Three important presidents of the United States had a large impact on the world during the Progressive Era. One significant aspect of presidency during that period was foreign policy, and each president had a different approach. Theodore Roosevelt used Big Stick Diplomacy, a policy of negotiating diplomatically first, with a military force to resort to if necessary. William Taft believed in Dollar Diplomacy, or protecting U.S. businesses interests in foreign countries. Woodrow Wilson, the next president, followed Moral Diplomacy, which is also known as Missionary Diplomacy. Moral Diplomacy was the idea of refusing to recognize governments that were not democratic. The success of these strategies varied, and this case, success can be defined as when the benefits of the application of the policy outweigh the negative effects. Roosevelt’s Big Stick Diplomacy had more success than the policies of Taft and Wilson.
Many of the applications of Roosevelt’s policies worked well. The most famous example was the U.S. acquisition of the Panama Canal. When negotiations with Columbia for the land on which the Panama Canal was to be built failed, Roosevelt instigated the creation of the Republic of Panama, and supported their efforts to gain independence from Columbia. Panama then accepted Roosevelt’s offer, and the Panama Canal was built. This is a typical example of Big Stick Diplomacy at work – peaceful negotiation was tried first, and then the U.S. Navy was used to secure the independence of Panama (mtholyoke.edu, 4). While the actions of the U.S. against Columbia were highly controversial, the benefit of the U.S. from the construction of the canal outweighed the negative effects.
Big Stick Diplomacy also worked well in Japan, even though tensions were high. The result of Roosevelt’s policy in Japan was the Root-Takahira Treaty, which was signed at around the same time that the Great White Fleet was near Japan. This shows that while peaceful diplomacy was being used, Roosevelt’s “big stick” was hovering over Japan. The use of this policy was a success, as the exchange lessened the animosity between the two countries, and agreeably solved the issues (u-s-history.com, 1).
The next President, William Taft, used Dollar Diplomacy, which didn’t have nearly as much success. Dollar Diplomacy was used in Nicaragua, which had been an alternate route for the trans-Isthmian canal, an important route for American businesses. Taft wanted to keep the country stable by removing the dictator, so a rebel group was supported by the U.S. Upon achieving their goal, the U.S. made demands of the new government that were very unpopular. Only a few years later, another revolution broke out against the pro-U.S. government (americanforeignrelations.com, 1). The U.S. did not have any substantial gain from the actions taken in Nicaragua, and the problems show how the use of Dollar Diplomacy was unsuccessful.
Another important failure of Dollar Diplomacy occurred in China. Taft tried to force U.S. investment and economic activities in China, following the example of other European powers. The aggressive behavior did not work, and only succeeded in irritating and angering the other European powers (americanforeignrelations.com, 1). Once again, the diminishing good relationships with other powers was not countered by any noteworthy benefits, proving it a failure.
President Woodrow Wilson, following Taft, adopted Moral Diplomacy, which was not as successful as Big Stick Diplomacy either. This became apparent when the U.S. chose to not recognize a revolutionary regime that took power in the Dominican Republic. An election was held at the urging of the U.S., but the winning candidate resigned shortly after, and at this point the U.S. intervened with full military occupation. A U.S. military government ruled until 1924, and hostility against the U.S. steadily increased. This could not be considered a success; the goal was to create a more democratic country, yet a foreign military government resulted. Understandably, hostility towards the U.S. also grew (americanforeignrelations.com, 2)
Another large failure of Wilson’s policies occurred with Mexico, when Victoriano Huerta declared himself a military dictator. Huerta did not agree with the demands the U.S. set for achieving recognition as a government. Wilson found an excuse to invade when a few U.S. sailors were mistakenly arrested in Mexico for a few hours. Huerta resigned shortly afterwards, and Carranza took power. The U.S. recognized Mexico under Carranza, but when Pancho Villa revolted against both Carranza and the U.S., he provoked Wilson to send a small army deep into Mexican territory. This caused unrest in the Mexican government. This shows how Moral Diplomacy in Mexico led to involvement in the Mexican Civil War, and ended with uneasy relations with Mexico (americanforeignrelations.com, 3). There were not any significant benefits to counter the negative effects, so it should not be considered a success.
All three policies resulted in controversial actions, but Roosevelt’s Big Stick Diplomacy was the most successful overall, as it resulted in the most benefits. The other two policies, for the most part, did not prove beneficial to the U.S., but increased hostility. The feelings countries had towards each other were especially important during that time, as they determined the different alliances and hostilities. Alliances were a major cause of World War I. The failure of Wilson’s Moral Diplomacy in Mexico, for example, could have led to the Mexican government taking action against the U.S. upon receiving the Zimmerman telegram.
Roosevelt’s Big Stick Diplomacy, as it was relatively successful, still exists as “Gunboat Diplomacy”. It follows the same principle of displaying military might. A very recent example of the use of Gunboat Diplomacy was the “military drills” of the U.S. and South Korea in August, 2010. Many of these drills are scheduled to take place off the coast of China, and they are actually designed to show China the power of the U.S. military (globalresearch.ca, 1). Other examples of Gunboat Diplomacy that occurred long after Roosevelt’s presidency include the First, Second and Third Taiwan Strait Crisis (Ross, 2). That a form of Big Stick Diplomacy is still being used today shows how successful it was.