The Roosevelt Corollary was an addition to the Monroe Doctrine articulated by President Theodore Roosevelt in his State of the Union address in 1904 after the Venezuela Crisis of 1902–1903. The corollary states that the United States will intervene in conflicts between the European countries and Latin American countries to enforce legitimate claims of the European powers, rather than having the Europeans press their claims directly.
Roosevelt tied his policy to the Monroe Doctrine, and it was also consistent with his foreign policy included in his Big Stick Diplomacy. Roosevelt stated that in keeping with the Monroe Doctrine, the United States was justified in exercising "international police power" to put an end to chronic unrest or wrongdoing in the Western Hemisphere. While the Monroe Doctrine had sought to prevent European intervention, the Roosevelt Corollary was used to justify US intervention throughout the hemisphere. In 1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt renounced interventionism and established his Good Neighbor policy for the Western Hemisphere.
The Roosevelt Corollary was articulated in the aftermath of the Venezuela Crisis of 1902–1903. In late 1902, Britain, Germany, and Italy imposed a naval blockade of several months against Venezuela after President Cipriano Castro refused to pay foreign debts and damages suffered by European people in a recent Venezuelan civil war. The dispute was referred to an international court for arbitration, which concluded on 22 February 1904 that the blockading powers involved in the Venezuela Crisis were entitled to preferential treatment in the payment of their claims. This left a number of other countries which did not take military action, including the United States, with no recourse. The U.S. disagreed with the outcome in principle, and feared it would encourage future European intervention to gain such advantage. To preclude European intervention, in December the Roosevelt Corollary asserted a right of the United States to intervene in order to "stabilize" the economic affairs of small states in the Caribbean and Central America if they were unable to pay their international debts.
Content of Corollary
Roosevelt's annual message on December 6, 1904, to Congress declared:
All that this country desires is to see the neighboring countries stable, orderly, and prosperous. Any country whose people conduct themselves well can count upon our hearty friendship. 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.
While the Monroe Doctrine had warned European powers to keep their hands off countries in the Americas, President Roosevelt was now saying that "since the United States would not permit the European powers to lay their hands on, he had an obligation to do so himself. In short, he would intervene to keep them from intervening."
Though the Roosevelt Corollary was an addition to the Monroe Doctrine, it could also be seen as a departure. While the Monroe Doctrine said European countries should stay out of Latin America, the Roosevelt Corollary took this further to say the United States had the right to exercise military force in Latin American countries to keep European countries out. Historian Walter LaFeber wrote:
[Roosevelt] essentially turns the Monroe Doctrine on its head and says the Europeans should stay out, but the United States has the right, under the doctrine, to go in to exercise police power to keep the Europeans out of the way. It is a very nice twist on the Monroe Doctrine, and of course, it becomes very, very important because over the next 15 to 20 years, the United States will move into Latin America about a dozen times with military force, to the point where the United States Marines become known in the area as "State Department Troops" because they are always moving in to protect State Department interests and State Department policy in the Caribbean. So what Roosevelt does here, by redefining the Monroe Doctrine, turns out to be very historical, and it leads the United States into a period of confrontation with peoples in the Caribbean and Central America, that was an imperative part of American imperialism.
Roosevelt first used the Corollary to act in the Dominican Republic in 1904, which at the time was severely indebted and becoming a failed state. The United States dispatched two warships and demanded the customs house be turned over to U.S. negotiators, who then used a percentage of the proceeds to pay foreign creditors. This model—in which United State advisors worked to stabilize Latin American nations through temporary protectorates, staving off European action—became known as "dollar diplomacy". The Dominican experiment, like most other "dollar diplomacy" arrangements, proved temporary and untenable, and the United States launched a larger military intervention in 1916 and lasted to 1924.:371–4
U.S. Presidents also cited the Roosevelt Corollary as justification for U.S. intervention in Cuba (1906–1909), Nicaragua (1909–1910, 1912–1925 and 1926–1933), Haiti (1915–1934), and the Dominican Republic (1916–1924).
Shift to the "Good Neighbor" policy
In 1928, President Calvin Coolidge issued the Clark Memorandum, often seen as a partial repudiation of the Roosevelt Corollary, which stated that the US did not have the right to intervene when there was a threat by European powers. Herbert Hoover also helped to move the US away from the imperialist tendencies of the Roosevelt Corollary by going on good-will tours, withdrawing troops from Nicaragua and Haiti, and abstaining from intervening in the internal affairs of neighboring countries.
In 1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt further renounced interventionism and established his "Good Neighbor policy" that led to the annulment of the Platt Amendment by the Treaty of Relations with Cuba in 1934, and the negotiation of compensation for Mexico's nationalization of foreign-owned oil assets in 1938. Indeed, leaving unchallenged the emergence of dictatorships like that of Fulgencio Batista in Cuba, Rafael Leonidas Trujillo in the Dominican Republic, Anastasio Somoza in Nicaragua, and François Duvalier in Haiti were each considered to be "Frankenstein dictators" due to the mishandlings of the American occupations in the countries.
In 1954, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles invoked the Monroe Doctrine and the Roosevelt Corollary at the Tenth Pan-American Conference in Caracas, denouncing the intervention of Soviet communism in Guatemala. This was used to justify Operation PBSUCCESS that deposed the democratically-elected President Jacobo Árbenz and installed the military regime of Carlos Castillo Armas, the first in a series of military dictators in the country.
The argument made by Mitchener and Weidenmier in 2006 in support of the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine has been criticized on the grounds that it "represent[s] the one-sided approach that some scholars bring to the study of imperialistic and hegemonic interventions and also highlight how arguments for the general utility of imperialism are increasingly made and accepted." Christopher Coyne and Stephen Davies argue that a foreign policy modeled on the Roosevelt Corollary leads to negative consequences both in national security terms and in terms of its effect on domestic politics.
Critics, such as Noam Chomsky, have argued that the Roosevelt Corollary was merely a more explicit imperialist threat, building on the Monroe Doctrine, indicating that the US would not only intervene in defense of South America in the face of European imperialism but also use its muscle to obtain concessions and privileges for American corporations. Serge Ricard of the University of Paris goes even further and states that the Roosevelt Corollary was not merely an addendum to the earlier Monroe Doctrine through which the US pledged to protect the Americas from European imperialist interventions. Rather, the Roosevelt Corollary was "an entirely new diplomatic tenet that epitomized his 'big stick' approach to foreign policy." In other words, while the Monroe Doctrine sought to bar entry to the European empires, the Roosevelt Corollary announced the United States intention to take their place.
- History of the United States (1865–1918)
- United States territorial acquisitions
- New Imperialism
- Dollar Diplomacy
- Big Stick ideology
- Drago Doctrine
- Bush Doctrine
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