Diplomacy & Statecraft, 19: 639–657, 2008 Copyright © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC ISSN 0959-2296 print/1557-301X

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?

Serge Ricard

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

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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

Penned five months after William McKinley’s death.Theodore Roosevelt: Imperialist or Global Strategist? 641 TR was his own forty years earlier. the staid Dr. as I perceive the duality of the twenty-sixth president. Nevertheless. mostly bold assertions. expansion. as Judis views his evolution.” as Henry Adams quipped. both his “adventuristic tendencies” and the restraining effect of the exercise of power. preparedness. measured diplomatist. despite his realistic adaptation to changing world conditions. Hyde of the Euro–American civilizing mission. or Japanese. A LEARNED DIPLOMAT? It can be argued that there are at least two Roosevelts. Alfred Thayer Mahan’s view of the new White House incumbent was singularly at variance with Mark Hanna’s famous “madman” comment: . His own unabashed self-righteousness was actually a powerful antidote against doubt or remorse. it did not inhibit compromise. he preached extensively on race. 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. as his Autobiography of 1913 makes abundantly clear. though he was not “pure act. Latin Americans.10 the apostle of the Strenuous Life was no profound thinker. This is quite in contrast with the one-track-minded US foreign-policy leadership of the past decade.9 Despite a recent attempt to portray him as a theoretician. Yet. or.”8 For all his histrionics Roosevelt in fact proved to be a shrewd. Yet unlike Wilson’s amour-propre and self-righteous vanity. a historian whose scholarly work had equipped him to ponder over the use of power and the rise and fall of civilizations. like Cooper. “particularly in dealing with other strong nations on a plane of equality. Russians. and power politics. Germans. This “accidental” president was one of the most cosmopolitan and erudite statesmen of his age. 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. he was basically a man of action. and Chinese as he did the English. Many Roosevelt scholars have noted. 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. the expansionist of the 1890s and the sobered post-1898 statesman. For Roosevelt did not treat the Filipinos. Jekyll of international power politics and the strident Mr. French. but there was no refinement about his political creed. he evinced remarkable consistency and displayed all his life a cogent set of principles from which he never deviated significantly—many-sided but whole.

indeed. They could not but instinctively feel that his accidental accession . He knew more about the people of Europe and Asia than most of his contemporaries. 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.642 Serge Ricard As regards the nation. or Oliver Cromwell. when TR entered the White House on 14 September 1901. and the Russo–Japanese War—directly concerned the two powers that he always considered as America’s potential enemies. Germany and Japan.14 Roosevelt’s professionalism and expertise in foreign policy came as no surprise to those who knew him well.”13 Interestingly. Besides.11 Undeniably. a personal philosophy of government that rested on an unshakable belief in the pre-eminence of executive authority. One cannot fail to notice that the main diplomatic episodes that he personally handled as president—the Venezuelan and Moroccan crises. As evidenced by such works as his biographies of Gouverneur Morris.”12 Furthermore. I think there is a general feeling that Roosevelt is even a better man for the immediate future. like his close friend Henry Cabot Lodge or the coterie of expansionists and navalists with whom he met regularly. attested to by his “stewardship theory. the feeling of security was no more affected than it would be by the killing of the Emperor of Austria. he had early developed. of twentieth and twenty-first century ones as well. his cosmopolitanism strikingly distinguished him from the prevailing parochialism of a great many late nineteenth century US politicians—and. 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. Unlike the equally cultivated but bookish Wilson. the defence of the Panamanian lifeline. 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. not to that of Buchanan. much as Woodrow Wilson did. He liked to say he belonged to the Jackson-Lincoln school of presidents. few chief executives in American history have.” Hence an eventful presidency ensued. 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. German designs in the Caribbean. Thomas Hart Benton. and the protection of the Philippines from Japanese aggression. like him. rich in conflicts with Congress. he was ideally equipped to become his country’s chief diplomat.

appointing the right commanders to the right vessels.”19 among whom the Americans were to feature prominently. 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. possibly.” or “English-speaking race. 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.”15 His schooling in such matters dated back to the 1880s and 1890s. and. Japan too. His vision encompassed the future of the “English 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. When appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy in April 1897.20 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. The 1898 Treaty of Paris would be a watershed for all imperialists who . and our naval strength as a whole superior to that of Germany. the Spanish–American War was then looming. He perceived England as an Asiatic power challenged by the Russian advance. Long the urgent need for a naval build-up: “In my opinion our Pacific fleet should constantly be kept above that of Japan. yet in his eyes the Anglicization of Australia and Africa mattered more in the long run than England’s hold on India.” as he preferred to call the “Anglo–Saxons.”22 Of course. The Battle of Santiago would eventually be the Rough Rider’s “crowded hour” and laid the path open for the governorship of New York.”17 or his prescient comment on an eventual “red terror” in Russia “which [would] make the French Revolution pale. along with his articles and addresses. The future president’s early correspondence. to wit his predictions about the likelihood of a future clash with Germany. and getting adequate appropriations. He busied himself buying ships.”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. a “danger” to which he was “fully alive. he characteristically lost no time in impressing “respectfully” upon Secretary John D. particularly after he was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy. 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.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. He would always feel the need for and strive for Anglo–American solidarity and cooperation.

