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Chapter Five. Preparedness and Defense: The Origins of Theodore Roosevelt's Strategy for the United States on the International Stage

J. Simon Rofe


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Shortly after taking up his post as Assistant Secretary of the Navy in the spring of 1897, TR responded to a request from the Naval War College for a “special problem for the Staff and Class.” Roosevelt's brief response was underpinned by his strategic outlook: that the United States was destined to play a pivotal role in international affairs and that this relied upon strong naval capacity. He expressed these thoughts – that the navy needed to be fully prepared to defend vital interests – in responding to Captain Caspar Goodrich's request, stating: Special Confidential Problem for War College: Japan makes demands on Hawaiian Islands. This country intervenes. What force will be necessary to uphold the intervention, and how shall it be employed? Keeping in mind possible complication with another Power on the Atlantic Coast (Cuba). (TR to Captain Caspar Goodrich, 28 May 1897, in Brands 2007, 137) While the specific territories of Hawaii on the one hand, and Cuba on the other, would continue to occupy Roosevelt's thoughts throughout the rest of his life, the twin themes seen here of the United States acting on the international stage, and the importance of a strong navy as a strategic tool of government, need to be recognized as key elements of TR's outlook long before he became president. This chapter will explore TR's thinking on preparedness and defense in the 1880s and 1890s prior ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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