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online DOI: 10.1080/09592290802564379
Diplomacy 1557-301X & Statecraft 0959-2296 and Statecraft, Vol. 19, No. 4, October 2008: pp. 1–29 FDPS
THEODORE ROOSEVELT: IMPERIALIST OR GLOBAL STRATEGIST IN THE NEW EXPANSIONIST AGE?
Serge Ricard Theodore Roosevelt: Imperialist or Global Strategist?
This article argues that as the first modern US president and an innovative shaper of American foreign relations, Theodore Roosevelt launched the rising United States on the world stage as a major actor in power politics, that American diplomacy came of age with him and not with Woodrow Wilson, and that the secular pragmatist who succeeded because he was abreast of the times should not be begrudged the laurels that are so often bestowed on the religious-minded visionary who failed because he was ahead of his time. In American historiography Wilson has often eclipsed—unfairly and erroneously—the geopolitical and diplomatic skills, professionalism and expertise in foreign policy of Roosevelt. Even as ex-president, Roosevelt would be a force to be reckoned with. The use and misuse of a misconstrued legacy that some have tried to confiscate for their own benefit is perhaps best illustrated by presidential candidate John McCain’s reverential claim that he is “a Teddy Roosevelt Republican” rather than a neo-Wilsonian.
US relations with the European Powers during Theodore Roosevelt’s lifetime involved a great many issues in the Americas, Africa, and Asia, and not a few trans-Pacific problems, all of which affected the balance of power in the Old World and influenced transatlantic intercourse as the United States made its presence felt in the world arena. But how to assess Roosevelt’s legacy in 2008? I shall take my cue for this article from John B. Judis’s The Folly of Empire and Tony Smith’s A Pact with the Devil, two devastating indictments of the betrayal of Wilsonianism and of today’s new tragedy of American diplomacy.1 I regard Judis’s brief evaluation of Theodore Roosevelt’s record, along with Stephen Graubard’s in The Presidents,2 as partaking of a long-due celebration, if not rehabilitation, of the first modern US president, a remarkably innovative shaper of American foreign relations who launched the rising United States on the world stage as a major actor in power politics. One historian has argued— erroneously and most unfairly—that “[his] reputation as the first modern American statesman is based . . . on a macho diplomatic style and an almost indecent enthusiasm for US participation in a world organized by
force and power”; that his balance-of-power approach was “archaic;” that his “geostrategic sensibility” was “nonmodern” and belonged to the nineteenth century; that “he was something of an anachronism,” yet recognizes that he contributed to “the emergence of the liberal internationalism that dominated the policymaking of his successors;” and admits grudgingly that “the present generation has been more receptive to Roosevelt’s views.”3 Twenty-five years ago, John Milton Cooper, Jr.’s characterization of TR and Wilson as “Warrior” and “Priest” received well-deserved scholarly praise for its balanced portrayal of the two most outstanding statesmen of the first third of the new century, “the principal architects of modern American politics.” He not incorrectly reversed the standard depiction—“a half-truth”—of Roosevelt as a realist and Wilson as an idealist.4 Although Roosevelt has been given his due more decisively in recent historiography,5 TR was a secular pragmatist, who succeeded because he was abreast of the times, and should not be begrudged the laurels that are so often bestowed on Wilson as religious-minded visionary who failed because he was ahead of his time. American diplomacy came of age with TR, not with Woodrow Wilson, who tried to emulate his predecessor as peacemaker and failed in a large measure. And since American imperialism has become fashionable in the last fifteen years or so, and is once more at issue in political and historiographical debates—with the term “Empire” becoming a somewhat nobler label among analysts and proponents—I would like to give a brief reassessment of the twenty-sixth president’s principles and praxis in international affairs so as to better apprehend the contours of his legacy and the illegitimacy of his would-be inheritors’ credentials. To state that TR was a many-sided politician is a truism. Yet, the conflicting interpretations of his personality and achievements stem from his undeniable complexity and the consequent need to adopt a multi-focus approach. When I first read his writings years ago, I was appalled and fascinated by the forthright affirmation of his imperialist creed, until I realized that it was all a question of focus and emphasis—separating the diplomatic wheat from the expansionist chaff, as it were, to see which side of the balance the overall record tipped. Beyond Manichean postures which called to mind the Archangel Michael rather than the Good Samaritan, beyond his moralistic platitudinising and the continuous hammering of simple truths (which made him the “apostle of the obvious”6 and somewhat disconcerted his Sorbonne audience in 1910), there was a clear vision of the world order and its evolution and a readiness to apply to diplomacy his practical philosophy of “realizable ideals.” Today, when his Big Stick has seemingly become an inspiration for latter-day imperialists, I tend to view him as a master diplomatist, a brilliant geopolitician, and a wise peacemaker. If Sumner Welles was FDR’s “global strategist,”7
or Japanese. His own unabashed self-righteousness was actually a powerful antidote against doubt or remorse. expansion. This is quite in contrast with the one-track-minded US foreign-policy leadership of the past decade. Russians. it did not inhibit compromise. French.”8 For all his histrionics Roosevelt in fact proved to be a shrewd. he was basically a man of action. Alfred Thayer Mahan’s view of the new White House incumbent was singularly at variance with Mark Hanna’s famous “madman” comment: . preparedness. as Judis views his evolution. as I perceive the duality of the twenty-sixth president. and Chinese as he did the English. Many Roosevelt scholars have noted. “particularly in dealing with other strong nations on a plane of equality. This “accidental” president was one of the most cosmopolitan and erudite statesmen of his age. Jekyll of international power politics and the strident Mr. he evinced remarkable consistency and displayed all his life a cogent set of principles from which he never deviated significantly—many-sided but whole.” as Henry Adams quipped. like Cooper. A LEARNED DIPLOMAT? It can be argued that there are at least two Roosevelts. Latin Americans. For Roosevelt did not treat the Filipinos. Hyde of the Euro–American civilizing mission. despite his realistic adaptation to changing world conditions. Nevertheless. Germans. measured diplomatist. as his Autobiography of 1913 makes abundantly clear. the iron hand is better remembered than the velvet glove inasmuch as many of his public pronouncements on foreign policy often lacked the sophistication of his behind-thescenes manoeuvrings. a historian whose scholarly work had equipped him to ponder over the use of power and the rise and fall of civilizations. mostly bold assertions. the expansionist of the 1890s and the sobered post-1898 statesman. both his “adventuristic tendencies” and the restraining effect of the exercise of power. he preached extensively on race. but there was no refinement about his political creed. Penned five months after William McKinley’s death. or. Yet unlike Wilson’s amour-propre and self-righteous vanity. the staid Dr. Yet. He had a clear vision of what he called “the world movement” and displayed unusual intuition in foreseeing a number of upheavals that were eventually witnessed in his lifetime or after his death.Theodore Roosevelt: Imperialist or Global Strategist? 641 TR was his own forty years earlier. and power politics.9 Despite a recent attempt to portray him as a theoretician.10 the apostle of the Strenuous Life was no profound thinker. though he was not “pure act. as it were. His attitude towards Colombia or his response to the Chinese boycott of American goods contrasted with his reaction to the Russo–Japanese War or his handling of the Moroccan Crisis.