He similarly denied the charge of colonialism and despotism: “We are not trying to subjugate a people.27 According to this author’s “objectivist” approach.”23 America had found new Indians. In other words. 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. industrious and educated people.” he had written in The Winning of the West. arbitrarily. civilization and modernity have of late become the new mantra in “post-modern” historiography. Given the vastness of the historiography of American imperialism. The Philippine–American War received Roosevelt’s unqualified support and he made no bones about suppressing the rebellion.” and Emilio Aguinaldo.” Oratorical excess in the politician concealed and often eclipsed the diplomatic subtleness of the statesman.” as in his letter of acceptance of the Republican vice-presidential nomination. Roosevelt always had a way of escaping contradictions by simply ignoring them.26 Another denounces “the legend of imperialism. two representative samples from the literature of the 1980s. we are trying to develop them and make them a law-abiding. “is a war with savages. if not espouse. Just as context was the catchword of what I would call “counterrevisionism” in the 1980s. the United States was bound to dominate its southern neighbours because it was a dynamic. they closely parallel. this was the first instance of American overseas “nation-building. let me select.”25 Transposed into twenty-first century foreign-policy terms.644 Serge Ricard clamoured for the annexation of the Philippine archipelago and subsequently shouldered in all righteousness the burden of pacification. the twenty-sixth president’s own self-righteous justifications at the turn of the nineteenth century and rest on the same ethnocentric cultural assumptions. 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. 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. and sees US interventionist policies as so many revealing instances of philanthropic action by an overgenerous nation.24 He could actually in the same breath advocate the uplifting of the “barbarians” and their elimination. modern nation when the Latin American republics were still paralyzed by their quasi-medieval backwardness. “The most ultimately righteous of all wars. In that line of thinking .28 Such views are actually strikingly reminiscent of Theodore Roosevelt’s. leader of the Filipino patriots. was “the typical representative of savagery.” admits of nothing but the budding in Roosevelt’s America of a powerful cultural nationalism. but he disingenuously rejected the charge of “imperialism” and “militarism.

and Japan in Korea. The uninhibited. which have not been uncommon among foreign scholars. France in North Africa.” . 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. Each time the balance of power was thus imperilled. with the US hegemon portrayed as the unwilling. and received a boost in the United States from the Wisconsin School revisionists in the 1960s and 1970s. of course.” civilization was “the central ideological theme behind all of American foreign policy in the 20th century. sympathetic defences have of late adopted anew the time-honoured benevolent.” “Nordic supremacy.” “mission civilisatrice. William H. be it termed “White Man’s Burden. “missionary” approach. and democracy.32 By that token Woodrow Wilson was an anti-imperialist. implemented on behalf of Europe so as to avoid further European meddling in the Caribbean. does not make him an antiimperialist. and could afford to adopt what today would be labelled a “unilateral” approach. an Americanized version of the White Man’s Burden. Problems arose when.”29 However. the fact that Theodore Roosevelt backed away from imperialist heavy-handedness towards China. bringing up now and again the perennial division between realists and idealists and their respective international relations paradigms. underlies or undermines every analysis of US foreign policy between the early twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. disinterested. competing imperialisms clashed in any part of the world. stress American self-interest and immorality. duty-bound vanguard agent of civilization.30 Roosevelt’s imperialism partook after all (like Wilson’s for that matter) of the nationalist-imperialist ideologies of the times. Andrew Bacevich sees “today’s advocates of an open world as Wilson’s heirs.” anti-imperialism “was a basic feature of America’s experience with imperialism.31 The critical views.” “a form of internationalism. That is what the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine basically embodied. Britain in Asia and southern Africa. modernity. except in the Western Hemisphere. Russia in the Caucasus and “barbarous” Asia.” THE IMPERIALISM DEBATE The issue of imperialism repetitiously hovers over. Taft. where the United States was in a position of strength. failing a multi-partite consensus.” or “sacro egoismo. For the twenty-sixth president.” and “US encounter with the diplomacy of imperialism was the beginning of America’s opposition to power politics. of the great powers’ belief in their civilizing duty. unlike his successor. endeavoured to preserve it. Roosevelt. a multilateralist of sorts.Theodore Roosevelt: Imperialist or Global Strategist? 645 imperialism was “an element of the geopolitics of modernity. hostile to continued European interference.

