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Chapter Fifteen. The Global Strategist: The Navy as the Nation's Big Stick

Carl Cavanagh Hodge

Subject History » Maritime History
Political History » Diplomacy and International Relations

Place Americas » Northern America

Period 1000 - 1999

People Roosevelt, Theodore

Key-Topics commerce, peace, trade, war

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781444331400.2011.00017.x


With the appointment in 1897 of Theodore Roosevelt as Assistant Secretary of the Navy in the new administration of William McKinley, “there strode noisily upon the national stage a man who was to dominate American naval development for nearly a generation” ( Sprout 1939 , 225). This statement, worthy of direct quotation for its economy in noting both the personality and stature of TR, is in fact something of an understatement. As public servant and president, TR's ultimate legacy to the foreign policy of the United States was to hasten the nation's emergence as a great power while articulating in a compelling fashion the reasoning behind it. The wartime presidencies of Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt were to be influenced profoundly by the commitments made between 1897 and 1909, in the latter case with the result that the Pacific Ocean became in 1945 an “American lake” ( Costello 1982 , 602). TR's vision was nothing if not coherent; what makes him rare among presidents is his understanding of the international circumstances of his time and his willingness to be every inch the political animal in using sea power to end the nation's adolescence of virtuous isolation. Sea power is here defined as “the ability to use the seas and oceans for military or commercial purposes and to preclude an enemy from the same” ( Gray 1992 , 4). Presidents before TR had been aware of the implications ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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