Germany and Japan. much as Woodrow Wilson did. a personal philosophy of government that rested on an unshakable belief in the pre-eminence of executive authority. like him. rich in conflicts with Congress. Roosevelt’s lifelong preoccupation with security was remarkably attuned to the concerns of the General Board of the Navy and the General Staff of the Army from the end of the nineteenth century to the Great War regarding Anglo– American relations.”12 Furthermore. He knew more about the people of Europe and Asia than most of his contemporaries. he had early developed. the defence of the Panamanian lifeline. the feeling of security was no more affected than it would be by the killing of the Emperor of Austria. Thomas Hart Benton. of twentieth and twenty-first century ones as well. Roosevelt’s conduct of home and especially foreign policies very simply reflected his lifelong principle that “in a crisis the duty of a leader is to lead and not to take refuge behind the generally timid wisdom of a multitude of councillors. attested to by his “stewardship theory. As evidenced by such works as his biographies of Gouverneur Morris. German designs in the Caribbean. he had in addition an international network of friends and acquaintances in American and foreign diplomatic circles who would serve as invaluable informants and keep him apprised of political conditions and diplomatic moves in both hemispheres. he was ideally equipped to become his country’s chief diplomat.14 Roosevelt’s professionalism and expertise in foreign policy came as no surprise to those who knew him well.” Hence an eventful presidency ensued. Unlike the equally cultivated but bookish Wilson.11 Undeniably. consistently been their own secretaries of state and few have shown that “[their] political sophistication was superior to that of [their] Army and Navy advisers. They could not but instinctively feel that his accidental accession .642 Serge Ricard As regards the nation. He liked to say he belonged to the Jackson-Lincoln school of presidents. indeed.”13 Interestingly. I think there is a general feeling that Roosevelt is even a better man for the immediate future. his cosmopolitanism strikingly distinguished him from the prevailing parochialism of a great many late nineteenth century US politicians—and. Besides. and the protection of the Philippines from Japanese aggression. like his close friend Henry Cabot Lodge or the coterie of expansionists and navalists with whom he met regularly. and the Russo–Japanese War—directly concerned the two powers that he always considered as America’s potential enemies. One cannot fail to notice that the main diplomatic episodes that he personally handled as president—the Venezuelan and Moroccan crises. not to that of Buchanan. or Oliver Cromwell. few chief executives in American history have. when TR entered the White House on 14 September 1901.
”22 Of course. Long the urgent need for a naval build-up: “In my opinion our Pacific fleet should constantly be kept above that of Japan. and our naval strength as a whole superior to that of Germany.” as he preferred to call the “Anglo–Saxons.” or “English-speaking race.”18 Evidence is indeed plentiful to illustrate his keen awareness of geopolitical forces and his ethnocentric conviction that the English-speaking peoples were destined to play a great part.Theodore Roosevelt: Imperialist or Global Strategist? 643 to the presidency would turn out to be “the grasping of chance authority by a man with a daring and a program. The young Roosevelt frequently discussed the future of the world in terms of balance of power and some of his insights in the 1890s were amazingly prophetic. he characteristically lost no time in impressing “respectfully” upon Secretary John D. and getting adequate appropriations. to wit his predictions about the likelihood of a future clash with Germany. The Battle of Santiago would eventually be the Rough Rider’s “crowded hour” and laid the path open for the governorship of New York. yet in his eyes the Anglicization of Australia and Africa mattered more in the long run than England’s hold on India. He busied himself buying ships. and.”21 THE IMPERIALIST Roosevelt’s actions and statements at the turn of the century would earn him first place in the historiography of US imperialism. His vision encompassed the future of the “English race.”15 His schooling in such matters dated back to the 1880s and 1890s. a “danger” to which he was “fully alive. The 1898 Treaty of Paris would be a watershed for all imperialists who . he could not wait for the United States to oust Spain from the Western Hemisphere and was doing his utmost to hasten the declaration of hostilities.”17 or his prescient comment on an eventual “red terror” in Russia “which [would] make the French Revolution pale. particularly after he was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy.20 He shared Mahan’s vision of a great future for the United States as a Pacific power: “Our future history will be more determined by our position on the Pacific facing China than by our position on the Atlantic facing Europe. He would always feel the need for and strive for Anglo–American solidarity and cooperation. Japan too. appointing the right commanders to the right vessels. The future president’s early correspondence. possibly. along with his articles and addresses. He perceived England as an Asiatic power challenged by the Russian advance. the Spanish–American War was then looming. not only abound with expressions of his expansionist creed—expansion as America’s “historic policy”16—but also reveal his interest in geopolitics and his concern for the security of the United States.”19 among whom the Americans were to feature prominently. When appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy in April 1897.