. uniquely among the great powers of history.” meaning the drift by neoconservatives and neo-liberals. and the Balkans. either by pointing to the absence of a viable alternative to US supervision or by blaming local conditions or mindsets for its failure. One example of simplistic reasoning is the tendency to blame the US for built-in problems in the region. .”35 Tony Smith. the Caribbean. Thus. .” 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. considers that “since Wilson’s time. . 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”. aspirations as imperialistic” and who “insist that the United States. has been the belief that the nation’s security is best protected by the expansion of democracy worldwide. for his part.37 In all this the Wilsonian image always fares better than the Rooseveltian. . undeveloped rather than underdeveloped. from “liberal democratic internationalism” to “liberal democratic imperialism” and ultimately “liberal fundamentalist jihadism.646 Serge Ricard who. employs its power to act on behalf of the common good. most probably. or neo-Wilsonians. like Wilson. “without the American presence the region would have been like Africa. the Far East.” He agrees with Ernest May that. but the local context was more favourable.” Interestingly.” like Ninkovich’s politics of modernity.34 Of course. began in the Philippines to which Smith devotes a whole chapter in America’s Mission.S. and that today “the age of empire lingers in the Mideast. the most consistent tradition in American foreign policy . Tibet. if one excludes its perversion today by the Bush administration into militarized democratization and “gunboat democracy. apropos of the Caribbean. He continues by bitterly indicting the early twenty-first century “pact with the Devil” and “betrayal of the American promise.” and that American policy enjoyed its greatest success in Europe and Japan. South Asia.”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.”36 The promotion of “liberal democracy. conservative (or shall we say orthodox?) historians will continue to take issue with the critique of imperialism. or the Persian Gulf. “categorically reject the notion that others might construe U. Africa. the most influential thinkers . 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. Ninkovich finds morality “a poor substitute for complex and often nuanced historical judgments. and concludes that the British approach was superior.” as well as Chechnya. he points out about World War One that “between 1940 and the early 1950s.

Many of his pronouncements for public consumption were of the muscular variety and not the subdued.”42 The likelihood of a similar situation in Santo Domingo. a textbook study of how foreign policy should not be formulated. 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. but by the magnitude of his efforts and the influence they continued to have in later years. then.”39 But what of Theodore Roosevelt the realistic geopolitician. in the context of the incipient “globalism” that then characterized international relations in the new expansionist age? First. of which preparedness and the balance of power were the surest guarantors. the Allies in 1918 would feel most uncomfortable negotiating with the very different approach of Woodrow Wilson.” and he berates the “unreconstructed advocates of balance of power thinking” who do not demonstrate “how they would have handled European affairs better. 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. The answer is simple: “Unlike most statesmen. Bülow. and Tsar Nicholas II. 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. French Foreign Minister Théophile Delcassé. Civilization was equated with peace.Theodore Roosevelt: Imperialist or Global Strategist? 647 in this country on the proper conduct of American foreign policy .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.”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. sophisticated communications of the diplomat.40 Likewise. including Wilhelm II. would prompt Roosevelt to enunciate in . nor reversal as in Wilson’s case. Wilson deserves to be measured not on the basis of achieving the ends of his policy in their time. of which Henry Kissinger is one of the few surviving specimens. . The hitch is what to make of the failures of utopian idealism. King Edward VII. the global strategist. 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. . took special pains to use Wilson as a negative example. following the acquisition of the Panama canal zone a year later.

43 With its imperialist underpinnings this new foreign policy tenet invoked an originally defensive principle. and that the predictable outcome of the confrontation would be the likely substitution of Japanese influence in the region.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. designed to prevent interference by the European powers. the Navy Department created a permanent Caribbean squadron for policing the region.’” even though he believed Japan might be able to perform useful civilizing work in China. never labelled “the Roosevelt Doctrine. Roosevelt’s globalizing of the Monroe Doctrine in the 1930s and 1940s. In 1906 the General Board voiced the gravest suspicions about Berlin’s ambitions. curiously. by the United States. shortly before the Anglo–German blockade of Venezuela. Roosevelt the realist then made the most of a convergence of interests with Berlin to preserve the balance of power . which historians. 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. The same year the Army and Navy began their first formal efforts to draft joint war plans. and used it—thereby perverting it—to legitimize intervention. His proclamation.49 A number of factors led ultimately to Roosevelt’s consensual mediation of August 1905.44 Under his leadership a number of defence measures were implemented at that time. and therefore. the Joint Board was created with a view to bringing about some cooperation between admirals and generals.47 Roosevelt instantly perceived that the conflict was a severe blow to the Open Door and a serious threat to the integrity of China.50 Despite his distrust of Germany. In the fall of 1902. In 1904 the Navy devised the “Haiti–Santo Domingo plan” on the assumption that the Reich would be the enemy. This was “the exercise of an international police power” by the United States outside the Western Hemisphere. in anticipation of Franklin D.”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.” actually turned the Caribbean into an American lake. so personal a diplomatic feat that it would win him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906. and therefore “a possible setback for the white race.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. which resulted from Russia’s hegemonic attitude in Manchuria and its hostility towards Japanese influence in that area. a “corollary” to Monroe’s dictum. In the summer of 1903. when the crisis was over.648 Serge Ricard his Annual Message of 6 December 1904. aggression.

