Was the US a superpower before WWII?

  • '17 '16 '15 Organizer '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    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.

    Yea and since everybody is doing it, nobody is really a “bad guy”, while Germany could still have its kaiser and nations like Spain and Ottomans would play their part.

    All the technology could enter latter, plus as you mentioned a diplomatic phase would be a big part of the game, just like it was during the Moroccan crisis.

    Plus as you also mentioned players would be free to make alliances in a free form game, like risk, except with AA style pieces.

    You could even add in rules for fighting natives and looting Africa for gold or lumber to build ships. Zeppelins could transport supplies or just bomb the enemy ( this would be technology)

    You could even make Mexico a minor power that could fight USA, or add Indian wars where units cost western developments for the US player.


  • Yes, technically, the US emerged out of ww1 as a super power, Japan was ignored, Soviet Union wasnt recognized, UK and France were financially/militarily in horrible shape.


  • I think a pre-WWI game would be great. SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO who’s making it again?  🙂

  • 2007 AAR League

    Call them whatever you want Superpower, Great Power, Global Power, Empire, the Spanish-American war marked the rise of the US as one, and removal of Spain from the category.  The creation of the country Panama and the building of the Panama canal is a testament to the US’s new status.

    Prior to WWII I would classify the Super Powers as US, UK, Japan, and to a lesser degree France.  Notice I do not include Russia, Germany, Austria-Hungry, or the Ottoman Empire.  I condisder these regional powers, only the first group had the capability to project power far beyond their shores.  I would argue that even after WWII the Soviet Union did not deserve the title of Super Power, it would have been hard pressed to conduct a major military campaign far beyond it’s borders.  Even a campaign in next door Afghanistan proved too much for them.


  • I disagree. We can’t forget the Cold War.

  • '12

    Super power status does imply ability to project power.  At the start of World War I, the US standing army including reserves was smaller than Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria or Romania.  Even by the end of WWI, the US army was only ranked fifth in total size.  Germany and England had had a naval arms race, although Germany lost the race, the ended up with the world’s #2 ranked navy.  Had the US and Germany fought a war in 1914 on land or on the ocean, the US would have been spanked.  Germany might not be able to project much power along the western coast of the US, but had the US had to fight Germany over Africa, they would have lost.  I would suggest that Germany was more of a superpower than the US was in 1914.


  • @MrMalachiCrunch:

    Super power status does imply ability to project power.  At the start of World War I, the US standing army including reserves was smaller than Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria or Romania.  Even by the end of WWI, the US army was only ranked fifth in total size.  Germany and England had had a naval arms race, although Germany lost the race, the ended up with the world’s #2 ranked navy.  Had the US and Germany fought a war in 1914 on land or on the ocean, the US would have been spanked.  Germany might not be able to project much power along the western coast of the US, but had the US had to fight Germany over Africa, they would have lost.  I would suggest that Germany was more of a superpower than the US was in 1914.

    Standing reserves are not the same thing as the total number of forces which could be made available…unless the war can be very quickly finished.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_population_in_1900

    British Empire = 367M
    Russia = 132M
    French Empire = 81.5M
    USA = 76.2M
    Germany = 56M
    Japan = 42M

    Of course other things, like the level of industrialization or the size of Navy at the start of conflict matters also.  But clearly the USA was already significantly larger in population than Germany or Japan.  This means the USA could have fielded a significantly larger military force in 1900 than could Germany.


  • @Emperor:

    Call them whatever you want Superpower, Great Power, Global Power, Empire, the Spanish-American war marked the rise of the US as one, and removal of Spain from the category.  The creation of the country Panama and the building of the Panama canal is a testament to the US’s new status.

    Prior to WWII I would classify the Super Powers as US, UK, Japan, and to a lesser degree France.  Notice I do not include Russia, Germany, Austria-Hungry, or the Ottoman Empire.  I condisder these regional powers, only the first group had the capability to project power far beyond their shores.  I would argue that even after WWII the Soviet Union did not deserve the title of Super Power, it would have been hard pressed to conduct a major military campaign far beyond it’s borders.  Even a campaign in next door Afghanistan proved too much for them.

    I like your definitions, they make a lot of sense to me.  Yes, the USA would have been a super power at 1898 as demonstrated by the Spanish-American war (where America projected power across the globe; Puerto Rico, Cuba, Philippines…)

    Would the opening of Japan by the Americans in 1853 as an example of actions by a superpower have counted do you think?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Ships

    Under your hypothesis, when was the USA a regional power?  I would guess at the Adams-Onasis treaty of 1819 where Spain gave up claims to Florida and Oregon, simply because the USA wanted these.

  • '12

    Florida was pretty much totally a swamp in the early 1800s, giving that up was not much of a concession.  I think the US just wanted to be able to go into Florida to impose a bit of law and order.

