CNN host and analyst Chris Cillizza criticized the 1867 purchase of Alaska by the United States in a Friday opinion article detailing the potential problems if the U.S. pursued the purchase of Greenland.
“One of the last times the United States bought land from a foreign country was in 1867, when Seward orchestrated the purchase of Alaska from the Russians for $7.2 million,” Cillizza wrote. “It didn’t work out so well — and has gone down as ‘Seward’s Folly’ in the history books.”
On Friday evening, the language of the article was adjusted to remove the sentence, “It didn’t work out so well.” The new version stated that the purchase of Alaska was “heavily criticized.”
A notation from CNN said, “CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correctly state the history of US land purchases.”
Cillizza outlined several potential problems with the United States’ pursuit of Greenland, including that Greenland is not currently interested in being for sale.
It was not immediately clear what Cillizza meant, however, when he implied that the purchase of Alaska “didn’t work out so well” or that it was “heavily criticized,” other than having the nickname of “Seward’s Folly” for a short period after the purchase.
Alaska, admitted as the 49th state in 1959, encompasses 663,268 square miles of land and accounts for the most northwestern portion of North America. Alaska is uniquely positioned in the Arctic, which is seen as an increasingly strategic region by the Department of Defense as the U.S. shifts its national defense posture toward a great power struggle in the 21st century. Mainland Alaska is also less than 100 miles from mainland Russia, and Alaskan radar detection systems have been put in the spotlight as Russian planes have periodically tested U.S. air defense responses in the region.
Alaskan missile defense systems are also considered a crucial part of protecting the continental United States. And Alaska is uniquely positioned for supporting space surveillance and satellite control networks, tracking thousands of orbital objects on a daily basis.
After the purchase of Alaska in 1867, many were critical of the transaction helmed by Secretary of State William Seward for purchasing what they perceived to be uninhabitable land. However, in 1896 throngs of people swarmed to the American territory during the Klondike Gold Rush. More than 100,000 prospectors found use of the Alaskan land and many “boom towns” full of saloons and businesses began to attract settlers to the area.
Alaska is now known as one of the top states for environmental conservation as well as being an invaluable resource to defense and military aviation training. Alaska is home to thriving urban communities such as Anchorage and Juneau and is known for having the largest oil field in North America. Alaska’s location in the far Northwest reach of the country gives the United States defensive and rescue advantages providing access to refueling tankers and the Greenland ice sheet. The Alaskan National Guard performs hundreds of search and rescue missions each year.
For $7.2 million, it could be difficult to see what Cillizza meant when he said the purchase “didn’t work out that well” or that it’s been “heavily criticized.”