would prove a most useful ally throughout the crisis and the peace-making process. The defence of the Philippines then became the uppermost preoccupation. in 1907 and 1910.” which was completed in 1911. the Treaty of Portsmouth. to exclude other nations from such spheres of influence as North China. would be short-lived since. William II influenced his cousin Czar Nicholas II decisively. It was thought that Great Britain. Japan was regarded as a friendly power rather than an enemy. however. After Portsmouth. Paradoxically. ironically. and possibly France.Theodore Roosevelt: Imperialist or Global Strategist? 649 in the Far East and safeguard the Open Door.” as he sometimes called him facetiously. to say nothing of Congress. Characteristically. the United States. unbeknown to Congress and the American public: Southern Europe and North Africa. Signed on 5 September 1905. and thereby achieved a surprisingly harmonious relationship with the Emperor at the executive level. froze the new power equilibrium that had resulted from the battle of Mukden six months earlier. a laborious work of compromise. The security of the archipelago was of course the weakest point in any confrontation with Japan. he was disappointed and continuously irritated by London’s reluctance to similarly advise Japan to be reasonable. the change in US attitudes was swift: the Island Empire became Washington’s only potential enemy in Asia.53 The Portsmouth negotiations were still going on when Roosevelt became secretly involved in another bout of world diplomacy. Mongolia. This infuriated the isolationists in Congress when it was disclosed. its obvious vulnerability as “our Achilles’ heel” came to be recognized as early as 1907 by both the Navy and the President. the former enemies would connive. Until the aftermath of the Russo–Japanese War. The Moroccan question was one more instance of the confrontation of European colonialisms at the turn of the nineteenth century. the General Board in 1906 began to work on the “Orange Plan.51 who shared his preoccupations and whom the conflict made nervous. she retained a foothold in China and remained an Asiatic power that could still act as a counterpoise to Japanese influence and ambitions. Russia did not lose as much as expected. and Japan might naturally line up against likely troublemakers such as Russia and Germany. and the ensuing Japanese–American crisis of 1906. Acting on Roosevelt’s instructions. Roosevelt acted as his own Secretary of State and did not even inform the State Department or the members of his cabinet. The preservation of the Rooseveltian balance of power and of the Open Door. and Korea (an outcome which Roosevelt had actually anticipated). with Great Britain’s approval. In 1904 it . “Bill the Kaiser. On the whole. whereas Roosevelt obtained invaluable assistance from Berlin and Paris in pressing the Russians.52 It took the United States some time to identify a “natural” enemy in the Far East.

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. neglecting the impact of the bilateral Franco–German talks. He was to change his mind in late May/early June 1905. France’s dominant position was unexpectedly challenged by Emperor William II on March 31. At first.57 Roosevelt’s subsequent covert influence was definitely decisive during the Algeciras Conference. Roosevelt’s intervention in European affairs was dubbed “meddling” by his numerous detractors in the Senate and the press. 1905. owed the preservation of their interests to the American president’s exceptional finesse at negotiating from a distance. 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. had a privileged relationship with the president who himself was apparently pro-French and wary of German designs.” which added to the ongoing Russo–Japanese conflict might turn into “a world conflagration. Roosevelt received these effusive signs of friendship cordially but was not taken in. 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. 1906. .” “It really did look. “as if there might be a war. Many historians have exaggerated his influence on French Premier Maurice Rouvier’s eventual decision to compromise.650 Serge Ricard looked as if the Franco–German rivalry in the Sharifian Empire might threaten world peace. during a Mediterranean cruise. particularly on two crucial occasions when the situation looked inextricable.”56 Rarely acknowledged by French historiography. 1904 had upset the delicate power game in Europe. Jean Jules Jusserand. the French. since the Anglo–French rapprochement of April 8. from the start. German belligerency made him overcome his qualms. In the last days of June 1905 (and later during the Algeciras Conference) Roosevelt acted discreetly as intermediary between Paris and Berlin. His aggressive Tangiers speech asserted Germany’s commitment both to the Open Door principle and to Moroccan sovereignty. a diplomatic bombshell that targeted the newly sealed Entente Cordiale. The impact of his interference is hard to gauge.55 But Roosevelt was worried about the Kaiser’s “sudden vagaries. until it dawned upon them that their Washington ambassador. if not a mediator.”54 Meanwhile the French only belatedly looked across the Atlantic for help.” he then felt. Even though the agreement signed on 7 April 1906 was no resounding diplomatic victory. indulging in triangular diplomacy. by and large. It so happened that the Kaiser. suspicious as he was of the Emperor’s “irrational zigzags. which opened on January 16. and insistently appealed to him. saw in Theodore Roosevelt a potential ally.

