Originally posted by dmz
..and I'd like to add that becoming a global superpower was an accident.
Yes, indeed it was a lucky accident, if you are religiously inclined, like me, you could call it fate.
Let's recapitulate a bit: Europeans left Europe and went to the US, at the beginning religiously prosecuted christian sects. Later also people that endured economic hardships that followed promise of european capital that wanted to invest in the new country.
Off course where the capital is going the army to protect it can't be far away. The British and to a much smaller degree French armies followed and secured the new colonies against each other and also against the native population. European education, european people, european armies and european capital were the foundation of the newly created country. The country was a colony under the British queen. France was surely not amused and had to leave northway where they founded another country..
Not long after, there broke a conflict out between Britain and the settlers in america. The settlers refused to pay taxes to Britain, because they were not represented in the british parliament. There was a british law that basically said, "no representation, no tax".
If Britain had decided then to make room for representation of the settlers in british parliament, the independence-war wouldn't have occured. Regardless, Britain send more troops to the colony, in order to force the payment of taxes. It worked, a ship full with american products mainly tea, was meant to be a form of tax-payment, but american settlers disguised as native indians entered the ship at night and threw out all the tea there was into the sea.
Shortly therafter the independence-war broke out and the american settlers would have surely lost it, when there was not a nice country that sympathised with the settlers, called France, that supported the settlers with weapons and ammunition and even led a war against Britain elsewhere to stretch Britain's ressources. Were it not for France, the settlers would have lost.
Ok, the US was founded on the area previously known as british colonies. Not much later the US turned into an empire, as it started to expand its frontier to west while killing indians. Much later it started a war with Mexiko and got from it a few states, like Texas (I'm not sure about that one) and California.
The US-empire stretched then from one sea to the other, and soon also absorbed a few strategic islands...
What motivated all this imperialistic expansion and wars was the religiously motivated theory that the americans were the chosen people and that God wants from the chosen people to establish a New Israel in the new world, and the successful genocide on the indians and every won expansion ensured them that they have God on their side, which again motivated more expansion, etc..
Soon thereafter the american expansion met with the Spanish empire in southamerica, and a conflict broke out that culminated in a USvs.Spain-war, and interestingly enough Britain helped the US defeat Spain, and Spain had to withdraw from southamerica.
From then on Britain protected with its fleet the US from any european intervention be it spanish or french intervention. The Monroe-doctrin, that prohibited any european intervention in the americas and that basically declared that the americas were the playground of the US, was ironically secured military by the british fleet.
While Europe engaged in multiple wars and in colonialism in Africa and Asia and in military conflicts between the different empires, the british, french, spanish, ottomanic empires and also Germany, the US basically had a century of peace secured by the british fleet and with undeveloped americas to play empire.
So much peace and play until a civil-war broke out between north- and south-USA. It was a war mainly because of differences between the sort of economy the US should have. The south was agriculture-oriented, with slaves and big farms, while the north was more industry-oriented. The sort of economy that should be supported also brought out differences in the structure of the states and the organization of power. The industry in the north needed more workers, and there was a potential in the south that had to be freed from slavery to work in the industries of the north.
Again thanks to the british fleet the US had the opportunity to fight the civilwar without any intervention from european mights.
The north won, industrialisation continued, the slaves were freed and had the choice to work in the industry or in farms, but this time get paid for it, to marry when they want, to get its children educated, to move freely in the country, etc...
Meanwhile the european countries were hopelessly active in open and covert conflicts until it culminated in ww1.
From the end of the civil war in the US up to ww1, the US steadily became an economic might, thanks to its agriculture, the vast ressources in the vast and nearly untouched new world, and also its newly intensified industrialisation. It went so far that the european warriors had to burrow lots of money from the neutral US. George Washington's doctrin warned the US to never make any alliances with the europeans and to strictly keep out from their conflicts.
That neutrality and the protection by the british fleet of the Monroe-doctrin, and the ressources of a new discovered country allowed the US to become the financial might that financed all ww1-parties, at least for half the war.
From that point to today's existence of an american empire of global measure is widely known.
If you look carefully at history you will see that it is full of coincidences, accidents, and lucky decisions that led to the US of becoming a global empire.