Last week, President Obama delivered a speech in Osawatomie, Kansas, the same town where Theodore Roosevelt gave his “New Nationalism” speech in 1910. New Yorker columnist John Cassidy described this speech as Obama finding his voice and defining his theme for the 2012 election:
This is Obama seeking to define the themes he intends to run on next year, to energize his disillusioned base, and to capitalize on a big change in the political climate. Teddy Roosevelt, whose famous “New Nationalism” speech in 1910 called upon the three branches of the federal government to put the public welfare before the interests of money and property, merely provided a convenient framing device.
Yet the Roosevelt that Obama attached himself to in Osawatomie is the one who unveiled the radical anti-corporate philosophy that broke him from the Republican Party. Roosevelt famously declared, “Our public men must be genuinely progressive.”
However, for those of us who are still struggling to remove the colonial yoke placed upon us by Roosevelt, Obama’s new fondness for Roosevelt is not a positive sign.
Roosevelt held to lifelong beliefs in Aryan supremacy. This ideology informed his outlook on the duty of the U.S. to occupy and “civilize” places like Puerto Rico, Hawai’i, Guam and the Philippines. When he was Secretary of the Navy, Roosevelt advocated for the occupation of Hawai’i in order for the U.S. to acquire a military base with which to traverse the Pacific ocean. Steeped in the writings of Frederick Jackson Turner and Capt. Afred Thayer Mahan, Roosevelt sought to win domestic peace and prosperity through an imperialist strategy. It seems that Obama is attempting the same.
Obama’s recent high profile foreign policy ‘pivot’ to the Pacific and emphasis on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement are reminiscent of President Teddy Roosevelt’s “Imperial Cruise” of 1905. In that year he wrote: “Our future history will be more determined by our position on the Pacific facing China than by our position on the Atlantic facing Europe.”
Roosevelt believed that Japanese people were sufficiently similar to Europeans in intelligence and character that they could be considered ‘honorary’ Aryans. He negotiated a secret Taft-Katsura agreement with the Empire of Japan allowing Japan to invade and annex Korea and north eastern China while the U.S. annexed Hawai’i, Guam and the Philippines. Roosevelt’s policy decisions set off a chain of historical events that led to a number of catastrophic consequences, one of them was World War II.
Let’s not be distracted by Obama’s populist rhetoric so that we fail to challenge his imperialist foreign policies that are increasing the level of danger and negative impacts for peoples in the Asia and Pacific region.