This initially lonely crusade culminated posthumously with the US Senate’s rejection of the Versailles Treaty. felt deprived by an impostor of the heroic role he knew he would have played so much better.59 As ex-president Roosevelt would loom as large on the domestic scene as he had while in the White House.” 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. The pledge to a “peace of complete victory” satisfied him unreservedly. first on behalf of preparedness and intervention. Two divergent conceptions of neutrality. played a leading part. who would have liked so much to re-enter the White House.” as he then preferred to be called. so was his shadow to hang over the League debates after his death on 6 January 1919. Spurred by his hatred of the usurper Wilson who had stolen the presidency from him in 1912.60 The former president. and often venomous indictments of the President and his administration in the Kansas City Star. and Serbia. he praised Woodrow Wilson’s Annual Message of 4 December 1917.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. certainly within the lifetime of the very men now fighting this war. following a battle in which his “alter ego. For four years he was to take issue with Wilson’s foreign policy moves and decisions in his strident. but Roosevelt was foremost preoccupied with the necessary destruction of German power both in Europe and Asia. scathing.62 The duty of the United States lay on the side of England. France. 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. in a rare display of tactical non-partisanship. after America’s entry into the war. against Wilson’s projected peace settlement. then. and a new world order would enter on a collision course and consistently influence subsequent US foreign policies. issued ringing calls for intervention in the world conflict and deplored Wilsonian neutrality and “patient watching. 64 . “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. Belgium. war aims. peace-making. and then in conducting the war after April 1917. Time and again the “Colonel. Theodore Roosevelt waged his last political battle from 1915 till his death.” Henry Cabot Lodge. As new villains the Bolsheviks only stood second to the Germans.61 The two men were indeed poles apart in their response to the European war.”63 To the optimistic and the short-sighted he ominously predicted: perhaps within a dozen years. Surprisingly.

Roosevelt rejected both isolationism and systematic entanglement in European quarrels. The Monroe doctrine. one can make the case that the former president would have been the more effective wartime and post-war diplomat of the two. Second. Roosevelt on the whole was in tune with the Allied leaders. a couple of reminders are in order. Certain “spheres of interest” should be reserved for “each nation or groups of nations. England and France. He was glad that peace had come “not on Mr.”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.” should continue to govern the Western Hemisphere “between the equator and the southern boundary of the United States. workable solutions. by and large. First. Given his past experience of world crises and his lucid perception of the context of the times.”67 The outlines of Roosevelt’s proposal continue to resonate. which had all the directness.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. in the short-term as well as in the long-term. in stark contrast to the administration’s fluctuating policies. and the unequivocal clearness which the fourteen points strikingly lacked. “a vital point of American policy. both at home and abroad. “Unlike Woodrow Wilson’s doomed plan for the universal-membership League of Nations. By contrast. Wilson’s fourteen points. realist. liberal.”66 Such an unavowedly imperialistic division of the world closely resembled. as well as all-out involvement in every part of the world. the balance of power he had striven to achieve or preserve as president from 1901 to 1909. of course.”68 Beyond the historiographical debate about whether Woodrow Wilson’s foreign policies were idealist. 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. making his foreign policy suggestions retrospectively appear as realistic. and left a legacy of ill-will. but on General Foch’s twenty-odd points. the straightforwardness. with the United States rising to prominence and sharing the civilized nations’ police duties with its natural allies.” it would be similar instead to “what Theodore Roosevelt envisioned: like-minded nations working together for peace and liberty.” everything outside those spheres of influence being decided “by some species of court. 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. The Rooseveltian and Wilsonian “solutions” rested on totally different philosophies of international relations. his war diplomacy failed. The former president from the start believed that an Allied victory would help the cause of international . or ground-breaking.

