Theodore Roosevelt's Presidency

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Compare President Theodore Roosevelt's approach to foreign policy with that of President William Howard Taft. 

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Both presidents believed in using interventionist policies. Roosevelt assisted Panama in its push for independence by stationing a naval vessel of its coast. Panama thus won its independence and the United States was able to dig the Panama Canal. Roosevelt also brokered the deal that led to the United States...

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Both presidents believed in using interventionist policies. Roosevelt assisted Panama in its push for independence by stationing a naval vessel of its coast. Panama thus won its independence and the United States was able to dig the Panama Canal. Roosevelt also brokered the deal that led to the United States controlling the Canal Zone and sent the Great White Fleet around the world in order to demonstrate American naval might. He made sure that the Great White Fleet made stops in Japan in order to intimidate that rising country into respecting American Pacific interests.

Taft continued Roosevelt's policies of intervention but he used what was called Dollar Diplomacy. He used American investments in the Caribbean and Central America as a pretext to intervene in those countries and stabilized a pro-American Nicaraguan regime by sending in over two thousand troops. He also organized US banks to rescue the Honduran economy. Taft was going to send in troops to Mexico when revolutions threatened American oil interests but stopped short of intervention when Congress protested. His successor, Woodrow Wilson, would be known for intervening in Mexico.

Both Roosevelt and Wilson believed in intervening in Latin America in order to shore up American interests as well as ensure that Europeans would not interfere in the Western Hemisphere. Roosevelt, as a military and naval buff, believed in using a show of force to protect American assets abroad. Taft, on the other hand, was willing to use investment as a pretext to allowing the United States to intervene. While both of these policies kept Europe out of the Western Hemisphere and thus reinforced the Monroe Doctrine, both also led to bad relations between the US and Latin America.

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Both Theodore Roosevelt and William Taft believed in an expansionist, aggressive American foreign policy. President Roosevelt believed the United States should spread its "superior" way of living to other parts of the world. He wanted the United States to be seen as a country promoting progress. Thus, the United States intervened when Colombia wouldn’t allow the United States to build a canal that would make travel between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans quicker. The United States helped Panama become free and then built a canal there. The United States also intervened in the Dominican Republic when they fell behind in paying their debts to Europe. The United States didn’t want European intervention in the Americas.

President Taft wanted to spread American actions by investing in other countries. In what was known as dollar diplomacy, the United States would invest in countries, especially in Latin America, and then intervene when it appeared American investments were in jeopardy when political instability developed in these countries. For example, the United States intervened in Nicaragua in 1911 to protect American investments when political instability developed there.

Both presidents wanted to expand American influence and involvement throughout the world. Their actions increased the American presence on the world stage and gave the United States an increased status as a world power.

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Teddy Roosevelt was an interventionist, meaning he intervened in foreign affairs. His Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine meant that he endorsed intervening in countries in Latin America. His policy, referred to as "speak softly and carry a big stick," meant that he supported American intervention and force when necessary to support American imperialism. He did so, for example, to build the Panama Canal. To win concessions to build the canal, Roosevelt supported a revolution in Panama to break away from Columbia in 1903, and the U.S. began constructing the canal in 1904. 

Taft, on the other hand, used investment to support American diplomacy--a practice called "dollar diplomacy." His policies and interventions abroad, such as his use of American troops to quell rebellions in Nicaragua and Honduras, were guided by American business interests. He pursued a free-trade agreement with Canada in 1911 to lower tariffs on goods traded between the U.S. and Canada, but the Canadian Parliament rejected the deal. Taft was not guided by any overarching idea about the role of America abroad, as Roosevelt was, but was instead interested in protecting American business interests. 

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The foreign policy of William Howard Taft was largely a continuation of Theodore Roosevelt's, particularly as it related to Latin America. Both presidents advocated an active, even interventionist foreign policy, an approach often called "big stick" diplomacy under Roosevelt. Taft's presidency saw the advent of what became known as "dollar diplomacy." Under Taft, the United States government began to guarantee loans to foreign countries in an effort to keep European interests out. This was entirely consistent with the Roosevely Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, which asserted the US right to intervene in countries where political stability left them open to European military efforts to protect financial interests. Under "dollar diplomacy," the United States would simply buy up debts owed by Latin American nations to European banks, or simply make new loans from the United States. Either way, the United States would gain considerable leverage over the nation in question. Nicaragua and Haiti both received millions in American loans, and were both invaded by American marines to secure the ensuing debts. Taft also encouraged, as Roosevelt had, investment in infrastructure, particularly railroads, in China. As in other aspects of the two presidencies, the chief difference between the two was perhaps temperamental and rhetorical.

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