The Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine called for the United States to act as an international police power in any conflicts that might occur between European Countries and countries of the Western Hemisphere.
It was seen by Theodore Roosevelt as a logical sequel to the Monroe Doctrine, which made bold claims but did not obligate the US to support them. Despite having been temporarily replaced with the Good Neighbor Policy in 1934-1945, this doctrine has its significance a part of what the current United States foreign policy was built upon.
The Monroe Doctrine demanded the European nations withhold from colonizing or otherwise increasing their influence on the independent countries of the new world but was fairly passive in its nature. This seemed reasonable when the doctrine was established in 1823, and the US could not actively enforce this policy.
However, at the beginning of the 20th century, the United States army and navy were perfectly capable of preventing or stopping a European invasion. Theodore Roosevelt stated in the Corollary that such a strong attitude could only be assumed if there is sufficient force to back it up.
The United States used the Corollary to exert military action in Latin America many times in the two decades following its emergence, but the first intervention took place in the Dominican Republic in 1904. At the time, the country was in severe debt, and the US saw the possibility of a European invasion, so it sent two warships to stabilize the situation.
The American forces seized control of the customs house and directed its income to pay the Republic’s debt. This, and other temporary protectorate experiments, also known as “dollar diplomacy,” did not prove to be effective and were later phased out by large-scale military operations.
While the stated intent of the Roosevelt Corollary was “to see the neighboring countries stable, orderly, and prosperous,” it was criticized for being one-sided, imperialistic, and a detriment to national security. Critics state that while the Corollary was meant to prevent Latin American countries from European influence, the US intended to subject the region to its own imperialistic actions instead.
Understanding that, President Calvin Coolidge stated in his Clark Memorandum of 1928 that the US had no right to intervene in case of a potential European invasion. President Franklin D. Roosevelt then discarded the Corollary and introduced the Good Neighbor Policy of 1934. After that, the US did not involve itself in local conflicts until the start of the Cold War in 1945, when it felt that Soviet influence was threatening enough to justify a more proactive foreign policy.
The Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine was an epitome of the big stick policy that prevalent in the United States at that time. Despite being a development of a non-imperialistic doctrine, it essentially inversed the original message, allowing the US to take whatever action it deemed necessary anywhere in the western hemisphere.
Moreover, the criteria by which the US decided that an intervention is required were vague and could be interpreted in a way that would fit almost any country in Latin America. The use of this policy in cases that had little to do with its original intent was so frequent that it affected the United States’ relations with neighboring countries. Some citizens of those countries even began calling the US Marines “State Department Troops,” because they always claimed to be defending the interests of the State Department.