70 The fundamental divergence with Wilsonianism was perhaps that Theodore Roosevelt. “the greatest fulfillment of Theodore Roosevelt’s political legacy. wanted the world to be effectively made safe for the United States rather than for democracy. with typical immodesty. that his advocacy of preparedness. Franklin Roosevelt always drew his greatest inspiration in foreign affairs from Theodore Roosevelt. Jr. 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. [FDR] did not subscribe to a Wilsonian model in his foreign policy. Instead. his wartime diplomacy followed more traditional notions of great-power leadership. 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. . and that pacifist and neutralist stances encouraged the American people’s isolationist tendencies and incited them to neglect their world duties. . Roosevelt’s brand of internationalism did not pretend to exclude imperialism.” of righteousness backed by force. .Theodore Roosevelt: Imperialist or Global Strategist? 653 security and justice. Bush Could Learn from Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson (New York. true to his lifelong nationalism. during which the United States enjoyed a sustained period of international peace. as several scholars have pointed out. NOTES 1. Judis. 2007). Judis’s book.: At heart. John B.71 Till the end of his life he would remind his critics. his theory of “the just man armed. Tony Smith. Unlike Wilson’s. it ought to be organized as an armed league restricted to the main “civilized” nations and prepared to use force if necessary.” according to John Milton Cooper. The rightfulness of his approach is nowhere more evident than in his influence on Franklin Roosevelt. and he regarded what he considered Wilson’s excessive idealism as a pitfall to be avoided. however. a rather perceptive analysis of US foreign policy from the late nineteenth century to the early twenty-first century. had been wonderfully illustrated by his seven and a half years’ presidency. 2004). The Folly of Empire: What George W. regrettably contains a number of faulty footnotes and unreferenced quotations.69 To be efficient at all. . A Pact with the Devil: Washington’s Bid for World Supremacy and the Betrayal of the American Promise (New York. as well as a “multilateral” willingness to cooperate with America’s friends and allies.

TR Papers. vol. Warrior and Priest. D. 22. John M. I (Cambridge. 20. I. 16. in The Works of Theodore Roosevelt. Vol. pp. VIII. 271. . 2006). 12. CT. 1898–1814 (Princeton. 231. Foreword by William R. Tilchin and Charles E. CT. 124–25. Cooper. An Autobiography (1913. and American Foreign Policy. 253. 17 June 1905. Letters. 222. 16 March 1899. eds. and their Democratic supporters. series 2.. to Robert J. 3. p. 1985). the fact that on the east and west we look across the waters at Europe and Asia. MD. Donald Richberg. 23 November 1918. vol. TR gives his view of Aguinaldo and his followers. pp. Theodore Roosevelt Papers. Joshua D. ed. 6. to George Von Lengerke Meyer. 11. 19. p. Letters. 5. 3 August 1897. The Presidents: The Transformation of the American Presidency from Theodore Roosevelt to George W. series 2. 1930). Seager and D. Woodrow Wilson. 695. reel 338. 15. 52. “Apropos of a Reprint: Theodore Roosevelt’s Autobiography Reconsidered. 372. Letters. Frank Ninkovich. Theodore Roosevelt. MA. 14. Graubard. Howard K. I. 3 May 1897. Benjamin Welles. 1951). Letters and Papers of Alfred Thayer Mahan. 1052. Alfred T. pp. 10 (1986). Hagedorn. 30 April 1900. Bush (London. 2006). 75 9. vol. III. 1997). Neu. p. Beale. Jr.” in Tilchin and Neu. Letters. Richard D. Hawley. 636. Maguire. and Their Enduring Impact on US foreign Policy. Generals. 8. p. 221. As early as 1897 he would declare: “We cannot avoid. 646–47. p. Artists of Power. Artists of Power: Theodore Roosevelt. 13. 39. p. Admirals. 17. 1894). to Bowman Hendry McCalla. MA. Autobiography. 1973). Stephen R. p.” in H. 31. The Letters of Theodore Roosevelt. 4. as a nation. John Gaffney. William N. p. TR to Arthur Cecil Spring Rice. 11 August 1899. Roosevelt. 23. 172–180. I. TR to Thomas St.. Keylor (Westport. vol. NJ. 1926). eds. Cooper. pp.. 2008).2 (1986). p. p. 15–32. eds. 3–31. in R. See also Beale. 12 April 1901. 1404. 378–380. Tents of the Mighty (New York. Thompson. Theodore Roosevelt. pp. Serge Ricard. II. 361. pp. Morison and John M. II. Library of Congress.” Quoted in Ibid. 10. 21. 10. Mahan to Bouverie F. 1902. “Theodore Roosevelt: Civilization as Ideology. 1983). 45. 385. TR to John Davis Long. XIV (New York. 1274. reel 320. TR to Alfred Thayer Mahan. 256. Letters.” Diplomatic History.. “The Policy of Expansion is America’s Historic Policy.. in Elting E. p. 607. 244. 1984). Clark. Theodore Roosevelt and the Rise of America to World Power (1956. Campaigns and Controversies. Challener. 13 August 1897. MD. February 8. xiv. TR to Spring Rice. See also Serge Ricard. p. Theodore Roosevelt: Preacher of Righteousness (New Haven. Roosevelt. Sumner Welles: FDR’s Global Strategist (New York. 18. 563. pp.. 16. Baltimore. New York. Letters.654 Serge Ricard 2. III (Annapolis. 63. Blum. p. Letters. to Rudyard Kipling. 7. The Warrior and the Priest: Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt (Cambridge. 1975).” Indian Journal of American Studies. pp. 30 September 1897. TR to Benjamin Ide Wheeler. “Foreign Policy Making in the White House: Rooseveltian-Style Personal Diplomacy. Library of Congress. p. The Winning of the West (New York. p.