they closely parallel.28 Such views are actually strikingly reminiscent of Theodore Roosevelt’s. let me select. what many historians for years mistakenly identified as imperialism was merely modernism and the tensions between the United States and Latin America simply resulted from a clash of cultures. two representative samples from the literature of the 1980s. the twenty-sixth president’s own self-righteous justifications at the turn of the nineteenth century and rest on the same ethnocentric cultural assumptions.” Oratorical excess in the politician concealed and often eclipsed the diplomatic subtleness of the statesman.26 Another denounces “the legend of imperialism.” admits of nothing but the budding in Roosevelt’s America of a powerful cultural nationalism. leader of the Filipino patriots. “The most ultimately righteous of all wars. Yet such statements as those above have been given respectability by many international relations historians and since the 1980s have fed into a great many interpretations of the US role in the world.”25 Transposed into twenty-first century foreign-policy terms.” as in his letter of acceptance of the Republican vice-presidential nomination. The Philippine–American War received Roosevelt’s unqualified support and he made no bones about suppressing the rebellion. this was the first instance of American overseas “nation-building. Just as context was the catchword of what I would call “counterrevisionism” in the 1980s. Given the vastness of the historiography of American imperialism. Roosevelt always had a way of escaping contradictions by simply ignoring them.24 He could actually in the same breath advocate the uplifting of the “barbarians” and their elimination.27 According to this author’s “objectivist” approach. One historian derides standard treatments of US imperialism—“the worst chapter in almost any book”—and undertakes to refute what he regards as a conventional and distorted vision of American foreign policy at the turn of the century. “is a war with savages.644 Serge Ricard clamoured for the annexation of the Philippine archipelago and subsequently shouldered in all righteousness the burden of pacification. modern nation when the Latin American republics were still paralyzed by their quasi-medieval backwardness. if not espouse. the United States was bound to dominate its southern neighbours because it was a dynamic. In that line of thinking . was “the typical representative of savagery. In other words. arbitrarily.”23 America had found new Indians.” he had written in The Winning of the West. but he disingenuously rejected the charge of “imperialism” and “militarism. He similarly denied the charge of colonialism and despotism: “We are not trying to subjugate a people. and sees US interventionist policies as so many revealing instances of philanthropic action by an overgenerous nation. we are trying to develop them and make them a law-abiding.” and Emilio Aguinaldo. industrious and educated people. civilization and modernity have of late become the new mantra in “post-modern” historiography.
failing a multi-partite consensus. does not make him an antiimperialist. Taft.” THE IMPERIALISM DEBATE The issue of imperialism repetitiously hovers over.30 Roosevelt’s imperialism partook after all (like Wilson’s for that matter) of the nationalist-imperialist ideologies of the times. bringing up now and again the perennial division between realists and idealists and their respective international relations paradigms. sympathetic defences have of late adopted anew the time-honoured benevolent.Theodore Roosevelt: Imperialist or Global Strategist? 645 imperialism was “an element of the geopolitics of modernity.” “mission civilisatrice. endeavoured to preserve it. the fact that Theodore Roosevelt backed away from imperialist heavy-handedness towards China. of course. “missionary” approach. hostile to continued European interference. and Japan in Korea.”29 However. and democracy. duty-bound vanguard agent of civilization.” “Nordic supremacy. of the great powers’ belief in their civilizing duty. where the United States was in a position of strength. a multilateralist of sorts. with the US hegemon portrayed as the unwilling. That is what the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine basically embodied. Roosevelt. and received a boost in the United States from the Wisconsin School revisionists in the 1960s and 1970s. For the twenty-sixth president. implemented on behalf of Europe so as to avoid further European meddling in the Caribbean. France in North Africa. modernity. disinterested.32 By that token Woodrow Wilson was an anti-imperialist. underlies or undermines every analysis of US foreign policy between the early twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. be it termed “White Man’s Burden. great power cooperation in the world civilizing process worked best with a regional division of civilizing duties and police powers within recognized zones of influence: the United States in the Americas. Andrew Bacevich sees “today’s advocates of an open world as Wilson’s heirs.” “a form of internationalism.” anti-imperialism “was a basic feature of America’s experience with imperialism. Britain in Asia and southern Africa.” and “US encounter with the diplomacy of imperialism was the beginning of America’s opposition to power politics. Problems arose when. competing imperialisms clashed in any part of the world.31 The critical views.” or “sacro egoismo. stress American self-interest and immorality. The uninhibited. except in the Western Hemisphere.” civilization was “the central ideological theme behind all of American foreign policy in the 20th century. Russia in the Caucasus and “barbarous” Asia.” . which have not been uncommon among foreign scholars. and could afford to adopt what today would be labelled a “unilateral” approach. an Americanized version of the White Man’s Burden. unlike his successor. Each time the balance of power was thus imperilled. William H.
“without the American presence the region would have been like Africa. and that today “the age of empire lingers in the Mideast.”36 The promotion of “liberal democracy. He continues by bitterly indicting the early twenty-first century “pact with the Devil” and “betrayal of the American promise. if one excludes its perversion today by the Bush administration into militarized democratization and “gunboat democracy. like Wilson.”35 Tony Smith. employs its power to act on behalf of the common good.”33 Judis’s reflection on the imperial “folly” perceptively concludes that the “age of empire” time frame (1870–1914) “misses the essential continuity” such that imperialism in general “formed the subtext of the Cold War” until 1989. or neo-Wilsonians. the most consistent tradition in American foreign policy .” Interestingly. Thus. most probably.” as well as Chechnya. One example of simplistic reasoning is the tendency to blame the US for built-in problems in the region. South Asia. Tibet. Smith admits that “there is scarcely a writer on Wilson’s efforts to promote democracy in Central America and the Caribbean who does not openly mock the effort”.” He goes on to say “it takes a stretch of the imagination to suppose that the Latin American republics would have been free and prosperous without American intervention. . . and the Balkans. .S.34 Of course. from “liberal democratic internationalism” to “liberal democratic imperialism” and ultimately “liberal fundamentalist jihadism. conservative (or shall we say orthodox?) historians will continue to take issue with the critique of imperialism. he points out about World War One that “between 1940 and the early 1950s. Ninkovich finds morality “a poor substitute for complex and often nuanced historical judgments. “categorically reject the notion that others might construe U. uniquely among the great powers of history. began in the Philippines to which Smith devotes a whole chapter in America’s Mission. or the Persian Gulf. Africa. has been the belief that the nation’s security is best protected by the expansion of democracy worldwide.” He agrees with Ernest May that.” and that American policy enjoyed its greatest success in Europe and Japan. considers that “since Wilson’s time. for his part.” meaning the drift by neoconservatives and neo-liberals. the Caribbean. . undeveloped rather than underdeveloped. the most influential thinkers . the Far East.37 In all this the Wilsonian image always fares better than the Rooseveltian. and concludes that the British approach was superior. . aspirations as imperialistic” and who “insist that the United States. but the local context was more favourable. apropos of the Caribbean.646 Serge Ricard who. either by pointing to the absence of a viable alternative to US supervision or by blaming local conditions or mindsets for its failure.” like Ninkovich’s politics of modernity. wherein he offers an interesting comparison of America’s mixed results in civilizing and democratizing the archipelago with the success of British rule in India.
