Theodore Roosevelt's Presidency

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How was Theodore Roosevelt different from previous Presidents in making foreign policy?

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If we're looking all the way back to the beginning of the country (and the long term history of the United States), I would say that there was a radical shift in foreign policy at the end of the nineteenth century (and the beginning of the twentieth), when the United...

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If we're looking all the way back to the beginning of the country (and the long term history of the United States), I would say that there was a radical shift in foreign policy at the end of the nineteenth century (and the beginning of the twentieth), when the United States turned more aggressively imperialistic in terms of overseas expansion, and that Theodore Roosevelt played a critical role in that transition, pushing the United States even further down the path of empire.

Some of his foreign policy interventions include building the Panama Canal (and to ensure that he could build the canal, he sent military forces to intervene in Panama's revolution against Colombia), mediating peace talks between Russia and Japan, and invoking the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine. In conclusion, Roosevelt oversaw an active and aggressive brand of American imperialism.

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The major difference between Theodore Roosevelt and his more recent predecessors in the White House was that his foreign policy was much more aggressive.  This was the era of the “big stick” in which the US asserted its power around the world, and particularly in the Caribbean.  However, it is not clear if this is really a change that comes about because of Roosevelt or because of a change in the country’s circumstances.

By 1901 when McKinley was killed and Roosevelt took office, the US was much stronger than it had been in the past.  Industrialization had built its capacity to do things like building ships.  Alfred Thayer Mahan’s doctrines had been accepted by many Americans and the US Navy was larger and more powerful than in the past.  The US had been getting more aggressive, as seen in things such as the the annexation of Hawaii and the Spanish-American War.

This meshed perfectly with Roosevelt’s own inclinations.  He was inclined to follow a foreign policy that explicitly sought to increase American power.  He was more aggressive in pursuing American power around the globe than previous presidents had been.

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