While the primary aim of both was to increase American influence as a world power, Roosevelt’s foreign policy initiatives succeeded more than did Wilson’s. Roosevelt’s imperialist tendencies manifested themselves most strongly when he attempted to gain the right to build a canal in Central America which would help to connect sea routes between the East and West coasts.
When the Colombian government balked at granting permission for the United States to build a canal, Roosevelt used money and a naval blockade to support a revolution in Panama, which would later be the site of the canal; the new country of Panama readily allowed the construction of the canal, also giving the United States perpetual control over the canal for $10 million and relatively small annual payments in the Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty of 1903.
Another example of Roosevelt’s imperialism was the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, which stated that the United States was allowed to intervene in any Latin American country which had serious economic issues to “preserve their stability. ” With the Platt Amendment, Roosevelt also limited the newly independent Cuba’s autonomy and self-government. These policies were designed to increase America’s direct influence in Latin America.
Wilson’s idealism led to his direct interference in revolutions in Latin American countries, including Nicaragua and Haiti. Although he was eager to encourage democracy and self-determination, he ended up occupying several countries by force in order to prevent tyranny. His greatest challenge, however, came from Mexico. His denouncement of Dictator General Huerta led to his support of rebels under Venustiano Carranza, but after Carranza became Mexico’s new president in 1915, one of his generals, Pancho Villa, led another revolution.
Villa encouraged the American military to enter the conflict when he sent his troops into New Mexico, killing nineteen American soldiers. Wilson was reluctant to enter into war with Mexico, and after two clashes between American and Mexican forces, Carranza petitioned for mediation and reached an agreement with Wilson in early 1917. Wilson’s attempts to promote democracy in Latin America thus did not entirely succeed. Roosevelt’s foreign policy aims were less broad than were Wilson’s.
The former’s focus on areas which directly impacted America generally succeeded, while the latter’s attempts to achieve his more sweeping goal of world peace were impeded by his inability to persuade Congress. Ironically, despite his less global outlook, Roosevelt won a Nobel Prize for Peace for an initially secret mediation in 1905 which ended the Russo-Japanese War; Wilson was unable to realize his dream of global peace and was criticized rather than lauded for it.
Ultimately, Roosevelt’s foreign policy initiatives succeeded more than did Wilson’s, since Roosevelt did not directly contradict the isolationist spirit of the era. Although the two presidents acted mainly in different areas of the world, Roosevelt in Latin America and Wilson in Europe, with contrasting results and seemingly differing aims, their underlying motive was the same: to promote American influence as a world power.