    I don’t think the ability to field a large army given sufficient time should be a factor in being a super-power, by that definition China would have been the largest superpower.  Standing reserves consist of men who have already had military training and can quickly be mobilized into a fighting force.

    I still think the US was a superpower by the late 1800s, but in the early 1800s the US could not defeat the British in the backyard of the US (northern america) even while the Brits were involved in a major European conflict.  Allowing a foreign power across an ocean to burn your capital is not a sign of a superpower.

    The war of 1812 showed the US was not yet able to project power.  The spanish-american war was a preview of the future of the US as a superpower.


  • However the war of 1812 showed that America could hold it’s ground. Britain did not take anything from America other than pride which turned into anger which turned into more pride which became American patriotism and nationalism. Also I think the US wanted Flordia because of manifest destiny. Can you imagine flordia being a Spanish territory nowadays? I can’t. It’s part of mainland USA.

  • '17 '16 '15 Organizer '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    1812 was a bit early for any consideration for US as ‘superpower’ . The industrial revolution was yet to come and we just came out of war like 20 years before…too soon for expansion.

    If it was 1850 perhaps we would have made Canada into more states.

  • '12

    If in 1850 the US had tried 1812….then the British would not have had any other enemy other than the US, unlike having to fight Napoleon AND the US in 1812.  If the Union had problems with the south during the civil war, imagine the south with the Brits as an open ally.  The north would have been make into a few provinces and got their independence in 1867 peacefully, the Canadian way 🙂  In 1814 by the end of the war of 1812 things were not looking good for the US.  Once the brit forces were freed up from Continental Europe they came to the Americas and burned Washington to the ground, New England was thinking/talking about leaving the union and the US was nearly bankrupt.

    Of course things are great between the US and Canada now, Canadians get cheap petrol and firecrackers across the border and Americans get cheap prescription drugs and Cuban cigars in Canada.

    From what I recall about Florida, bandits and restless natives hiding out in a lawless territory of Florida were the main reason for US control.


  • @Imperious:

    If it was 1850 perhaps we would have made Canada into more states.

    Sure… and perhaps Washington would have been burned down… again!


  • Why would we want a territory because it’s filled with bandits and robbers? Okay maybe to stop them from hiding there but the main reason was probably more land. The South would want another slave state. Which brings me to my other point. In 1850 America was a decade away from the bloodiest war in American history. It really doesn’t have anything to do with this but I had a grandfather (a great-great grandfather or something like that) fight in that war. More Americans died in the Civil War than both World Wars COMBINED! If that didn’t weaken America then I don’t know what did or could. It took America a while to recover especially the South.

  • '17 '16 '15 Organizer '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    A war in 1850 would have united both sides to fight this war and General Lee and others would have easily taken out Canada. England would not be able to supply Canada too well compared to America.  I guess it would have to be after the Missouri compromise however. That would have bought the time to finish that war.

    Probably could have taken out Mexico too considering what happened about 2 years before. They were very weak after they lost.

  • '12

    From Wikipedia….

    Seminole Indians based in East Florida began raiding Georgia settlements, and offering havens for runaway slaves. The United States Army led increasingly frequent incursions into Spanish territory, including the 1817–1818 campaign against the Seminole Indians by Andrew Jackson that became known as the First Seminole War. The United States now effectively controlled East Florida. Control was necessary according to Secretary of State John Quincy Adams because Florida had become “a derelict open to the occupancy of every enemy, civilized or savage, of the United States, and serving no other earthly purpose than as a post of annoyance to them.”.[15] Florida had become a burden to Spain, which could not afford to send settlers or garrisons. Madrid therefore decided to cede the territory to the United States through the Adams-Onís Treaty, which took effect in 1821.[16]


  • Still thats an awful lot of rich farmland if you clear it  😉

  • '12

    ‘Clearing’ consisted of draining mosquito and gator invested swamps, not exactly trivial work.  I think the west was an easier bet for agricultural expansion.  Besides, Florida is going to be a sandbar in the Gulf of Mexico in about 100 years.

    General Lee and others would have had a tough time taking out Canada in 1850, it didn’t exist then.  ‘Upper Canada’  would certainly be vulnerable, Ontario was sparsely populated and tough to bring supplies in.  Northern Canada and Quebec would have been easy to supply by the British as compared to an invader deep in the forests and rivers of a foreign land.

    Canada had POW camps in these forests for the Germans in WW II.  They camps were not really well guarded, didn’t need to be.  The Germans were pretty much free to explore 100 of miles of remote forest with the dreaded black fly swarms.  They didn’t try often, those that did quickly tried to get recaptured to escape the black flies.  In fact, the prisoners had access to luxuries that the citizens didn’t get due to rationing…such as cooking oils and shortening.  The prisoners would often break out of camp, visit local families and trade their cooking supplies so the farmers families could bake apple pies for both sides.  The prisoners would later return for their share of the pies.


  • I;m mainly talking about Northern Flordia. Also that two more senators for the slave states in congress.

