The Latin American Policy of Warren G. Harding

The Latin American Policy of Warren G. Harding

The Latin American Policy of Warren G. Harding

The Latin American Policy of Warren G. Harding

Excerpt

The heritage left to Harding by the previous administration's policies toward Latin America was one of overcommitment, stemming from an aggressive altruism and a prolonged crusading mentality. These handmaidens of domestic Progressivism caused considerable resentment throughout the rest of the hemisphere. The American crusading spirit was born in the fervor of the Spanish American War and accelerated under Theodore Roosevelt's administration. The United States gratuitously assumed the role of "Big Brother," with a consequent attitude of superiority toward Latin America. The domestic reform urge of Progressivism was projected abroad, taking on the quality of a hemispheric crusade to spread forcibly the beneficence of American civilization and democracy. Throughout the Progressive Era the United States had expanded southward, occupying various nations in the Caribbean region, either as outright annexations or as temporary protectorates. A slight change in rationale for this aggressive American behavior had occurred under Woodrow Wilson, but despite his pious justifications, he directed landings in several Caribbean countries and attempted to exert influence over others. Although Wilson rationalized his actions through moralistic rhetoric, Latin Americans considered his seemingly new policy merely a continuation of the old. In their view intervention was intervention, regardless of the justification offered.

As American opinion shifted, the Latin American policy of the United States became increasingly entangled in partisan politics. Republicans excoriated Wilson's handling of the Mexican situation, with Charles Evans Hughes focusing sharp attention on it during his unsuccessful bid for the presidency in 1916. During the 1920 presidential campaign Harding broadened the attack, criticizing not only Mexican policy but also Wilson's interventions in the Caribbean.

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