What was Theodore Roosevelt's policy of Big Stick diplomacy?


Quick Answer

Theodore Roosevelt's Big Stick ideology is a form of realpolitik focused on the idea of preemptive, considered military action and on bolstering peaceful negotiations with an implicit threat of inexorable military force. Roosevelt attributed the quote "speak softly, and carry a big stick" to a West African proverb.

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Full Answer

Big Stick ideology bears many similarities to Machiavellian ideals of pursuing power as its own end. It combines ideas of blunt negotiation and the cultivation of an aggressive image through global military presence and a willingness to engage in war.

Big Stick ideology rests on precepts, which include:

  • A masculine posture of strength in silence
  • A willingness to act on forethought
  • An expansionist mindset

Big Stick ideology factored strongly into many of Roosevelt's actions in foreign policy during his presidency, including the Venezuelan Affair of 1902, the construction of the Panama Canal and other major world events. It led to imperialist actions such as the effective seizure of the Philippine Islands by the United States Navy and Army and to multiple hostile and coercive interactions between Cuba and the United States.

Because Big Stick ideology focuses so closely on the maintenance of a powerful military and on a willingness to act in preventative rather than responsive ways, it has shaped the international environment heavily.

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