Protection of American Citizens Abroad - Sanctions and military force

When the United States has resorted to measures extending beyond negotiation—such as the rupture of diplomatic relations or use of military force for the protection of citizens—the president and secretary of state have inevitably been involved. In Brazil (1826) and Mexico (1858), for example, American diplomats demanded their passports and prepared to return to Washington when those governments refused to indemnify Americans for the seizure of property and mistreatment. Both governments promptly capitulated by making the required payments.

In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the United States used, or sometimes just displayed, military force when American lives and property were threatened. For example, the secretary of state warned Turkey's minister in Washington in 1895 that the United States had dispatched a warship to stand guard off his nation's coast as long as disorder in that country threatened American lives and property.

Not infrequently the United States has moved beyond showing its flag. In 1927, for example, warring factions in China trapped Americans and British nationals in Nanking. Both Western nations had warships anchored in the Yangtze River, positioned so that they could aid their beleaguered countrymen. The ships laid down protective curtains of shellfire that proved crucial in saving foreign lives. And in 1962, during a congressional debate on the potential use of force in Cuba, Secretary of State Dean Rusk had the State Department compile a list of about 150 instances, dated 1798 to 1945, in which American forces had acted without congressional approval. On most of these occasions, the military had been employed to protect American lives and property abroad.

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