LA. 368–369. pp.” American Historical Review. 25. 116. Collin. NJ. 109. Theodore Roosevelt. Collin. pp. 478. vol. pp. The author has the last word. pp. 83 (June 1978). and Expansion: A New View of American Imperialism (Baton Rouge. 2006). 36(1) (March 2006). America’s Mission. Andrew Bacevich re-examines unsparingly “the myth of the reluctant superpower” and partially rehabilitates William A. TR to the Honorable Edward O. 163–235. vol. Campaigns and Controversies. Beard in his American Empire: The Realities and Consequences of US Diplomacy (Cambridge. Smith. Letters. Beisner’s disapproving comments. 73. Frank Ninkovich. 79–102. America’s Mission. p. II. Williams and Charles A. MA. 212 (emphasis added). Ninkovich. Ibid. 3. 33. and the Latin American Context (Baton Rouge. 30. Campaigns and Controversies. A Companion to American Foreign Relations (Malden. Iriye.. in Works. “The Roosevelt Corollary. 2007). Smith. Ernest R. Field’s essay is followed by Walter LaFeber’s and Robert L. The United States and Imperialism (Malden. Folly of Empire. passim. 103. in “The Copperheads of 1900.. pp.” Presidential Studies Quarterly. Roosevelt. A Pact with the Devil: Washington’s Bid for World Supremacy and the Betrayal of the American Promise (New York. 358–359. 37. Culture. 28. pp. 1–23. 26. 32. 679–683. vol. Wolcott. which forced the American president to step in decisively. 38. MA. in Works. Collin. 37. Ibid. James A. 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 . Judis. May and the Study of Foreign Affair (Chicago. chairman of the Committee to Notify the Candidate for Vice-President. 1998). vol. pp. 106.. 15 September 1900.” 2 September 1901. p. Appendix. “The United States and Imperialism. the Monroe Doctrine. LA. “National Duties. 1999). pp. Ninkovich. “Notes on the Study of the International Origins of Democracy. 36. pp. pp. 123. XIII. 2001).” 21 October 1899. 1990). 1994). “American Imperialism: The Worst Chapter in Almost Any Book. 29. 1403–1404. 152. Cf. Theodore Roosevelt's Caribbean: The Panama Canal. MA. p. 669–672. then again in early February during the Washington negotiations. in Works. 334–341. 39. May. the crisis reached a climax in late January 1903. 1985). 2002). Theodore Roosevelt. pp. Cf. vol. 35. See also F. ed. US and Imperialism. 91 201. Diplomacy. 9. ed. 23.” pp. 479. 151. Frank Ninkovich. p. 209. 373n36. Rethinking International Relations: Ernest R. Cf. pp.. Triggered by the Anglo–German expedition on behalf of exasperated European creditors. p. XIV. Field.. pp. America’s Mission: The United States and the Worldwide Struggle for Democracy in the Twentieth Century (Princeton. Schulzinger. 17–26. p. Roosevelt. Smith.Theodore Roosevelt: Imperialist or Global Strategist? 655 24. Richard H. 27. 5.” in A. 40. 7–31. XIV. 41. The Wilsonian Century: US Foreign Policy since 1900 (Chicago. Serge Ricard. The Strenuous Life.” in Robert D. Tony Smith. Richard H. 644–83. 672–678. Jr. 202. p. “The Alliance for Progress in Historical Perspective. vol. 34. 31.

