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Part VI: TR’s Foreign Policy
TIME July 3, 2006
TR was the 5th American
Named in Time’s “The
Making of America.”
Lewis & Clark, Franklin,
Jefferson, Lincoln,Twain.
•“American foreign policy has always been an
awkward exercise in high-minded humanitarian
goals balanced uneasily with strategic [and
commercial] calculations.”
George Packer, The New Yorker, 7.27.13.
•“Every man who has in him any real power of
joy in battle knows that he feels it when the wolf
begins to rise in his heart; he does not then
shrink from blood or sweat or deem that they
mar the fight; he revels in them, in the toil, the
pain, and the danger, as but setting off the
triumph.” Theodore Roosevelt’s Autobiography.
•Adm. Alfred Mahan, a Darwinian, believed that
“strife is all around us; the struggle of life is
invigorating & war is therapeutic. Long periods
of peace create effeminate tendencies in men.”
• TR made the US a world power.
•TR exalted the strenuous life of hunters,
cowboys, prize fighters, soldiers, athletes. He
supported 1906 founding of the NCAA.
Prelude to US Imperial Policy in Asia: Hawaii
•1893 Queen Lilliuokalani, who inherited the throne in the ancient kingdom, was
concerned over the number of foreign businessmen in the islands. When she
tried to restrict voting in the country to Hawaiians only, her local enemies & US
business interests, seeing Hawaii as a valuable commercial base, overthrew
her government.
•A coup leader, Sanford B. Dole set up a committee of public safety to protect
American lives & property; he set up provisional government.
•US Marines, from the nearby USS Boston, assisted in the overthrow.
•Pres. Cleveland, in office 1893-1897 during his second election, denounced it
as illegal & refused to annex Hawaii.
•After McKinley’s election 1896 Congress approved a resolution for annexation,
creating the US Territory of Hawaii. Aug. 1898 the US flag was raised over its
new possession, Hawaii, to the joy of businessmen heading the vast sugarcane
and later pineapple processing industry. Sugar industry rose to become a giant
trust in response to the world’s insatiable demand for sugar.
•TR prosecuted the sugar trust in his second term.
(From Overthrow, by Stephen Kinzer. For details of US imperial adventures
imperial ventures from Hawaii to Iraq, Kinzer’s book is excellent on the negative
aspects of imperialism.)
The Spanish-American War 1898: Cuba
TR in Rough
Rider uniform
made for him by
Brooks Bros. &
worn at big
political events
in his 1st term
•Cuban nationalists sought independence from Spain.
•US battleship Maine mysteriously blew up Feb. 1898.
• “Yellow journalism” & jingoism inflamed US public with
undocumented tales of rape, murder, theft. Yet many in
US vocally opposed war in Cuba.
•US Congress recognized Cuban independence April 20
& passed Teller Amendment forbidding annexation.
•With above pledge, Congress declared war on Spain,
April 25.
•In Congress, North & South found at last a cause they
could both embrace & members sang Dixie & Battle
Hymn of Republic together.
• Cuba: largest Caribbean island; with its sugar wealth
& strategic importance it interested US imperialists.
•McKinley called for 125,000 military volunteers; over
twice that many volunteered.
•US fought 3 one-day battles on Cuba’s se coast & US
•fleet destroyed Spanish ships anchored at Santiago.
•Cuban leader General Garcia was banned from the
armistice ceremony in August 1898.
The Spanish-American War, Cuba & Puerto Rico (cont.)
•John Hay described the Spanish-American War as the “splendid little war,
begun with the highest motives, carried on with magnificent intelligence & spirit,
favored by that Fortune which loves the brave.”
•Puerto Rico: Spain had granted it autonomy March 1898. The island set up
its first elected House of Representatives. It convened & elected a cabinet
and head of government that held power for 8 days. July 25, 1898 US sailors
and Marines waded ashore on Puerto Rico’s sw coast, secured the nearby
town, took control of customs house, and raised US flag.
•Dec. 1898 Paris Treaty: US won rights in independent Cuba, annexed Guam,
Puerto Rico, Philippines. US Senate approved it by 1 single vote in Feb. 1899.
•The Anti-Imperialist League had a large following & opposed the treaty.
•1899 McKinley: “Cuba will be under US occupation with a military governor.”
•1901 Platt Amendment by War Sec Elihu Root, Sen. Orville Platt, stated that
US occupation will end when Cubans accept a constitution granting US rights
to maintain military bases (Guantánamo), veto any treaty with another country,
supervise Cuban treasury, & intervene to preserve Cuban independence if
other powers sought influence there. A storm of protest rose in Cuba & US.
The Platt Amendment was a direct contradiction of Teller Amendment.
The Bloody War Against Filipinos’ Struggle for Independence
•In early 1898 Asst Sec Navy TR alerted Commodore George Dewey, of the
US Asiatic Squadron, to move his fleet to Manila if war with Spain broke out.
•McKinley said he did not know where on the earth the Philippines were.
• Dewey handily destroyed the Spanish fleet May 1 and invited to his ship the
Filipino independence leader, Émilio Aguinaldo, after which Aguinaldo said they
agreed to fight the Spanish together. Dewey denied any agreement.
