This war made the US into an imperial power. The backdrop for the Spanish American war had been set long before the accidental explosion of the Maine, in Havana Harbor on February 15 1898. In fact, the United States, a world power with some moral problems regarding imperialism, had been interested in the many things Cuba could offer. However, despite the Cuba’s political instability under Spanish imperialist rule, their numerous sugar and tobacco plantations, and proximity to the United States, the American government could find a good enough reason to enter the country.
However, in 1895, when Jose Martí began his anti-Spanish revolution, the Americans saw their chance to infiltrate Cuba on non-imperialist grounds. And, within a short period of time, American battleships arrived in Cuban waters ready to “liberate” Cuba.
3 years later, when the American battle Ship main accidentally exploded in Havana harbor, the Americans immediately blamed the Spanish, and demanded that they evacuate Cuba. The Spanish, who were already stretched from trying to suppress popular uprising, did not argue the offer. However, President William McKinley and the Americans saw the Spanish weakness as an opportunity to take both Cuba, and Spain’s Pacific possession, the Philippines.
On May 1st of 1898 the US fleet defeated the Spanish at Manila in the Philippines, and gained control of the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico. Cuba, after the Spanish had evacuated, became, technically, an independent republic , but it was essentially a US protectorate. . The Philippines, however, did not get any independence at all, and became a formal colony of the United States. The question of whether the US should or should not make a formal colony of the Philippines prompted Rudyard Kipling's famous poem, "White Man's Burden."
For the Americans, the Spanish American war was, according to Vice President John Hay: “a splendid little war.”