extolled by dinosaurs of the fading realist school. The resolution of the relatively little-researched Venezuelan affair of 1902–1903 was the first application of the Rooseveltian style and method. . His successful dealings with the great European powers and his influence in the international arena may be accounted for by an approach that Richard H. of which Henry Kissinger is one of the few surviving specimens. the global strategist. . in the context of the incipient “globalism” that then characterized international relations in the new expansionist age? First. Many of his pronouncements for public consumption were of the muscular variety and not the subdued. French Foreign Minister Théophile Delcassé. The answer is simple: “Unlike most statesmen.”38 The inference is that realpolitik is passé diplomacy. The Rooseveltian touch and savvy in his oft-personal conduct of foreign policy are best illustrated by the peace-making achievements of his second term.”42 The likelihood of a similar situation in Santo Domingo. Civilization was equated with peace. a textbook study of how foreign policy should not be formulated.41 His views on the question of debt collection and the Monroe Doctrine had been stated clearly long before and put to Germany “as strongly as it [had] ever been put to a foreign power. following the acquisition of the Panama canal zone a year later.40 Likewise. Collin has thus insightfully summed up: Europe felt more comfortable dealing with an American leader who was not only conversant with the style of European diplomacy—Weltpolitik and Realpolitik—but effectively practiced a personal diplomacy many European diplomatic leaders favored. The hitch is what to make of the failures of utopian idealism. including Wilhelm II. the Allies in 1918 would feel most uncomfortable negotiating with the very different approach of Woodrow Wilson. Wilson deserves to be measured not on the basis of achieving the ends of his policy in their time. it should be noted that he by and large lived up to his ideals and that there never was any deviousness or equivocation about his policies. would prompt Roosevelt to enunciate in . then.” and he berates the “unreconstructed advocates of balance of power thinking” who do not demonstrate “how they would have handled European affairs better.Theodore Roosevelt: Imperialist or Global Strategist? 647 in this country on the proper conduct of American foreign policy . King Edward VII. nor reversal as in Wilson’s case. and Tsar Nicholas II.”39 But what of Theodore Roosevelt the realistic geopolitician. took special pains to use Wilson as a negative example. but by the magnitude of his efforts and the influence they continued to have in later years. of which preparedness and the balance of power were the surest guarantors. sophisticated communications of the diplomat. Bülow.
648 Serge Ricard his Annual Message of 6 December 1904. which resulted from Russia’s hegemonic attitude in Manchuria and its hostility towards Japanese influence in that area. Roosevelt’s globalizing of the Monroe Doctrine in the 1930s and 1940s. designed to prevent interference by the European powers. one could go further and regard his mediation of the Russo–Japanese War and Moroccan Crisis as early extensions of the Corollary to the Far East and North Africa. aggression. a “corollary” to Monroe’s dictum. in anticipation of Franklin D. and used it—thereby perverting it—to legitimize intervention. Roosevelt the realist then made the most of a convergence of interests with Berlin to preserve the balance of power .49 A number of factors led ultimately to Roosevelt’s consensual mediation of August 1905. so personal a diplomatic feat that it would win him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906.43 With its imperialist underpinnings this new foreign policy tenet invoked an originally defensive principle. shortly before the Anglo–German blockade of Venezuela. the Joint Board was created with a view to bringing about some cooperation between admirals and generals. which historians. His proclamation. and that the predictable outcome of the confrontation would be the likely substitution of Japanese influence in the region. the Navy Department created a permanent Caribbean squadron for policing the region. In 1904 the Navy devised the “Haiti–Santo Domingo plan” on the assumption that the Reich would be the enemy. never labelled “the Roosevelt Doctrine. In the summer of 1903. when the crisis was over. curiously.’” even though he believed Japan might be able to perform useful civilizing work in China.”48 In his eyes a Japanese victory bode ill for the balance of power in the Far East for Tokyo “might get the ‘big head. and therefore.45 Considering that the twenty-sixth president was among the few Americans who then realized that US security could be threatened by events occurring far from the country’s shores.” actually turned the Caribbean into an American lake.46 PEACEMAKING AND CONFLICT RESOLUTION The best-known and most impressive episode for Roosevelt is undoubtedly his mediation of the Russo–Japanese War of 1904–1905. In the fall of 1902. by the United States.50 Despite his distrust of Germany.44 Under his leadership a number of defence measures were implemented at that time. and therefore “a possible setback for the white race. This was “the exercise of an international police power” by the United States outside the Western Hemisphere. In 1906 the General Board voiced the gravest suspicions about Berlin’s ambitions.47 Roosevelt instantly perceived that the conflict was a severe blow to the Open Door and a serious threat to the integrity of China. The same year the Army and Navy began their first formal efforts to draft joint war plans.
