Twentieth century saw United States’ policies shifting from domestic to foreign issues. Increasing global issues that affected the country such as war, politics, and economic crisis compelled the United States to formulate more foreign policies that would cushion the country against changing trends of globalization.
During early 20th century, the public evaluated presidential leadership from the nature of domestic policies, but in the mid 20th century, the public used foreign policies to gauge their presidential candidates (Hook 5).
The change in polices from domestic to foreign issues reflects trends in economic and political status of the United States. Before the United States became a super power nation, it had been grappling with domestic issues of poverty, racism, democracy, and radical reforms that would propel the country to achieve world’s status.
Policies formulated shortly before the Second World War by the United States were foreign policies that saw her emerge triumphantly as a super power. Based on the above insights, Theodore Roosevelt had the greatest domestic policies while Franklin Delano Roosevelt had the greatest foreign policies of as United States presidents of the 20th century.
Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909)
At the turn of 20th century, Americans were isolationists for they wanted to resolve their domestic issues before engaging in foreign issues that seemed to have no benefits to their country then.
Theodore Roosevelt became president in time when there were pressing economic issues that involved monopoly by mega companies and exploitation of the poor. To resolve these issues, Theodore Roosevelt advocated for the formulation of radical reforms that would ensure social and economic justice to the Americans.
Theodore Roosevelt believed that social and economic justice were part of critical reforms that the Americans needed to free themselves from bondage of exploitation by the mega companies. Northern Security Company was one of the mega companies in the United States that dealt with railroad transport system and had abused the transport industry by disregarding welfare of the public (Hook 16).
Realizing the abuses, Theodore Roosevelt called for the urgent regulation of the railroad transport system by empowering Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC). Elkins Act and Hepburn Act are two major domestic reforms attributed to Theodore Roosevelt that led to regulation of railroad transport system for the benefit of the public.
In pursuit of social and economic justice, Theodore believed in sustainable use of natural resources for economic growth and benefit to the society. In 1902, there was severe shortage of coal in the United States due to strike of mine employees at Pennsylvania.
Though Theodore Roosevelt had no powers to intervene the stalemate between labor unions and mine owners, he overstepped his mandate to bring sanity in the mining industry. He threatened to seize mines and let the government run them if the mine owners and labor unions were not going to negotiate and settle their differences.
The settlement became a ‘square deal’ where the conflicting parties made fair agreement and this become one of the Theodore Roosevelt’s grand domestic programs. In addition, Roosevelt Theodore made significant efforts in conserving natural resources for he believed in sustainable use of natural resources.
In his domestic policies regarding conservation, he ordered creation of 150 extra natural forests, 18 national museums, 51 wildlife refuges, and 5 national parks Therefore, Theodore Roosevelt was a 20th president who concentrated his policies on domestic issues.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1933-1945)
Franklin Delano Roosevelt became the United States president when Americans were making transition from isolationism to internationalism. Faced with great economic crisis and impending Second World War, Franklin Roosevelt embarked on the formulation of foreign policies that made United States become a super power.
During his first term in office, Franklin Roosevelt counteracted isolationism policies by advocating for new foreign policies that would enhance country’s capacity to cope with threatening worldwide economic crisis.
He formulated Good Neighbor Policy as a way of encouraging lucrative relationship with foreign countries, particularly Latin America, European, and Asian countries. To overcome economic challenges that rocked the country, Franklin Roosevelt mobilized the Congress and signed series of treaties that provided framework for implementation of foreign policies.
During his second and third term in office, Franklin Roosevelt concentrated on foreign policies of war since Second World War was an impending crisis then. To convince isolationists, Roosevelt advocated that the United States government should play a neutral role in mediating international conflicts and wars.
Congress passed a Neutrality Act, which prevented the United States from taking sides, but as build up to the Second World War increased, Franklin Roosevelt recommended to the Congress that the United States should not only play neutral role in bringing peace but must also war against aggressive nations (Hook 12).
Due to threat of Nazis in Europe, Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill signed an agreement of ‘Lend Lease’ and Atlantic Charter that gave the United States powers to support her allies. The foreign policies of war that Franklin Roosevelt advocated propelled the United States to become super power, and it marked the beginning of internationalism.
Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909) and Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1933-1945) are the United Sates presidents who made significant contributions to domestic and foreign policies respectively.
In domestic policies, Theodore Roosevelt demanded regulation of mega companies from exploiting Americans through monopoly, which led to improvement of the railroad transport system as an elaborate economic infrastructure.
Moreover, he advocated for sustainable use of economic resources to meet social and economic demands by settling coalmine strike and carrying out extensive conservation of natural resources. On the other hand, Franklin Roosevelt made his remarkable foreign policies that gave the United States powers to intervene international crisis of economy and war.
His policies bolstered the United States engagement in war resulting into her supremacy after Second World War. Therefore, Theodore Roosevelt had the greatest domestic policies while Franklin Delano Roosevelt had the greatest foreign policies of as United States presidents of the 20th century.
Hook, Steven. “The United States Foreign Policy.” Journal of International Relations 4.6(2009): 1-23.