Document: Theodore Roosevelt: The Threat of Japan, 1909 [At Mt. Holyoke]
For my history assignment, I chose the document “Theodore Roosevelt’s The Threat of Japan”. After the Meiji Restoration in 1868, modernization took place, bringing Japan to the height of power equivalent to a western power after defeating both China and Russia. United States was maintaining its policy of isolationism but was slowly transitioning to self interest imperialism, keeping control over countries with economic benefit such as open door policy with China. A summary of this article would be Roosevelt’s changing ideas of how US should change their foreign policy with regard to the dynamic change in the balance of world powers in 1909. My essay shall first examine the supporting points of the documents including the credibility of the source, reasons why Japan is a threat and immigration problems. Opposing points to mention would be that the document may be affect by the mentality of white’s men supremacy. All things considered, I largely agree with the source and President Roosevelt’s analysis of Japan as a threat.
Paragraph 1: Credibility of source
The document is a primary source, written by Theodore Roosevelt himself at the point of time to Senator Knox, giving original evidence in light to our argument. I have two considerations with regard to the source’s credibility, the credentials of the author and the timeliness of the events. Theodore Roosevelt as the 26th president of the United States, have he assumed positions at the city, state, and federal levels before elected as president and was also awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. As he has a reputation to uphold alongside his prestigious titles, there is less likeliness of him to be bias in his reports. The documented concerns give factual material in line with the events happening at that point of time. It is true that “Japan has formidable military power” and “considered themselves to be on a full equality” after their victory in the Russo-Japanese war in 1904-1905. There was also an immigration problem of Japanese “flocking by the hundred thousand into the US” and California legislature threatens to pass 17 anti-Japanese measures in 1909. As the source is based on much concrete evidence as cross referenced with the timeline of events, I can claim that this document is credible to a large extent.
Paragraph 2: Japan as a threat
At the start of the 20th century, Japan came to be pictured as a political menace against United States, and her immigrants had been seen as a threat to American institution and economic security. Her victory in the Sino-Japanese War and Russo-Japanese War forced Roosevelt to see Japan as an equal. Meiji restoration where Japan combined Western advances with their own traditional values subsequently adopting modernization and military conscription. They view themselves as being encroached by foreigners under the unequal treaty system of the United States thus justifying Japan’s expansionistic intents. Examples would be Japan forcing its way through the Northeast China through the ownership of South Manchurian railway and formal control of Manchuria inherited from Russia. In the event of Portsmouth Treaty and the renewal of the Anglo-Japanese alliance in 1905, Japan used this chance to claim interest in Korea.
Roosevelt acknowledged Japan’s military capabilities and is cautious when dealing with them. His famous “Big Stick Diplomacy” can be seen as he uses the concept of speaking softly, engaging in peaceful negotiation while having a “big stick”, a strong military. This is evident in the statement “treat Japan courteously that she will not be offended more than necessary” and constantly emphasizing the need of “keeping the Navy at the highest point of efficiency.” Roosevelt stressed harshly upon the need that the Navy needs to be strong in order to firstly keep Japan at bay through deterrence theory and secondly able to...
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