Theodore Roosevelt's Presidency

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What is the difference between the Roosevelt Corollary and the Monroe Doctrine?

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The Roosevelt Corollary and the Monroe Doctrine differ primarily in their approach to foreign policy; the former is more proactive and interventionist, while the latter is more defensive. The Monroe Doctrine, issued by President James Monroe in 1823, was a warning to European nations against expanding their imperialism across the Atlantic. On the other hand, the Roosevelt Corollary, introduced by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1904, extended the Monroe Doctrine by advocating for U.S. intervention in Latin America when developments were deemed contrary to U.S. interests.

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The difference between the Monroe Doctrine and the Roosevelt Corollary lies in the latter's extension of the former to suggest a more proactive, interventionist policy on the part of the United States towards the nations of Latin America.

The Monroe Doctrine was President James Monroe's warning to the nations of Europe against expanding their imperialist practices across the Atlantic. On December 2, 1823, Monroe, in a speech before Congress, addressed the still-new United States of America's continued weariness of European colonial intrusions into the Western Hemisphere. Within the context of U.S. negotiations with Russia and Great Britain regarding the latter two countries' histories of territorial expansionism in North America, and expressing the desire on the part of the United States to establish and maintain cordial relations with both empires, President Monroe nevertheless issued the following admonition against European colonialism in the Western Hemisphere:

In the discussions to which this interest has given rise and in the arrangements by which they may terminate the occasion has been judged proper for asserting, as a principle in which the rights and interests of the United States are involved, that the American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers.

The Monroe Doctrine served as the main U.S. policy on European relations in the Americas well into the 20th Century -- its greatest test, perhaps, involving the Soviet Union's attempts at cultivating relationships with certain Latin American countries during peak periods of the Cold War, much to the consternation of the United States. If the Monroe Doctrine was essentially defensive in nature, acting as a deterrent against outside meddling in the United States' sphere of influence, future U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt would fundamentally alter that understanding and inject a more interventionist angle into American foreign policy with respect to Latin America. Known as "the Roosevelt Corollary," this extension of the Monroe Doctrine imposed a more aggressive approach to the Americas into U.S. foreign policy. In his annual message to Congress, on December 6, 1904, President Roosevelt warned, not so much Europe, but the disparate nations of Latin America themselves against developments deemed antithetical to U.S. interests:

If a nation shows that it knows how to act with reasonable efficiency and decency in social and political matters, if it keeps order and pays its obligations, it need fear no interference from the United States. Chronic wrongdoing, or an impotence which results in a general loosening of the ties of civilized society, may in America, as elsewhere, ultimately require intervention by some civilized nation, and in the Western Hemisphere the adherence of the United States to the Monroe Doctrine may force the United States, however reluctantly, in flagrant cases of such wrongdoing or impotence, to the exercise of an international police power.

The Roosevelt Corollary, then, was tantamount to the establishment of a United States' "right" to intervene in the internal affairs of the independent, sovereign nations of Latin America whenever it deemed fit. The suggestion that the United States, or any other great power, would declare itself entitled to intervene in other nations to address political instabilities or to prevent the ascension of governing regimes that were hostile to that power would prove interestingly prescient. To conclude, the fundamental distinction between the Monroe Doctrine and the Roosevelt Corollary was the latter's declaratory expansion of the former into a more interventionist doctrine.

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The difference between these two is that the Roosevelt Corollary was a much more aggressive policy than the Monroe Doctrine.  

The Monroe Doctrine was basically a negative document.  It simply set out something that should not be done.  It told European countries that they should not try to colonize in the Americas or to interfere in the domestic affairs of countries in the region.

The Roosevelt Corollary was a positive doctrine.  Instead of saying "here's what you can't do," it set out a course of action that the US would take.  It said "here's what I will do..."  It said that the US would actively intervene in the affairs of countries in the Americas if they were mismanaging their affairs.  The US would do so to avoid a situation in which the Europeans would try to come in and intervene.

As the first example of this policy, the US took over aspects of the government of the Dominican Republic.  That country had been failing to pay its foreign debts.  To prevent the Europeans from coming in and forcing it to pay, the US went in to the Dominican Republic and took over so as to ensure the debts would be paid.

In this way, the Roosevelt Corollary was aggressive and positive whereas the Monroe Doctrine was a bit more defensive and negative.

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