Some kind, anonymous soul picked up my bag off the street and delivered it to my office, meaning that I didn’t have to buy another copy of Herring’s From Colony to Superpower. Thank you! And so we return to the series at chapter 9, which covers the Roosevelt and Taft administrations, the Great White Fleet, the Roosevelt Corollary, and so forth. See Erik’s commentary first.
Imperial consolidation is the motivating concept of the chapter; the United States consolidated control over both its formal empire (Philippines, Caribbean, South Pacific), and its informal imperial interests in Latin America and Asia. The United States also undertook the modernization and professionalization of its diplomatic corps. This helped the United States achieve a number of notable diplomatic successes, including Roosevelt’s brokering of the Russo-Japanese War. I think it could be argued that the United States achieved full membership in the European Great Power system under Roosevelt, completing a process that had been initiated nearly a century before.
Herring continues to give short shrift to the independent influence of Alfred Thayer Mahan. I think I would have preferred this account to pay greater attention to the intersections between a foreign policy history of the United States and a military history of the United States. By this I don’t mean more detailed attention to the wars that the United States has undertaken, but rather closer scrutiny on the history of the military organizations, and there relationships both foreign and domestic. They are key foreign policy organs, after all, and the popularity of Mahan (and other figures like him) is important, I think, to analysis of US foreign relations during the Roosevelt period. But then the book is still only half over, and I’ll be particularly curious to see how Herring treats the “globalization” of US military power after 1945.
US intervention in the Russo-Japanese War is interesting for several reasons. As discussed earlier, the United States and Imperial Russia maintained unusually cordial relations in the nineteenth century. These relations began to deteriorate as US foreign policy took a more overtly ideological tint, and as American Jews became increasingly concerned with the plight of Eastern European Jews living under Russian governance. While it would be wrong to suggest that Roosevelt and the larger elite foreign policy establishment were unmoved by the plight of Russian Jewry, the primary concerns weren’t precisely altruistic; Americans worried that continued repression of Russian Jews would lead to mass emigration to the United States. Nevertheless, it’s kind of interesting that, given the hysteria that greeted the possibility of Japanese Pacific expansion, US policy on the war was relatively even-handed. Herring suggests that Roosevelt may have been more personally impressed by the Japanese than by the Russians.