•McKinley first instructed US forces to take Manila, then Luzon, then the whole
archipelago. Aguinaldo knew to gather forces to fight the US which by then had
announced military occupation of the Philippines.
• General Arthur MacArthur was named commander ,then governor, of the
• US forces captured Aguinaldo but his guerrilla army continued resistance
and made a brutal attack killing 54 of 74 US soldiers on Samar Island.
•Col. Jacob “Give em Hell” Smith was ordered to subdue the rebels. He said:
“I want no prisoners. I wish you to kill and burn. The more you kill and the
more you burn, the better you will please me.” (Overthrow, by Kinzer, p. 53)
•US soldiers carried out his orders with gusto, using the water cure as the most
terrifying method of torture.
The Bloody War Against The Filipinos (cont.)
•US Troops killed hundreds of people, burned crops, slaughtered cattle, raped
& tortured. US newspapers learned about the water cure from returning vets &
their newspaper reporters sent to Philippines. Philadelphia Ledger: “Our
soldiers have pumped salt water into men to make them talk, have taken
people prisoner who held up their hands to surrender, took them to a bridge,
shot them, dropped them into the river” as a warning to other Filipinos.
•A howl of protest rose, including public figures: Sen. George Hoar MA,
Stanford President David Starr Jordan, Harvard professor William James, &
Mark Twain who suggested that the American flag be redesigned “with white
stripes painted black & stars replaced by skull and crossbones.”
•TR suggested that Senator Lodge hold hearings on the conduct of US soldiers.
There was much testimony about operational tactics but no exploration of the
broader policy behind them. A final report was never issued. TR objected to
the torture methods, but felt compelled to defend the American troops he loved.
•July 4, 1902 TR declared the Philippines pacified after 3.5 torturous years with
4,374 US killed. At least 36,000 Filipinos died.
•Filipinos never forgot the war. But Americans quickly forgot it.
(See Overthrow by Kinzer)
The Roosevelt Corollary in Latin America 1903-04
•British, Italian & German ships blockaded Venezuela’s ports in Dec. 1902
through early 1903 because Venezuela owed them large debts.
•When Germany stalled at a mediation offer, TR sent four US battle- ships to
Venezuela’s coast; they remained until the Kaiser backed down and accepted a
compromise mediation.
•When Santo Domingo was unable to pay its debts to Europeans, TR
intervened, seized its customs offices & paid its debts to Europeans.
•To keep Europe out of the Americas the Roosevelt Corollary was issued in
1904: US ensures
Latin America will
act responsibly &
Europe’s powers
must not intervene
in the Americas.
•20th c update 1823
Monroe Doctrine.
Map from The
[London] Times
Concise Atlas of
World History
We Must Have a Canal! “We’re a gr-reat people. We ar-re that.
An’ th’ best iv it is, we know we ar-re.”
(Mr. Dooley, by Finley Peter Dunne)
•US interests in the Caribbean & Pacific heightened the need for a canal to
counter rising navy of Germany & Japan. Britain supported a US canal project.
Rival canal builders vied for US choice of its location. Engineers decided best
location was in Colombia’s province of Panama at a 50-mile strip separating the
oceans. Colombia demanded more than Sec. State John Hay agreed to pay;
TR called them “highwaymen.”
•Philippe Buneau-Varilla, a French adventurer-lobbyist & engineer, organized
Panama’s revolt from Colombia in
November 1903, expertly choreograping many backroom deals.
•Panama’s revolution began the 3rd,
ended the 4th, US recognized it as a
free country on the 6th, and the HayBuneau-Varilla Treaty was signed
the 18th, by which the US agreed to
pay Panama $10 mil. plus a yearly
Cartoon from Bully! The Life and Times of
fee of $250,000.
Theodore Roosevelt, by Rick Marschall
•Before the Canal: a trip from NY to San Fran.
Was about 14,000 mi. After: about 6,000 mi.
•Panama’s rain forest ,squalid towns—full of
malaria, yellow fever until US doctor, William
Gorgas, launched wide campaign to eradicate
mosquitoes, improve sanitation. Death rates of
workers and residents plummeted.
•See next slide for Dr. Walter Reed’s research.
•Colonel George Goethals: construction power.
•TR gave Colonel George Goethals responsibility
for overseeing every detail in digging & building
the Canal & resolving many personal disputes.
•TR visited canal in rainy season 1906, to see it
at its worst. It was the first time a US president
had left the country while in office.
•At left: TR leaped on a 95-ton Bucyrus steam
shovel and grilled the operator about how it
worked. The operator asked for overtime pay.
•The Canal helped lay basis for US maritime
Supremacy; it was opened in 1914.
General Walter Reed’s Contribution to Epidemiology, Biomedicine
•Arriving at the Army Medical School in 1893 he taught
and engaged in research & proved that yellow fever of
the enlisted men (near Potomac River) was not caused
by drinking river water: yellow fever victims were soldiers
who walked trails in the local swampy woods at night.
And local civilians who drank river water had no illness.
