Panama Canal Essay

2253 words - 9 pages

The Panama Canal is a forty eight mile long man-made canal that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean and is considered one of the greatest engineering feats achieved in American history. The acquisition of the Canal Zone in the Panama Isthmus (a narrow stretch of land connecting the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean) is mired in controversy following President Roosevelt's seizure of the isthmus and some poorly constructed political statements. The controversy over whether the United States legally obtained the canal zone stems in part from national security and international trade advantages the U.S. received when the canal became operational; as well as, from the lack of advantages Panama received in the process. I will argue that the construction of the Canal was primarily for the U.S.'s national security as the economic gains of the canal where minimal. In this essay I will explore the political controversy surrounding the acquisition of the Canal, discuss the strategic motivation and benefits of the Canal to the U.S. Navy, and explain the economic gains, which the U.S. made as a result of the completion and control of the Panama Canal.The canal controversy was portrayed and analyzed in the writings of many historians with varying opinions about the legitimacy of the American acquisition of the Canal Zone. Samuel Flagg Bemis called the government's handling of the situation "the one really black mark in Latin American Policy of the United states,' 'a rash and lawless act". Other historians like David McCullough presented the canal as "a Huge American Success" and Paul Ryan wrote that the canal was obtained legally though he does acknowledge it was done in a roundabout fashion. Historian Ian Cameron captured the controversy regarding the Panama Canal with these words [1: Samuel Flagg Bemis, as cited in John Major, Prize possession: The United States and the Panama Canal (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 58][2: David McCullough, as cited in George Moffett, The limits of Victory: The ratification of the Panama canal Treaties (London: Cornell university Press, 1985) 11][3: Paul B. Ryan, The Panama Cana Controversy: U.S. Diplomacy and Defense Interests (California: Hoover institution Press, 1977) Foreword]The people of the United States have every reason to be proud of their role in the building and administrating the canal. They have less cause for pride in the method of its acquisition. For Roosevelt's lack of patience and Bunau-Varilla's lack of scruple left a legacy of ill feeling, bitterness and bloodshed which has lasted for over seventy years and still hangs like a dark cloud over North-South American relations.[4: Ian Cameron, The impossible dream: The building of the Panama Canal (New York: William Morrow & Company Inc., 1972) 114]America's acquisition of the Canal Zone was rift with controversy but its construction and administration of the canal was one of its greatest accomplishments. . The conflicting...

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