America's Foreign Policies - Essay Example

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Americas Foreign Policies
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HERE] HERE] AND NUMBER HERE] HERE] America Abroad: The Foreign Policies of Roosevelt, Taft, and Wilson In the late 1800s, the United States of America did not have very much to do with affairs outside of its own borders. The Civil War had ended years before, though the Reconstruction of the South had taken long and bitter years to achieve, and there was still no racial equality in the country. There was little to no interest in being involved with anything that did not directly involve the country. The nation was producing well economically, with twice the output of its nearest competitor, which was Great Britain (Mintz). Diplomatically and militarily, however, was a different situation. Both the army and navy were less than 30,000 troops separately, and being situated in the midst of weak or friendly nations, no thought was given to building up an armed force for any reason (Mintz). Americans also felt badly towards expanding any holdings abroad, as the popular sentiment was that it went against the democracy that the country held dear to its heart, even more than a hundred years after winning it (Mintz). That changed, however, when European powers towards the end of the century started acquiring overseas holdings themselves, eventually becoming rulers of a fifth of the world between 1870 and 1900 (Mintz). Fearing that the United States would one day be left with nothing but the country that it had already started, sentiment changed to allow overseas diplomacy and dealings, which were brought to the forefront by the foreign policies of President Theodore Roosevelt, President William Howard Taft, and President Woodrow Wilson. Though these three had sometimes radically different views on how to handle different situations with respect to countries around the world, it cannot be denied that all had a hand in shaping the United States as a world power by the early 1920s.
Theodore Roosevelt came into the presidency believing, in a way, that America was not enough for America. He believed that the United States should expand its presence in foreign countries and territories, and had a strongly “imperialistic philosophy” about where the nation stood, and should stand, in the world (“American Experience”). Despite being a diplomat who was more than capable of brokering any negotiation through words, Roosevelt believed that the nation should be ready to fight to protect its own interests above everyone else, and supported war in order to make his point to other countries about the greatness of America (“American Experience”). This can be seen in his main ambition while in office, which was to build a canal that would link the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. When negotiations with Columbia broke down that would mean the end of this project, Roosevelt supported a revolution behind the scenes that caused the emergence of Panama, who rapidly agreed to leasing terms for a “canal zone” (“American Experience”). Roosevelt did much in his time as President to protect and further the interests of America on foreign soil, and would not be deferred from his opinion that war, when necessary, could prove an admirable thing to prove a point.
Like his good friend Roosevelt, President Taft believed that America should protect its interests overseas. However, the two had different means of reaching the same end. Taft believed that the way of protection was clear through commerce, and not war (Hodge and Nolan 202). Ironically, Taft had been elected to carry on the work of Roosevelt; however, he found much of his early time spent simply soothing wounds in other countries caused by Roosevelt and his warlike attitude (Hodge and Nolan 202). Taft made it his top policy to influence American interests abroad like Roosevelt, but his wish was to do so by means of expanding economic interests and influencing trade, not an overt military presence or by sending in troops (Hodge and Nolan 203). Eventually, his policy became known as “Substituting Dollars for Bullets” (Hodge and Nolan 203). While in the beginning of his Presidency this idea worked, it soon became apparent that Taft would state that his policies were one thing while doing another altogether (Hodge and Nolan 206-207). For example, Taft met with Mexican President Porfirio Diaz in Mexico and exchanged diplomacies, but a year later refused to intervene in the arrest of a Mexican revolutionary buying and selling arms on United States soil, going so far as to send troops when a revolution in Mexico was imminent (Hodge and Nolan 207). Though he did manage several successful arbitrations throughout his presidency, including that of a border dispute between Peru and Ecuador, Taft left office more remembered for failure than for success (Hodge and Nolan 209). Despite all of his promises to maintain peaceful trade interests instead of a warlike mindset, in the end, such ideals simply did not work.
President Woodrow Wilson, like Taft, believed that peaceful solutions should be made to situations, but unlike the previous two presidents before him, he believed that the moral grounds rather than material loss or gain came first. While Taft and Roosevelt based their policies on interests that would benefit the United States materially and economically, Wilson held to a moral stance in his, refusing to have any dealings with a government that was not a “just government”, or a government that was truly behind its people (Clements). Dictatorships, butchery, and other forms of oppression did not qualify to Wilson as a “just government” (Clements). This was sorely put to the test with the outbreak of World War I; eventually, the United States had to enter, breaking the neutrality that Wilson prized, though he made clear to the people that the objective in entering the war was to further democracy throughout the world, and not to needlessly slaughter the enemy (Clements). His main contributions to foreign policy came after the war, however, when he gave his “Fourteen Points” speech to Congress, in which he called for an absolute end to secret treaties, the dismantling of colonial holdings, and free trade on the open ocean (Clements). Most importantly, he called for a great League of Nations, an alliance among many countries that would oversee the things that he proposed (Clements). This is perhaps the greatest example of his feelings on foreign diplomacy. Unfortunately, like Taft with his feelings on world commerce and diplomacy, the world was simply not ready for such ideals, and Wilson did not achieve even a portion of what he set out to do (Clements). He was in fact pulled into a secret alliance himself at Versailles that split Germany into four parts, and although he did get his wishes to form a League of Nations, the treaty that he was forced to present to America bore no resemblance to the treaty he so wished to have (Clements). Wilson left office bitter and angry at himself and the way that things after World War I had been handled, though more remembered for success than failure, and with the major achievement of the League of Nations to his credit, which made the United States a world power among many other countries.
From the late 1800s to the early 1920s, the United States rose in power from just another nation to a country with a seat at a world alliance, the League of Nations. While the presidencies of Roosevelt, Taft, and Wilson are all highlighted with different mindsets, policies, and situations, it cannot be denied that through their work and various views, the United States was started on the long road to gaining power, influence, and respect among the countries of the world.
Works Cited
Clements, Kendrick. "Woodrow Wilson: Foreign Affairs.“American Presidents: A Reference Resource.” The Miller Center, 2012. Web. 18 Mar 2012.
Hodge, Carl Cavanaugh, and Cathal J. Nolan. U.S. Presidents and Foreign Policy: From 1789 to Present. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2007. 201-209. Print.
Mintz, Steven. Digital History. Houston: University of Houston, 2007. eBook.
 “Teddy Roosevelt: Foreign Affairs.” The American Experience. WGBH Educational Foundation, 2010. Web. 17 Mar 2012. Read More
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