•In 1900 Dr. Reed was sent to Cuba to head a team to
research tropical diseases, including yellow fever that
had become a problem for US troops & personnel there.
•Louis Pasteur’s germ theory of disease & Robert Koch’s
method of studying bacteria influenced US researchers.
•Risky but significant research was done with human
volunteers and Reed’s work confirmed the transmission
of yellow fever by mosquitoes. He credited a colleague,
Dr. Carlos Finlay, with discovery of the yellow fever
vector & how it might be controlled, but Reed improved
Finlay’s research methods & is credited with stemming
the death rate from yellow fever in the buillding of the
Panama Canal.
Major General
Walter Reed, circa
1901. Completed
MD degree at age
18, later joined
the new Army
Medical School in
D.C. as professor
Of Bacteriology &
Clinical Microscopy
US & Russo-Japanese War 1904-05
•TR & US leaders: bias toward Japan &
strange ideas on race superiority. Kaneko.
•US & British fear Russian expansion.
•US encourages Japan attack on Russia.
•Japan’s stunning victory, a wake-up call.
•US approves Japan’s annexation of Korea.
•US role in R-J Treaty at Portsmouth, NH.
•TR wins Nobel Peace Prize.
Maps from The [London] Times Concise Atlas of
World History.
TR Helps Settle French-German Disputes over Morocco as
Tensions Rise Among Europe’s Great Powers
•1904 France & Britain had settled differences over control of N. Africa by
agreeing that Britain would dominate Egypt & France, Morocco.
•Germany, with its expanding navy & imperial interests in Africa, wanted free
access to Morocco, heightening German-French tensions & war clouds.
•TR agreed to mediate, at the Kaiser’s suggestion, & France accepted.
•The parties met in Algeciras, Spain in 1906 with TR presiding and suggesting a
compromise: Morocco would in the future become independent but until then it
would be policed jointly by France & Spain.
•The agreement held until 1912 when France & Spain partitioned Morocco. The
Kaiser was furious. TR, by then long out of office, reminded the Kaiser of a
letter he had sent to TR in 1906 pledging that he would support TR’s Algeciras
•The Kaiser backed down on threats to Morocco in 1912 but sped up its naval
buildup, sensing encirclement by Britain, France and Russia.
•TR’s international esteem as a world statesman was heightened by his
Roosevelt Corollary, building the Canal, ending the Russo-Japanese War, &
mediation at Algeciras.
Racial Prejudice Expressed in Foreign Policy
•McKinley, TR & US leaders used racial slurs referring to leaders & the citizens
of Cuba, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Nicaragua, Colombia, Russia, Korea.
•1904 World’s Fair at St. Louis: exhibits of the US, Britain, & Japan derogatorily
portrayed conquered indigenous people, called “our colonized Others,” as
animals with strange anatomical features and often as monkeys, based on
drawings of pseudo-”scientists” who promoted racial superiority idea.
•Kaneko, Japan’s special envoy to the US, knew that many Westerners
believed Aryans had migrated across Central Asia to Japan, which combined
the best of Oriental & Occidental traits. Japan emulated the West.
•Kaneko repeated TR’s opinion that Japan was the only Asiatic nation that
understood Western civilization & must be the model which all other Asiatics
should follow in becoming modern, as the US was the model for Latin America.
• San Francisco & other CA schools had segregated Japanese students from
all other children. After an enormous protest arose in Japan and the US, TR
persuaded CA to desegregate schools and persuaded Japan’s govt. to ban
the flow of Japanese workers to CA. The 1907 arrangement was called the
“Gentlemen’s Agreement.”
•Rudyard Kipling, admired by TR, had set the imperial duty of the West in his
“White Man’s Burden” phrase: Britain & the US had a moral obligation to
conquer & civilize the non-Anglo-Saxon part of the world.
The Great White Fleet’s World Cruise
•To announce to the world that the US was a global
power, TR dispatched the “Great White Fleet”- the US
Navy’s 16 battleships & 16 cruisers—on a world cruise.
All the ships and guns were painted white.
•The fleet set sail in Dec. 1907 on the 46,000 mile,
14-month cruise creating big news & excitement at
each of its stops. The stately ships crossed the Pacific,
Indian Ocean, Suez Canal, Mediterranean Sea &
across the Atlantic seaboard to the US in Feb. 1909.
•Over a century later, the world cruise remains the best
expression of TR’s belief in naval strength as a chief
factor in national policy & world power.
•His 1st book, published when he was 24, was The
Naval War of 1812 or the History of the United States
Navy During the Last War with Great Britain.
Above: TR salutes
•Alfred T. Mahan, the great naval expert who wrote
the departing ships.
The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660-1783,
Intense Great Powers’
had a huge influence on TR. Mahan gave lectures at
naval rivalries were a
the Naval War College in the late 1880’s. TR met him
major cause of WWI.
then & became a lifelong devotee.
•1900-1917 US was well established as a leading industrial & financial giant
•US, now a naval power, exerted military might to win in the Americas & Asia
• US achieved global acclaim as power broker & international player
• Since TR, Presidents used foreign policy to strengthen presidential power