- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 28, 2002

Will the real Theodore Roosevelt please step forward?

Recent years have seen a revival of scholarly interest in the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt. Such interest has spilled over into the political realm, where various candidates, political parties and interest groups have sought to claim the old Bull Mooser as their standard-bearer. Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, has frequently made references to Roosevelt to fuel speculation that he, too, may bolt the Republican Party, although this is more a tactic to garner press coverage than a realistic threat. In a recent interview on National Public Radio, Edmund Morris, biographer of Roosevelt and author of "Theodore Rex," even implied that Roosevelt was, indeed, a Democrat. In fact, the liberal wing of the Democratic Party has almost ceased to refer to themselves as liberals, having decided to adopt the "Progressive" label once worn proudly by Roosevelt. All such claims to be the heirs apparent of the Roosevelt legacy are false and a blatant attempt to use that legacy to further their own interests. Nowhere is the fallacy more clear than in recent attempts by several environmental groups to use the Roosevelt image to help block drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

In a recent visit to Capital Hill, Theodore Roosevelt IV, chairman of the League of Conservation Voters, invoked his ancestor's name to help rally support against President Bush's energy proposal, which calls for limited drilling on a remote and barren 2,000-acre area of the 19 million acre wildlife refuge. When challenged about his interpretation of the Roosevelt legacy on conservation, Mr. Roosevelt claimed, "to suggest that TR would abrogate the principles upon which he founded our National Wildlife Refuge System for a short-term fix to our energy problem is nonsensical" ("Theodore Roosevelt wouldn't bear ANWR drilling," Letters, Feb. 18). A closer look at the principles espoused by Roosevelt in establishing wildlife refuges, however, shows those principles to be somewhat different from the version recently touted by environmentalists.

During his term in office (1901-1909), President Roosevelt faced an energy crisis similar to the one facing the current administration. Although massive oil consumption and the dependence on foreign sources to meet that demand were not a problem of his time, Roosevelt and many others worried about the rapid consumption of American resources and the effects it would have on the country. One of his pressing concerns was the rapid depletion of timberlands due to clear cutting and overgrazing of livestock. To solve the problem, Roosevelt declared large tracts of land as forest preserves administered by the federal government. Despite misconception held and popularized by many environmental groups, Roosevelt did not intend to preserve the forest untouched but to preserve it for existing and continual use. In his First Annual Message to Congress, Roosevelt explained that, "Wise forest protection does not mean the withdrawal of forest resources, whether of wood, water, or grass, from contributing their full share to the welfare of the people, but, on the contrary, gives assurance of larger and more certain supplies. The fundamental idea of forestry is the perpetuation of forests by use. Forest protection is not an end of itself; it is a means to increase and sustain the resources of our country and the industries which depend upon them."

President Roosevelt understood that responsible development of natural resources and protection of the environment were not incompatible but, indeed, complementary goals. At this point, many environmentalists may point out that a "forest preserve" and a "wildlife refuge" are not the same. However, Roosevelt often advocated that Congress create "wildlife refuges" inside the "forest preserves" the very same forest preserves that he intended to utilize for the good of the country. In his Fourth Annual Message to Congress, Roosevelt reiterated his position: "It is the cardinal principle of the forest-reserve policy of this Administration that the reserves are for use. Whatever interferes with the use of their resources is to be avoided by every possible means. But these resources must be used in such a way as to make them permanent." If the United States, through the use of technology similar to that already employed in Alaska and other states, can responsibly utilize the oil deposits contained in ANWR without jeopardizing the environment, Roosevelt would approve.


Okinawa, Japan

James Pruitt is a professor of history at the University of Maryland University College.

Russia displays uncharacteristic sensitivity in response to Games

In reporting the Russian delegation's protests at the 2002 Winter Games, it would have been appropriate to mention that before World War II, the Soviet Union did not participate at the Olympic Games, as it considered them the undertaking of capitalist countries ("Agony of defeat felt in political arena," Feb. 23). Soviet and communist-oriented athletes had their own games, called Spartakiades, in Moscow.

It is also worth mentioning that the substantial decrease in medals awarded to Russian athletes is partly due to the fact that the former Soviet Union's constituent republics are now independent countries. The Soviet Union did not, of course, annex Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in order to profit from their population's athletic achievements, but their victories at past Summer and Winter Games were a nice bonus for the Soviet Union.

Russia's protests implied bad faith in judging Russian athletes when there was no bias at all. Such oversensitivity is amazing, not only because the entire Lower House of the Duma supported the Russian protests, but because it is in stark contrast with Russia's treatment of other nations. Instead of fostering good, neighborly relations with its former victims, the Baltic states, the Russian Federation is engaged in vilifying them in the hope of preventing their accession to NATO at NATO's next summit meeting.



Annan shoots himself in the foot

There is nothing surprising about U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's hypocrisy in having his security guards carry submachine guns, possibly in violation of federal or local laws, as reported in your Feb. 22 story "Gun rights groups rip U.N. chief's 'hypocrisy.'"

Mr. Annan, who has been attempting to lead the United Nations in an international crusade against small-arms owners and manufacturers, is typical of bureaucrats and politicians who oppose the rights of individuals to keep and bear arms. As self-appointed shepherds of humanity, these "leaders" seem to believe they are immune from the restrictions on liberty they seek to impose on others.

The United States is currently one of the few nations on Earth to safeguard individuals' rights to bear arms. The Second Amendment to our Constitution guarantees us that right, and the amendment's inclusion in our Bill of Rights by the framers of the Constitution is proof that they understood the vital relationship between this right and the future of a free republic.

Having just thrown off the yoke of royal oppression, our Founding Fathers knew that an armed populace is well-nigh impossible to oppress. Efforts by the United Nations to impose international gun-control measures would primarily target the United States, and they would serve to reverse our two centuries' tradition of individual freedom.

By contrast with the United States, the United Nations counts among its members such totalitarian regimes as China, North Korea, Cuba, Libya and Iraq. One thing these repressive regimes have in common is a denial of their citizens' individual rights to bear arms.

Indeed, this denial seems to be a common policy of totalitarian governments around the world, and the results of the policy have been disastrous. Genocide on a grand scale was practiced by Josef Stalin in the Soviet Union, by Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany and by Pol Pot in Cambodia. More recently, tribal warfare during the past decade on Mr. Annan's home continent of Africa has claimed the lives of untold millions. Lacking the means to resist violence, all these people became just so many sheep being led to slaughter.

Mr. Annan is wrong: Guns are not one of the major problems facing the world. Bad governments are.

Evil, repressive governments can commit atrocities because they have access to guns, while their subjects do not. Rather than use the United Nations to try to rid the world of small arms, which is not likely to happen, but may lead to further restrictions on our individual liberties, Mr. Annan should use his leadership position to apply pressure on repressive governments within his own organization.

He should seek to put an end to the wolves hiding among his own flock. If he did that, however, it would truly be surprising.



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