical axis&allies style game could be really cool. The pre-dreadnought era may fit A&A gameplay even better than the WW2 era. Ships moved alot slower. No ideologies just imperial ambition. Lots of interesting wars/battles in remote parts of the world like the Russo-Japanese War and Spanish-American War. It would be interesting to see how a Pacific war between Japan and the US would play out during this era. Until they were defeated in the first Sino-Japanese War(1895). China had a sizable modern navy so even they could be an important power. The total lack of ideologies means diplomacy should be a factor and players should be able to choose there friends and enemies( and make secret alliances). Nations who were allies in the Boxer Rebellion were fierce enemies just a few years later.



  • Personally I always believed “superpowers” were nations during and after WWII that were the “game changers” or in other words were some of the most important nations. The US, UK, Soviet Union, Germany, and Japan. After the war we had US, the Soviets and Britain ( :?).


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