Journalist Gregg Jones offers a notable, if somewhat inelegant, reconstruction of Theodore Roosevelt’s career and this country’s embrace of empire between the years 1898-1902. Honor in the Dust shows how Roosevelt deftly maneuvered the U.S. and a war-weary President McKinley into a full-blown occupation of the Philippines, and how he managed the fallout. The conquest was a moral and historical disaster that Roosevelt—skilled in public relations—retooled for public consumption as the U.S. found itself in an unaccustomed imperial role.
As a student at Harvard, Roosevelt was steeped in the ideology of Anglo-Saxon superiority and grew infused with a sense of patriarchal purpose. Once a sickly, privileged child, he later went to extraordinary lengths to cultivate a tough Western identity. Roosevelt viewed military conflict as a chance to renovate America’s soft Gay Nineties image. He prized war as a source of meaning and redemption, and as Jones notes, loved it so much that he was eager to wage it himself. As always, appearances mattered: after resigning as McKinley’s assistant secretary of the Navy to lead a volunteer regiment in Cuba, Roosevelt commissioned what became known as his Rough Rider uniform. Brooks Brothers was the tailor.
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