When communication fails: Spanish-American crisis diplomacy 1898

Matthias Maass

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The essay analyzes the relevance of the legal differences between two kinds of truces during the crisis diplomacy conducted between Washington and Madrid just prior to the Spanish-American War in 1898. Although the different legal terms carried important nuances in meaning and with regard to their political implications, they were frequently used improperly. Such a lack of clarity and precision in the communication between the Spanish and U.S.-American sides aggregated and built up into a mutual misperception as to each other's actual (vis-à-vis the diplomatically communicated) objectives with regard to the Cuban insurgency. These legal differences affected U.S.-Spanish crisis diplomacy negatively, even if they by themselves neither caused the breakdown of crisis diplomacy nor the war itself. Rather, miscommunication and misperceptions contributed to the failure of the diplomatic efforts at averting the war; the essay will focus on this particular aspect of Spanish-American crisis diplomacy. Other factors were certainly also responsible for the failure to resolve the conflict between the United States and Spain peacefully - from the Yellow Press and public sentiment, humanitarian concerns and missionary ambitions to economic and businesṡ interests to Jingoism, military-strategic desires and the rising tide of American Imperialism - and these factors are not discounted. However, given the breadth of the subject, the essay will limit itself to one aspect, the struggle over the particular type of truce for Cuba and how this impacted Spanish-American crisis diplomacy.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • History


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