“Woodrow Wilson and World War I. On this episode. 235. Letters. Vol. 25–44. vol. The Autobiography of Theodore Roosevelt (1913. 29 December 1902. 28–29. TR to Elihu Root. 1871–1914: Sammlung der Diplomatischen Akten des Aüswärtigen Amtes. pp. 45. CA. 19 January 1903. Widenor. 107. vol. pp. 50. Die Grosse Politik der Europäischenkabinette. p. IV. Bailey. Ricard. 49. Anglo-Saxonism in US Foreign Policy: The Diplomacy of Imperialism. Roosevelt to William Howard Taft. Letters. 399–400. 1974). 59. 292 nn. 14–17. 113–45. Letters. 1995). Letters. XVII (Berlin. pp. Autobiography.. 761–762. Roosevelt. 53. vol. Link. pp. NC. 1987). “Foreign Policy Making. 1995).” p. eds. vol. 9th ed. “The Roosevelt Corollary. p. 1982). S. 32. Generals. “Anti-Wilsonian Internationalism: Theodore Roosevelt in the Kansas City Star. Ambrosius. ed. TR to Spring Rice. Challener. E. “The AngloGerman Intervention in Venezuela and Theodore Roosevelt’s Ultimatum to the Kaiser: Taking a Fresh Look at an Old Enigma. III (New York.. see Roosevelt’s confidential letter to Henry Cabot Lodge. Letters. From Theodore Roosevelt to FDR: Internationalism and Isolationism in American Foreign Policy (Keele. (1940. 291–92. TR to George W. 57. England.. pp.” he once remarked. III. TR to Spring Rice. Woodrow Wilson and the American Diplomatic Tradition: The Treaty Fight in Perspective (New York. IV. 55. p. ed. p. 56. 22. vol. p. 176–77. IV. Paris. 43. NJ. 58. vol. V. For a notable exception. New York. 2nd rev. (1990. Woodrow Wilson and a Revolutionary World. 17–22. p.. Generals. Henry Cabot Lodge and the Search for an American Foreign Policy (Berkeley.” in Schulzinger. 2–3. 1975). 27 December 1904. 46. Arthur S. pp. 51. 42. Challener. IV.” in Serge Ricard and Hélène Christol. vol. 1899–1919 (Aix-en-Provence. 52. TR to Spring Rice. 60. 1178. 13 May 1905. Letters. TR to Spring Rice. 34–35. 1910). 1991). 21 August 1907. Letters of TR. pp. 829–31. See also L. “Foreign Policy Making in the White House. 731. Ambrosius.” pp. 1980). Speck von Sternburg to Auswärtiges Amt.” pp. pp. 1913–1921 (Chapel Hill. pp. p. 16 June 1905. and Friedrich Thimme]. ed. 13 June 1904. For a résumé of the secret exchanges that led to the acceptance by both parties of the Portsmouth peace conference. “very much as I do a grizzly bear. 1087–1088. Presidential Addresses and State Papers. 29–31. Ricard. Englewood Cliffs. 16 February 1904. Albrecht Mendelsohn Bartholdy. 19 March 1904. . A Diplomatic History of the American People. 65–77.656 Serge Ricard really prepared to challenge Washington in the Caribbean in defiance of the sacrosanct Monroe Doctrine. 505. America’s Mission. Admirals. see Pierre Milza. 1221–233. William C. Smith. Hinman.” in Daniela Rossini. Lloyd E. see S. 310. pp. vol.” In Wayne Andrews. Admirals. ed. See for example Ricard. vol. IV. Letters of TR. 47. pp. 1927). “I do admire him. vol. Les relations internationales de 1871 à 1914. Ricard. pp. IV. Theodore Roosevelt. 760. 47–48. 54. V. 19. 44. Auswärtiges Amt [Johannes Lepsius. Thomas A. pp. Roosevelt. 43. Letters. 297. 48. A Companion. See also Serge Ricard.

151. For a summary of Foch’s proposed military conditions for an armistice. Roosevelt in The Kansas City Star: War-Time Editorials.” Foreign Affairs (November/December 2007). May 5. vol. 261. 116. p. 71. Ibid. Ibid.. 64. 45. Volume VIII. 67. 65. pp. pp. 155. 65. 359–60. 2222–223. 70. Norway.” Midwest Quarterly. Introd. 75. Sellen. “An Enduring Peace Built on Freedom: Securing America’s Future. See also Robert W. . 63. 463–464. 197. pp. pp. Stout. 151–152. http://www. 9 (1968). p. Cooper. Ibid. 1910.. “Opposition Leaders in Wartime: The Case of Theodore Roosevelt and World War I. 463. pp.foreignaffairs. 1921). Presidential Addresses and State Papers.org/ 69. Warrior and Priest. 264. see Wilson Papers. 225–242. Ibid. 164.” Roosevelt. Volume 51. Stout. 62. pp. Delivered at Christiana.Theodore Roosevelt: Imperialist or Global Strategist? 657 61. “Address before the Nobel Prize Committee.. Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt. Wilson Papers. John McCain. Roosevelt. pp. 278. 68. pp. Ralph Stout (Boston. Roosevelt. p. 66. 118–119.