  • 2007 AAR League

    @221B:

    Under your hypothesis, when was the USA a regional power?  I would guess at the Adams-Onasis treaty of 1819 where Spain gave up claims to Florida and Oregon, simply because the USA wanted these.

    I would say the Monroe Doctrine (1823) marked the declaration of the US as Regional Power and Global Player (Hey Europe this is our backyard, keep out).  The Texas War of Independence (1835-36)\US Annexation (1845) and Mexican American War (1846-48) confirmed the status.

    @221B:

    Would the opening of Japan by the Americans in 1853 as an example of actions by a superpower have counted do you think?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Ships

    There’s no doubt that trade in the Far East was a major driving force propelling US to Superpower status leading to the Spanish-American War, following the Civil War and the rise of the Coal Powered “Iron Clads”, the Navy needed “Coaling” stations for the warships that protected US trade routes.  The Philippines was idealy situated.  Cuba was the pretext for the war, but the Philippines was the prize.


  • I’d consider the US to be more of a regional power/great power than a superpower pre-WWII.

    Yeah, the general definition of superpower is to have the ability to direct force/influence around the world.  The USA could probably do that in the late 19th century.  But I’d also think it requires a desire to be able to do so, and the USA was too isolationist outside its regions of interest (North America, Carribean, Pacific).  Plus, being a superpower implies some sort of dominance globally, and again the USA was too isolationist.  Too many other great powers that wouldn’t back US policy.  That’s all completely different during and after WWII.

    I wouldn’t consider the US to be anywhere near superpower status until its economy passed the British economy (1880’s, I think).  Before then it was too focused internally, and after that is when it really started to build up its navy, which is key to being a superpower (or at least the American method for being one).

    For the War of 1812: the USA lost that war in several ways.  The only reason it didn’t lose anything was Britain was too focused on Napoleon.  It certainly contributed to great power status, though (being able to go toe to toe with the British Empire and come out ok).


  • @Ruanek:

    For the War of 1812: the USA lost that war in several ways.  The only reason it didn’t lose anything was Britain was too focused on Napoleon.  It certainly contributed to great power status, though (being able to go toe to toe with the British Empire and come out ok).

    Personally I see the war of 1812 as a little guy coming up behind a big guy who’s already in a fight and then smashing him over the back with a chair. Had it been politically popular to invade and crush the United States in the early part of 19th century after the Napoleionic wars the British empire would have had no trouble in doing so. During the American revolution it was opposition to the war politically back in England that prevented the British ultimately emerging victorious and leaving the 13 colonies to their own devices because they were seen as kin and not enemies.

  • '12

    As a Canadian, it never felt like we were the big guy the poor little USA was hitting the back of the head with a chair.  Of course as a product of the Canadian education system I feel this way.  It was never emphasised it was a US attack on Britain as Canada didn’t exist for another 55 years.  Yeah, we all knew 1867 was our Day 1 as a country but that was merely a technicality.  Of course in the 70s Canada was a great deal more lefty and somewhat….I wouldn’t say anti-American, but perhaps a bit defensive at perceived slights by the US.  Which was weird for me as I grew up 30 KM from the US and most TV on the rabbit ears was from Buffalo NY.

    Note to USA.  I can remember not too long ago being pissed about a Canadian dollar only being worth 65 cents in the US.  Now its worth 1.05 or so.  You guys are like cousins who have bad spending habits.  I like you guys but you’all need to take note that you are slipping behind the others relatively speaking.  Having them catch up is natural, starting to watch them pull up then ahead shouldn’t be so natural.


  • @MrMalachiCrunch:

    As a Canadian, it never felt like we were the big guy the poor little USA was hitting the back of the head with a chair.  Of course as a product of the Canadian education system I feel this way.  It was never emphasised it was a US attack on Britain as Canada didn’t exist for another 55 years.  Yeah, we all knew 1867 was our Day 1 as a country but that was merely a technicality.  Of course in the 70s Canada was a great deal more lefty and somewhat….I wouldn’t say anti-American, but perhaps a bit defensive at perceived slights by the US.  Which was weird for me as I grew up 30 KM from the US and most TV on the rabbit ears was from Buffalo NY.

    Note to USA.  I can remember not too long ago being pissed about a Canadian dollar only being worth 65 cents in the US.   Now its worth 1.05 or so.  You guys are like cousins who have bad spending habits.  I like you guys but you’all need to take note that you are slipping behind the others relatively speaking.  Having them catch up is natural, starting to watch them pull up then ahead shouldn’t be so natural.

    I was more referring to the British Empire as a whole as its resources were tied up elsewhere in the world. What is facinating about the war of 1812 is how quickly the 13 colonies went from being British themselves in 1776 to more or less siding with Napoleon against the British less than 40 years later. Another interesting thought it that had the French actually won the Napoleonic wars I have little doubt that the fledgling United States would of eventually come under the dominion of the French Empire.

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