would be short-lived since. and Korea (an outcome which Roosevelt had actually anticipated). a laborious work of compromise. whereas Roosevelt obtained invaluable assistance from Berlin and Paris in pressing the Russians. The preservation of the Rooseveltian balance of power and of the Open Door.Theodore Roosevelt: Imperialist or Global Strategist? 649 in the Far East and safeguard the Open Door. would prove a most useful ally throughout the crisis and the peace-making process. the Treaty of Portsmouth. froze the new power equilibrium that had resulted from the battle of Mukden six months earlier. unbeknown to Congress and the American public: Southern Europe and North Africa. “Bill the Kaiser. the General Board in 1906 began to work on the “Orange Plan. After Portsmouth. in 1907 and 1910. the United States. however. On the whole. The defence of the Philippines then became the uppermost preoccupation.” which was completed in 1911. The Moroccan question was one more instance of the confrontation of European colonialisms at the turn of the nineteenth century. Until the aftermath of the Russo–Japanese War. the change in US attitudes was swift: the Island Empire became Washington’s only potential enemy in Asia. ironically. Paradoxically.52 It took the United States some time to identify a “natural” enemy in the Far East. the former enemies would connive. and Japan might naturally line up against likely troublemakers such as Russia and Germany. she retained a foothold in China and remained an Asiatic power that could still act as a counterpoise to Japanese influence and ambitions. he was disappointed and continuously irritated by London’s reluctance to similarly advise Japan to be reasonable. Mongolia. to exclude other nations from such spheres of influence as North China. and possibly France. its obvious vulnerability as “our Achilles’ heel” came to be recognized as early as 1907 by both the Navy and the President.53 The Portsmouth negotiations were still going on when Roosevelt became secretly involved in another bout of world diplomacy.” as he sometimes called him facetiously. Acting on Roosevelt’s instructions. Russia did not lose as much as expected. William II influenced his cousin Czar Nicholas II decisively. This infuriated the isolationists in Congress when it was disclosed. The security of the archipelago was of course the weakest point in any confrontation with Japan. to say nothing of Congress. Roosevelt acted as his own Secretary of State and did not even inform the State Department or the members of his cabinet. Signed on 5 September 1905. and thereby achieved a surprisingly harmonious relationship with the Emperor at the executive level. In 1904 it . with Great Britain’s approval. Characteristically.51 who shared his preoccupations and whom the conflict made nervous. It was thought that Great Britain. and the ensuing Japanese–American crisis of 1906. Japan was regarded as a friendly power rather than an enemy.
55 But Roosevelt was worried about the Kaiser’s “sudden vagaries. and insistently appealed to him. His aggressive Tangiers speech asserted Germany’s commitment both to the Open Door principle and to Moroccan sovereignty. until it dawned upon them that their Washington ambassador. He was to change his mind in late May/early June 1905. German belligerency made him overcome his qualms. The impact of his interference is hard to gauge.” which added to the ongoing Russo–Japanese conflict might turn into “a world conflagration. owed the preservation of their interests to the American president’s exceptional finesse at negotiating from a distance. the French. Many historians have exaggerated his influence on French Premier Maurice Rouvier’s eventual decision to compromise. by and large. particularly on two crucial occasions when the situation looked inextricable. “as if there might be a war. if not a mediator. since the Anglo–French rapprochement of April 8. In resorting to secrecy and personal diplomacy he was working once more “with the tools at hand”58 and bypassing an isolationist Congress that he refrained from consulting whenever he was not legally constrained to do so.” he then felt. neglecting the impact of the bilateral Franco–German talks. Jean Jules Jusserand. indulging in triangular diplomacy. which opened on January 16. At first. Roosevelt’s intervention in European affairs was dubbed “meddling” by his numerous detractors in the Senate and the press. saw in Theodore Roosevelt a potential ally.” “It really did look. France’s dominant position was unexpectedly challenged by Emperor William II on March 31. 1904 had upset the delicate power game in Europe. Even though the agreement signed on 7 April 1906 was no resounding diplomatic victory.650 Serge Ricard looked as if the Franco–German rivalry in the Sharifian Empire might threaten world peace. The prestige and moral stature conferred upon him as head of the executive—that “bully pulpit” which he enjoyed so thoroughly—helped to protect him from the senators’ wrath and contributed to mollifying his severest critics. during a Mediterranean cruise.”54 Meanwhile the French only belatedly looked across the Atlantic for help. Roosevelt “[did] not care to take sides in the matter” for he felt the US government had “other fish to fry” and “no real interest” in Morocco.57 Roosevelt’s subsequent covert influence was definitely decisive during the Algeciras Conference.”56 Rarely acknowledged by French historiography. suspicious as he was of the Emperor’s “irrational zigzags. . 1905. had a privileged relationship with the president who himself was apparently pro-French and wary of German designs. It so happened that the Kaiser. a diplomatic bombshell that targeted the newly sealed Entente Cordiale. 1906. In the last days of June 1905 (and later during the Algeciras Conference) Roosevelt acted discreetly as intermediary between Paris and Berlin. Roosevelt received these effusive signs of friendship cordially but was not taken in. from the start.
and Serbia.61 The two men were indeed poles apart in their response to the European war. who would have liked so much to re-enter the White House. issued ringing calls for intervention in the world conflict and deplored Wilsonian neutrality and “patient watching. felt deprived by an impostor of the heroic role he knew he would have played so much better. 64 . Two divergent conceptions of neutrality. “A premature and inconclusive peace now would spell ruin for the world” and would surely lead to “Germany’s military ascendancy on a scale never hitherto approached in the civilized world. As new villains the Bolsheviks only stood second to the Germans.”63 To the optimistic and the short-sighted he ominously predicted: perhaps within a dozen years. war aims. scathing. after America’s entry into the war. so was his shadow to hang over the League debates after his death on 6 January 1919.60 The former president.Theodore Roosevelt: Imperialist or Global Strategist? 651 CONCLUSION: ROOSEVELT AND WILSON I would like to end with a summarily comparative evaluation of Roosevelt and Wilson. Theodore Roosevelt waged his last political battle from 1915 till his death. then. Time and again the “Colonel. this country and the other free countries would have to choose between bowing their necks to the German yoke or else going into another war under conditions far more disadvantageous to them.” Procrastination and unpreparedness were his main targets and he relentlessly assaulted the Wilson administration for what he regarded as criminal inefficiency on its part in dealing with Germany during the neutrality period. Belgium. Spurred by his hatred of the usurper Wilson who had stolen the presidency from him in 1912.” as he then preferred to be called. For four years he was to take issue with Wilson’s foreign policy moves and decisions in his strident. France.62 The duty of the United States lay on the side of England. following a battle in which his “alter ego. peace-making.” Henry Cabot Lodge. Surprisingly. certainly within the lifetime of the very men now fighting this war. and often venomous indictments of the President and his administration in the Kansas City Star. and a new world order would enter on a collision course and consistently influence subsequent US foreign policies. played a leading part. The pledge to a “peace of complete victory” satisfied him unreservedly. against Wilson’s projected peace settlement. first on behalf of preparedness and intervention. but Roosevelt was foremost preoccupied with the necessary destruction of German power both in Europe and Asia. This initially lonely crusade culminated posthumously with the US Senate’s rejection of the Versailles Treaty. in a rare display of tactical non-partisanship. and then in conducting the war after April 1917. he praised Woodrow Wilson’s Annual Message of 4 December 1917.59 As ex-president Roosevelt would loom as large on the domestic scene as he had while in the White House.
