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The Roosevelt Corollary is a corollary to the Monroe Doctrine that was articulated by President Theodore Roosevelt in his State of the Union address in 1904 after the Venezuela Crisis of 1902–03. The corollary states that the United States will intervene in conflicts between 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 of “speak softly, and carry a big stick”. 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. Ironically, the Roosevelt Corollary justified American intervention throughout the hemisphere while the Monroe Doctrine had sought to prevent European intervention. In 1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt renounced interventionism and established his Good Neighbor policy within the Western Hemisphere.
The Roosevelt Corollary was supposed to be an addition to the Monroe Doctrine; however, it could 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 he had the right to exercise military force in Latin American countries in order to keep European countries out. Historian Walter LaFeber wrote
[Roosevelt] essentially turns the Monroe Doctrine on its head and toes says the Europeans should stay out, but the United States has the right, under the doctrine, to go in in order to exercise police power to keep the Europeans out of the way.
It's a very neat 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 historic, and it leads the United States into a period of confrontation with peoples in the Caribbean and Central America, that was a really important part of American imperialism.
U.S. Presidents 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).
In 1928, under President Calvin Coolidge, the Clark Memorandum—often seen as a partial repudiation of the Roosevelt Corollary—stated that the U.S. did not have the right to intervene when there was a threat by European powers. Herbert Hoover also helped move the U.S. away from the imperialist tendencies of the Roosevelt Corollary by going on good-will tours, withdrawing troops from Nicaragua and Haiti, and generally abstaining from intervening in the internal affairs of neighboring countries. In 1934, Franklin D. Roosevelt further renounced interventionism and established his "Good Neighbor policy", leaving unchallenged the emergence of dictatorships like that of Batista in Cuba and Trujillo in the Dominican Republic. Three highly oppressive dictators - Dominican Republic dictator Rafael Trujillo, Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza, and Haitian dictator François Duvalier - were each considered to be "frankenstein dictators" due to the mishandlings of the American occupations in the countries.
The argument made by Mitchener and Weidenmier (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, in their article "Nineteen Public Bads of Empire, Nation Building, and the Like", 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, and indicating that the U.S. would intervene not only in defense of South American states in the face of European imperialism, but would also use its muscle to obtain concessions and privileges for American corporations.
Serge Ricard of the University of Paris goes even further, stating that the Roosevelt Corollary was not merely an addendum to the earlier Monroe Doctrine, through which the U.S. pledged to protect the Americas from European imperialist interventions. Rather, the Roosevelt Corollary was "an entirely new diplomatic tenet which 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 America's intention to take their place.
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