How was Woodrow Wilson's foreign policy different from Theodore Roosevelt's?

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Woodrow Wilson’s foreign policy is typically said to have been much more idealistic than that of Theodore Roosevelt.  However, this is not completely accurate.

There is no doubt that Roosevelt’s policies were not very idealistic.  He did win the Nobel Peace Prize for mediating between Russia and Japan to end their war.  However, he did so largely because he thought the war was contrary to US interests, not because he loved peace for its own sake.  Roosevelt is known for his “big stick” policies in which he used US military power to advance the interests of the country.  This can be seen, for example, in his interventions in Latin America when he thought developments there were hurting the US.

Wilson, by contrast, is seen as idealistic.  This is particularly true with respect to WWI.  In that instance, Wilson wanted to use the US military (through its part in the victory in WWI) to create a new world order that would be fairer, more democratic, and therefore more peaceful.  However, Wilson was not always as idealistic as that.  He, too, intervened often in the affairs of Latin American countries.

Thus, we can say that Wilson was more idealistic than Roosevelt, but we must not overstate his level of idealism.