or ground-breaking.” should continue to govern the Western Hemisphere “between the equator and the southern boundary of the United States. many sympathetic scholars feel the need to qualify their evaluation of even his most praiseworthy moves and to stress his indecision—or slowness in making up his mind—and his uncompromising obstinacy. of course. by and large. “a vital point of American policy. Second.” everything outside those spheres of influence being decided “by some species of court. Roosevelt on the whole was in tune with the Allied leaders. First. which had all the directness. his war diplomacy failed.”68 Beyond the historiographical debate about whether Woodrow Wilson’s foreign policies were idealist. liberal. Certain “spheres of interest” should be reserved for “each nation or groups of nations. England and France. Wilson’s fourteen points.652 Serge Ricard After the armistice Roosevelt naturally stepped up his campaign for a settlement conducive to a righteous peace and a stable world order. with the United States rising to prominence and sharing the civilized nations’ police duties with its natural allies. realist. Roosevelt rejected both isolationism and systematic entanglement in European quarrels.” it would be similar instead to “what Theodore Roosevelt envisioned: like-minded nations working together for peace and liberty. one can make the case that the former president would have been the more effective wartime and post-war diplomat of the two. The former president from the start believed that an Allied victory would help the cause of international .”65 The former president’s vision of the post-war order did not deviate significantly from the one he had repeatedly expounded for months in his editorials. The Rooseveltian and Wilsonian “solutions” rested on totally different philosophies of international relations. Given his past experience of world crises and his lucid perception of the context of the times. as well as all-out involvement in every part of the world. and the unequivocal clearness which the fourteen points strikingly lacked. “Unlike Woodrow Wilson’s doomed plan for the universal-membership League of Nations. making his foreign policy suggestions retrospectively appear as realistic. in the short-term as well as in the long-term. John McCain’s intriguing proposal in 2007 for “a worldwide League of Democracies” destined to act “when the UN fails” is a direct descendent of Roosevelt’s armed league idea and a repudiation of Wilsonianism. both at home and abroad. He was glad that peace had come “not on Mr. and left a legacy of ill-will. in stark contrast to the administration’s fluctuating policies.”66 Such an unavowedly imperialistic division of the world closely resembled. but on General Foch’s twenty-odd points.”67 The outlines of Roosevelt’s proposal continue to resonate. The Monroe doctrine. the straightforwardness. the balance of power he had striven to achieve or preserve as president from 1901 to 1909. a couple of reminders are in order. workable solutions. By contrast.
Unlike Wilson’s. The association of nations he had in mind—briefly outlined in his Nobel Peace Prize speech of 1910—was to be endowed with international police powers.Theodore Roosevelt: Imperialist or Global Strategist? 653 security and justice. A Pact with the Devil: Washington’s Bid for World Supremacy and the Betrayal of the American Promise (New York. . The rightfulness of his approach is nowhere more evident than in his influence on Franklin Roosevelt. Roosevelt’s brand of internationalism did not pretend to exclude imperialism. [FDR] did not subscribe to a Wilsonian model in his foreign policy. .” according to John Milton Cooper. Instead. true to his lifelong nationalism. his wartime diplomacy followed more traditional notions of great-power leadership. a rather perceptive analysis of US foreign policy from the late nineteenth century to the early twenty-first century. Bush Could Learn from Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson (New York. it ought to be organized as an armed league restricted to the main “civilized” nations and prepared to use force if necessary. however. and he regarded what he considered Wilson’s excessive idealism as a pitfall to be avoided. .: At heart.70 The fundamental divergence with Wilsonianism was perhaps that Theodore Roosevelt. Judis’s book.” of righteousness backed by force. during which the United States enjoyed a sustained period of international peace. 2004). as well as a “multilateral” willingness to cooperate with America’s friends and allies. NOTES 1. wanted the world to be effectively made safe for the United States rather than for democracy. with typical immodesty.69 To be efficient at all. his theory of “the just man armed. had been wonderfully illustrated by his seven and a half years’ presidency. Tony Smith. 2007). regrettably contains a number of faulty footnotes and unreferenced quotations. as several scholars have pointed out. “the greatest fulfillment of Theodore Roosevelt’s political legacy. Judis. The Folly of Empire: What George W. Franklin Roosevelt always drew his greatest inspiration in foreign affairs from Theodore Roosevelt.71 Till the end of his life he would remind his critics. John B. Jr. . and that pacifist and neutralist stances encouraged the American people’s isolationist tendencies and incited them to neglect their world duties. that his advocacy of preparedness. No reassessment of American diplomacy can rightfully skip Roosevelt’s contribution— before and after his presidency—to US foreign policy in the twentieth and early twenty-first century: a realistic and truthful appraisal of the forces at work in world politics and of the genuine perils faced by the nation.
