How Teddy Roosevelt started the chain of events that led to Pearl Harbor. Retweet
I’m reviewing U.S. military history in the run-up to Veterans Day on November 10. I hope to persuade you of three points…
- Our “patriotic holidays” need to honor soldiers without mischaracterizing U.S. wars.
- The claim that U.S. soldiers “defended our freedom” is sweet-sounding but false. Freedom may be what our soldiers wanted to defend, but that’s not how our politicians actually used them.
- We must restrict the ability of politicians to wage war.
As you read what follows please remember this point — I’m not blaming America for anything, but I am blaming U.S. politicians for lots of things. And ask yourself the following questions about each war…
- Did it defend America?
- Did it protect freedom?
- Did it make the world better?
My previous article reviewed the major foreign wars of the 19th Century — the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Spanish-American War, and the Philippines War. My verdict was harshly negative. None of those wars defended the country or freedom. They were wars of conquest. And the Spanish and Philippines wars, in particular, made the world worse, not better. Now we’ll move into the 20th Century, starting with a little-known episode that justifies asking the following question…
Did Teddy Roosevelt co-found the Japanese Empire?
Related to this question is another — Did Teddy Roosevelt (TR) plant the seeds that eventually led to Pearl Harbor, North Korea, and Mao’s China? The evidence says, “Yes!” The story is told by several historians. Jim Powell gives a good overview of Teddy’s career as a military gangster in Chapter 2 of his book “Bully Boy.” Powell shows that TR…
- Loved war (until his own son died in one)
- Conspired to spark the Spanish-American War in order to build a U.S. empire
- Waged a war of conquest in the Philippines where torture, rape, and murder were used as “military tactics” to subdue the populace
The same ground is covered in more detail in “Honor in the Dust” by Gregg Jones, and in “The War Lovers” by Evan Thomas. But James Bradley takes the case against Teddy even further in his book “The Imperial Cruise.” Bradley uses primary sources to show that TR…
- Subscribed to the same racist Aryan theory that would later animate the Nazis
- Believed that it was the right and duty of Aryans to conquer darker people
- Foreshadowed Hitler by adopting the Japanese as honorary Aryans (Bradley, chapter 6).
- Proposed a Japanese “Monroe Doctrine” for the Western Pacific and encouraged Japan to conquer an empire in that area (Bradley chapter 8).
But Teddy went one crucial step further. He offered up Korea as Japan’s first imperial victim (Bradley, chapter 12). On November 28, 1905, TR closed the U.S. embassy in Korea and turned it over to Japan (page 313). Japan then invaded and conquered Korea. You should remember November 28, 1905 the same way you remember December 7th, 1941 — both are days of infamy, and one leads to the other. Let’s make the connections and count the costs…
- TR’s murderous conquest of the Philippines gave the Japanese an imperial model to emulate. His actions also robbed the U.S. of the moral high ground. We could no longer consistently oppose empire building.
- TR’s proposal of a Japanese “Monroe Doctrine” for the Western Pacific morphed into what the Japanese later called their Greater Asia Co-prosperity Sphere. That was Japan’s euphemistic name for their blood-drenched conquests.
- TR’s betrayal of Korea essentially co-founded the Japanese empire. It also created a mainland base to support Japan’s later invasion of China. Japan’s aggression against China then led to FDR’s eventual retaliation against Japan which then led to Pearl Harbor and a greatly expanded World War 2.
- The way U.S. politicians then fought World War 2 caused the creation of North Korea and Red China, leading to millions of deaths.
Does TR deserve the primary blame for all these calamities? No, Japanese politicians bear far greater responsibility. But TR made a huge negative contribution. Sadly, many people will try to excuse TR on the grounds that most people back then were racist and militarist. But in fact, 250,000 Americans*, including luminaries like Mark Twain and former President Grover Cleveland, joined together in the Anti-imperialist League to fight against TR’s crimes. This shows that many people from that era could tell the difference between right and wrong. If they could, then Teddy could too. He simply chose to do evil instead.
Bottomline: Teddy Roosevelt’s wars and interventions did not defend America or freedom. They did not make the world a better place. They made the world profoundly worse, setting in motion events that would later slaughter millions of people. Now imagine a world where…
- U.S. politicians set a good example for the Japanese by not conquering an empire
- Teddy Roosevelt did not encourage Japan to create its own empire
- Teddy Roosevelt did encourage Japan to be peaceful
- Teddy Roosevelt did not betray Korea
- The Japanese did not conquer Korea or invade China
- There was no Pearl Harbor attack, and no North Korea or Red China
Would you rather live in that world, or the world Teddy Roosevelt helped create?
We’ll continue with the wars of the 20th Century starting with the next article in this series. If you find these articles valuable, please share them with others. Start a conversation about the correct way to honor veterans and the war dead. We believe it should be possible to honor their courage and mourn their loss, without telling lies about how the political class misused them. And if you’re new to our work, and you like what you see, please subscribe using the form near the bottom of our homepage! It’s free!
Co-founder, Downsize DC
Co-creator, Zero Aggression Project
P.S. The next article will review U.S. involvement in World War 1. Here is the list of books we’ve consulted so far in this series. If you buy these books using the links below, we’ll get credits we can use to expand our research library. Thank you for your interest and support.
NOTE: The figure of 250,000 members of the Anti-imperialist League comes from Johnson, Robert David. “Anti-Imperialism.” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of American History. 2015-10-05. Oxford University Press.