During the end of his address to Congress in 1823, President James Monroe included a few paragraphs that would become the “cornerstone of American foreign policy.”12 In this address, Monroe’s administration sent a message to European imperial powers warning them against interfering in the Western Hemisphere, specifically in newly independent Latin American nations and potential U.S. territories. In the address Monroe states, “We should consider any attempt on their part to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere as dangerous to our peace and safety.” This diplomatic message also contained economic motivations as the United States sought to limit European economic expansion and increase its own trade and influence in the region.13 Monroe’s speech made it clear that the U.S. would prioritize its role in managing the region’s affairs when he stated, “As a principle in which the rights and interests of the United States are involved, that the American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers.”14 What stands out about this early 19th century policy is how it links the economic interests of the United States with its peace and security, thus setting the stage for economic justifications of future American militarism and expansion. This dominant assumption has been written into U.S. foreign policy for almost two centuries. The United States, through the Doctrine, expresses a paternalistic contradiction in its claim to favor political autonomy of newly independent states while simultaneously asserting its military and economic strength against European imperial powers.
Fast forward to the dawn of the 20th century and Theodore Roosevelt’s decision to double down on Monroe’s policy. Whereas the Department of State’s Office of the Historian describes the Monroe Doctrine as “essentially passive” because “it asked that Europeans not increase their influence or recolonize any part of the Western Hemisphere,” the Roosevelt Corollary resulted from “a more confident United States [who] was willing to take on the role of regional policeman.”15 Not only were the nations of the Western Hemisphere not open to European powers for colonization as stated under the Monroe Doctrine, Roosevelt used his message to Congress in 1904 to assert a more militarized presence and give the U.S. the power to intervene in the economic and political matters of other sovereign nations. Roosevelt’s policy is rooted in the dominant narrative of the existence of “civilized” nations and the preeminence of their obligation to save “uncivilized” nations from themselves. In the Corollary he states, "Chronic wrongdoing, or an impotence which results in a general loosening of the ties of civilized society, may in America, as elsewhere, ultimately require intervention by some civilized nation, and in the Western Hemisphere the adherence of the United States to the Monroe Doctrine may force the United States, however reluctantly, in flagrant cases of such wrongdoing or impotence, to the exercise of an international police power."16