2006). Vol. Letters.2 (1986). 22. I. Neu. Roosevelt. 17 June 1905. vol. 1930). vol. 646–47. 1973). Morison and John M. p.. 16. CT. 3–31. eds. 385. 17. Generals. The Warrior and the Priest: Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt (Cambridge. xiv. 7. New York. Mahan to Bouverie F. Letters. The Presidents: The Transformation of the American Presidency from Theodore Roosevelt to George W. I (Cambridge. pp. eds. III. p. 75 9.. 31. 13 August 1897. 8. II. 221. p. Foreword by William R. 124–25. Letters and Papers of Alfred Thayer Mahan.” in H. Keylor (Westport. 11. Admirals. series 2. 3 May 1897. Letters. pp. eds. Letters. 10 (1986). in Elting E. 372. TR to Benjamin Ide Wheeler. 695. p. MA. Sumner Welles: FDR’s Global Strategist (New York. 1985). Artists of Power: Theodore Roosevelt. ed. 12. 15–32. in The Works of Theodore Roosevelt. 1926). 1983). 1997). p. 30 September 1897. p. Frank Ninkovich. 14. Library of Congress. 16 March 1899. 12 April 1901. “Apropos of a Reprint: Theodore Roosevelt’s Autobiography Reconsidered. TR to Thomas St. reel 338. TR to John Davis Long. pp. reel 320. Letters. pp. John M. I. 45. I. 1975). Letters. 1898–1814 (Princeton. February 8. Serge Ricard. Benjamin Welles. p. Stephen R. pp. “Foreign Policy Making in the White House: Rooseveltian-Style Personal Diplomacy. 244. Graubard. Blum. 378–380. 222. 3. as a nation. The Winning of the West (New York. 6. Campaigns and Controversies. As early as 1897 he would declare: “We cannot avoid. 361. 2008). 1404. TR Papers. in R. 10. 1274. 607. “The Policy of Expansion is America’s Historic Policy. Thompson. p. TR gives his view of Aguinaldo and his followers. Jr. CT. Theodore Roosevelt and the Rise of America to World Power (1956. Theodore Roosevelt. and Their Enduring Impact on US foreign Policy. Warrior and Priest. Maguire. 271. 636. 172–180. Cooper. 256. pp. Artists of Power. III (Annapolis. vol. 1052. MA. 23 November 1918. 253. John Gaffney. 18. Baltimore. Richard D. Letters. Donald Richberg. 63. 4. vol. Cooper. Challener. Theodore Roosevelt: Preacher of Righteousness (New Haven. VIII. 39. 11 August 1899. 19. See also Beale. Tents of the Mighty (New York. 13. 3 August 1897. See also Serge Ricard. An Autobiography (1913. . Hawley. 563. Clark. to Bowman Hendry McCalla.654 Serge Ricard 2. pp. p. 1902. Beale. the fact that on the east and west we look across the waters at Europe and Asia. Library of Congress. 16. TR to Spring Rice. 2006). Theodore Roosevelt Papers. p. 20. pp. and American Foreign Policy. D. MD.” Indian Journal of American Studies. p.. p. Theodore Roosevelt.. The Letters of Theodore Roosevelt.” Quoted in Ibid. 1984). Alfred T. 15. TR to Arthur Cecil Spring Rice. to George Von Lengerke Meyer. Woodrow Wilson. Tilchin and Charles E. 231. 1894).. “Theodore Roosevelt: Civilization as Ideology. p. 1951). TR to Alfred Thayer Mahan. Seager and D. MD. NJ. Roosevelt. Bush (London. and their Democratic supporters. William N. 52. Hagedorn. Joshua D. 21.” in Tilchin and Neu.” Diplomatic History. series 2. to Rudyard Kipling. 5. II. Autobiography. XIV (New York. Howard K. p. p. to Robert J.. 10. 23. 30 April 1900.
83 (June 1978). 373n36. 2001). 7–31. Williams and Charles A. Roosevelt. 27.. “National Duties. America’s Mission: The United States and the Worldwide Struggle for Democracy in the Twentieth Century (Princeton. p. in Works. p. p. 109. vol. 40. Iriye. 669–672. See also F. The German archives make it clear that Kaiser William knew the United States to be ready for a naval confrontation but that he was not . vol. MA.Theodore Roosevelt: Imperialist or Global Strategist? 655 24. Folly of Empire. pp. pp. Serge Ricard. ed. Campaigns and Controversies. Beard in his American Empire: The Realities and Consequences of US Diplomacy (Cambridge. 152. May and the Study of Foreign Affair (Chicago. 29. Letters. 368–369. Collin. James A. 202. “American Imperialism: The Worst Chapter in Almost Any Book. 1999). US and Imperialism. 9. Field’s essay is followed by Walter LaFeber’s and Robert L. A Companion to American Foreign Relations (Malden. pp. Culture. 672–678. pp. and the Latin American Context (Baton Rouge. then again in early February during the Washington negotiations. 36. The Wilsonian Century: US Foreign Policy since 1900 (Chicago.. May. 644–83. Richard H. 39. 679–683.” in A. 32. vol. Roosevelt..” 21 October 1899. 2002). vol. “The Roosevelt Corollary. the Monroe Doctrine. p. 25. Frank Ninkovich.” pp. 123. 73. Campaigns and Controversies. which forced the American president to step in decisively. America’s Mission. MA. “The Alliance for Progress in Historical Perspective. The Strenuous Life. pp.” in Robert D. Appendix. vol.” American Historical Review. pp. and Expansion: A New View of American Imperialism (Baton Rouge. Cf. Ninkovich. Tony Smith. Collin. 31. Triggered by the Anglo–German expedition on behalf of exasperated European creditors. 33. Theodore Roosevelt's Caribbean: The Panama Canal. 35. The author has the last word. pp. pp. 209.. Theodore Roosevelt. 479. Ibid. 1985). 30. 1990). 5. Wolcott. ed. 1998). Judis. MA. 212 (emphasis added). 91 201. in Works. passim. Cf. 79–102. XIII. 36(1) (March 2006). in Works. 15 September 1900. TR to the Honorable Edward O. XIV. 17–26. pp. 163–235. 478. Smith. Field. 2007). Theodore Roosevelt. America’s Mission. Andrew Bacevich re-examines unsparingly “the myth of the reluctant superpower” and partially rehabilitates William A. 116. Ninkovich. the crisis reached a climax in late January 1903. pp. II.” 2 September 1901. Ernest R. 334–341. 23. 41. vol. chairman of the Committee to Notify the Candidate for Vice-President. 103. LA. 151. 38. Frank Ninkovich. in “The Copperheads of 1900. 37. 26. 106. 3. Jr. p. pp. Collin. pp. pp. Ibid. A Pact with the Devil: Washington’s Bid for World Supremacy and the Betrayal of the American Promise (New York. 1403–1404. Beisner’s disapproving comments. p. Diplomacy. The United States and Imperialism (Malden. 28.” Presidential Studies Quarterly. 37. Rethinking International Relations: Ernest R. Cf. 34. LA. NJ. 1994). 1–23. Smith. Richard H.. Schulzinger. “The United States and Imperialism. 2006). “Notes on the Study of the International Origins of Democracy. p. Smith. 358–359. XIV.
A Diplomatic History of the American People. 49. Roosevelt. V. 60. p. 65–77. 19 January 1903. see Pierre Milza. Letters of TR.656 Serge Ricard really prepared to challenge Washington in the Caribbean in defiance of the sacrosanct Monroe Doctrine. 14–17. Letters. 25–44. 42. TR to Elihu Root. TR to Spring Rice. pp. Thomas A. 1980). Woodrow Wilson and a Revolutionary World. 43. 13 June 1904. “Woodrow Wilson and World War I. III. “The AngloGerman Intervention in Venezuela and Theodore Roosevelt’s Ultimatum to the Kaiser: Taking a Fresh Look at an Old Enigma. Bailey. 21 August 1907. V. see S. Letters. Ambrosius. Ricard. 56. 53. pp. 1975). 29–31. Generals. Letters. vol. p. Les relations internationales de 1871 à 1914. IV.” pp. . IV. 32. Smith. pp. 57. 1087–1088. IV. Letters. (1990. “I do admire him. “very much as I do a grizzly bear. 22. 29 December 1902. See for example Ricard. TR to Spring Rice. E. 2–3. Ambrosius. Englewood Cliffs. S.” in Serge Ricard and Hélène Christol. p. vol. Autobiography. pp.” he once remarked. 731. Speck von Sternburg to Auswärtiges Amt. For a résumé of the secret exchanges that led to the acceptance by both parties of the Portsmouth peace conference. III (New York. 27 December 1904. 291–92. Ricard. 1910). NJ. 44. vol. 59. ed. Challener. For a notable exception. Auswärtiges Amt [Johannes Lepsius. 28–29. TR to George W.” p. Letters. Paris. New York. p. ed. 16 June 1905. 1899–1919 (Aix-en-Provence. 1927). vol. XVII (Berlin. 13 May 1905. 48. Letters. 19 March 1904. Die Grosse Politik der Europäischenkabinette. ed. 1982).” in Schulzinger. “Foreign Policy Making. See also Serge Ricard. Henry Cabot Lodge and the Search for an American Foreign Policy (Berkeley. Woodrow Wilson and the American Diplomatic Tradition: The Treaty Fight in Perspective (New York. Widenor. 52. TR to Spring Rice. America’s Mission. pp. 46. Link.” In Wayne Andrews. Generals. Arthur S. vol. From Theodore Roosevelt to FDR: Internationalism and Isolationism in American Foreign Policy (Keele. vol. Presidential Addresses and State Papers. see Roosevelt’s confidential letter to Henry Cabot Lodge. Hinman. 1995). Admirals. vol. pp. NC. Letters of TR. 761–762. 43. Lloyd E.. 34–35. 2nd rev. 1178. The Autobiography of Theodore Roosevelt (1913. 1987). 45. and Friedrich Thimme]. Admirals. Albrecht Mendelsohn Bartholdy. IV. See also L. pp. 19. 1991). 297.” in Daniela Rossini. p. “Anti-Wilsonian Internationalism: Theodore Roosevelt in the Kansas City Star. p. pp. Ricard. TR to Spring Rice. England. 1913–1921 (Chapel Hill. A Companion. vol. p. “Foreign Policy Making in the White House.. 107. 1995). 47. 51. 55. 760. eds. (1940. 292 nn. “The Roosevelt Corollary. 310. 17–22.. 176–77. Roosevelt to William Howard Taft. 399–400. pp. William C. 1871–1914: Sammlung der Diplomatischen Akten des Aüswärtigen Amtes.. IV. 113–45. 50. 235. 54. ed. Theodore Roosevelt. IV. Roosevelt. 1221–233. Challener. On this episode. pp. 1974). 505. pp. vol. CA. pp. Anglo-Saxonism in US Foreign Policy: The Diplomacy of Imperialism. 829–31.” pp. 47–48. 16 February 1904. vol. 58. 9th ed. pp. Vol. Letters.
62. Warrior and Priest. Sellen.foreignaffairs. 9 (1968). Delivered at Christiana. 264. For a summary of Foch’s proposed military conditions for an armistice. p. “Opposition Leaders in Wartime: The Case of Theodore Roosevelt and World War I. pp. 68. p. 225–242. Stout. 75. 197. pp. Ibid. Ibid. 66. pp. 71. Ibid.” Midwest Quarterly. Roosevelt. May 5. 463. John McCain. 151.. http://www. “Address before the Nobel Prize Committee. Volume VIII. 63. vol. Cooper. see Wilson Papers. 1921). pp. 151–152. 64.. Roosevelt. 116. 164. Roosevelt in The Kansas City Star: War-Time Editorials. Roosevelt. pp. Stout. pp. See also Robert W.” Roosevelt. 1910.org/ 69. 118–119.” Foreign Affairs (November/December 2007). 67. Presidential Addresses and State Papers. 278. Wilson Papers. 65. 359–60. 65. Theodore Roosevelt. Introd. 261. 155. “An Enduring Peace Built on Freedom: Securing America’s Future. Ibid.Theodore Roosevelt: Imperialist or Global Strategist? 657 61. . 463–464.. Norway. 2222–223. pp. p. Ralph Stout (Boston. pp. 45. 70. Volume 51.
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