200 Years of the Monroe Doctrine; How the United States Went from Pseudo-Isolationism to Aggressive Expansionism

By Leonid Savin on December 6, 2023
December 2, 2023 marked two hundred years since U.S. President James Monroe’s address to Congress, which came to be known as the Monroe Doctrine. It has become a household name for U.S. foreign policy over the past several centuries and will likely continue to be used indefinitely into the future. Although it was periodically supplemented by other doctrines and concepts. However, it was under James Monroe when it was categorically stated “America for the Americans”, and the European powers had no business there, even though they had overseas possessions. And Monroe’s statement was received ambiguously in other countries of the Western Hemisphere, as they saw Washington’s intention to rule the region and interfere with cooperation with other states.

Thus, during James Monroe’s message to the U.S. Congress, it was stated that “in the course of negotiations…and in such agreements as may be reached, it has been deemed advisable to take this opportunity to establish as a principle with respect to the rights and interests of the United States the position that on the American continent, those who have attained freedom and independence and protect them, should not henceforth be considered as objects of future colonization by any European power.

…We have always watched with concern and interest developments in this part of the globe, with which we have not only a close relationship, but also our origin. The citizens of the United States harbor the friendliest feelings toward their countrymen on the other side of the world. Atlantic Ocean, toward their freedom and happiness. We have never participated in the wars of the European powers that concern them, and this corresponds to Our policy. We are outraged by the insults they inflict on us or we prepare to defend ourselves only in case of a violation of our rights or a threat to them.

…Of necessity, we find ourselves much more involved in the events taking place in our hemisphere and we speak out about causes that should be obvious to all well-informed and unbiased observers. The political system of the Allied Powers differs materially in this respect from that of the United States…Therefore, in the interest of preserving the sincere and friendly relations which exist between the United States and these Powers, we are bound to declare that we shall regard an attempt on their part to extend their system to any part of this hemisphere as a danger to our peace and security.

We have not interfered and will not interfere in the affairs of existing colonies or dependent territories of any European power. But as regards the governments of countries which have declared and maintained their independence, and those whose independence, after careful examination and on the principles of justice, we have recognized that we cannot contemplate any intervention by a European power for the purpose of oppressing those countries. or establishing any control over them, otherwise than as a hostile manifestation toward the United States.” (I)

At that time, the United States was a much smaller territory. Alaska was under the jurisdiction of the Russian Empire, Mexico controlled most of the Pacific coast. While Spain was trying to regain control of its colonies, Washington was trying to prevent European powers from acting in the New World. For in 1822, at the Congress of Verona, the members of the Holy Alliance discussed the suppression of the Spanish Revolution, including intervention in their former possessions in Latin America. Britain saw this as competition for its interests in New World markets and approached the United States with a proposal to coordinate actions against the Holy Alliance, but Secretary of State John Quincy Adams proposed to respond directly on behalf of the United States which was done. Here it should be noted that less than ten years earlier, in 1814, during the war between the United States and Great Britain, the British captured Washington and burned the White House and the Capitol. The trauma of these events was still vivid in the minds of the American political elite and, apparently, historical resentment toward the British played an important role in the formation of the Monroe Doctrine.

And given the subsequent events of the Mexican-American War of 1846-48. It can be concluded that the United States was already hatching plans for intervention, albeit hidden behind the idea of general solidarity of the North and South American continents.

Naturally, the Monroe Doctrine continued to be applied in the following decades. At the end of the 19th century, a conflict arose between Venezuela and Great Britain, which was trying to expand its presence in the region. This was followed by a territorial dispute with British Guiana, which, incidentally, has not been resolved to this day. In 1895, citing the Monroe Doctrine, U.S. Secretary of State Richard Olney, who had previously been Attorney General, wrote in a message to British Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary Lord Salisbury that “any European control over American territory is necessarily absurd.” and absurd… Today the United States is in fact the sovereign ruler of this continent, and its command is law in all those matters in which it interferes… Why? Not because feelings of pure friendship or goodwill are felt towards it. …and not because prudence, right and justice invariably characterize the behavior of the United States. It is because the numerous resources of the United States, combined with an isolated position, make the United States master of the situation.” (II)

Olney demanded that the dispute between Venezuela and Guyana be settled by arbitration, which should have been conducted by the United States. President Grover Cleveland, after reading Olney’s note, could not conceal his admiration for the provocative art of his Secretary of State. “This is the best I have read of its kind,” he wrote to Olney, “and leads to the conclusion that no one can escape if he attempts to do so.”

Theodore Roosevelt, who at the time was in charge of the New York police, also expressed his approval. Incidentally, it was he who coined the expression “world police,” which he later formulated as he rose through the political ranks. He was also fond of often quoting the African proverb “speak softly, but carry a big stick in your hands and you will go far.”

Salisbury responded to this by saying that the Monroe Doctrine had no legal force in terms of international law. Moreover, Britain had possessions in North America, Canada, from which they could not leave and were therefore outraged by this formulation of the question. But the United States found the answer unacceptable, and in December 1895 Cleveland asked Congress to appoint a commission on the boundary dispute, noting that the commission’s decision should be enforced “by all means.” When Congress voted unanimously, there was immediate talk of war with Great Britain.

Britain was then at war with the Boers in South Africa and could not afford to become involved in a conflict far from its shores. The dispute was therefore referred to the American commission. In October 1899 it decided that the border would follow the Schomburgk line, i.e., maintaining the old delimitation. Venezuela was forced to ratify this treaty. But a precedent was set: The United States, in effect, began to dictate what and who should do in Latin America.

In 1898, the United States won the war with Spain (the cause was the explosion of the American ship Maine in Havana, which was quickly blamed on Spain), establishing its protectorate in Cuba and Puerto Rico (the second island remains an associated territory). The United States was also a colony of the United States), as well as control over the Philippines and its environs. Guam. And this strengthened Washington’s imperialist ambitions. The Platt Amendment, introduced in 1901, placed Cuba in a subordinate and dependent position. A U.S. naval base was established in Cuba, which was initially used as a supply point, but even after the 1959 Cuban Revolution, the U.S. military remained there. It later became notorious at the offshore prison at Guantanamo Bay, where suspects with links to Al Qaeda were held without trial.

It is important to note that in the late 19th century in the United States the theory of predetermined destiny was formulated, according to which this country was given from above to rule the world and teach others how they should live.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the Roosevelt Collar appeared, provoked by the naval blockade of Venezuela at the end of 1902 by Germany, Great Britain and Italy due to foreign debts. In his message to the U.S. Congress on December 6, 1904, Theodore Roosevelt said: “All this country desires is to see our neighboring countries stable, orderly and prosperous. Any country whose people behave well can count on our cordial friendship. If a nation shows that it can act with reasonable efficiency and decency in social and political affairs, if it maintains order and fulfills its obligations, it need not fear interference from the United States. Chronic delinquency or impotence leading to a general weakening of the bonds of civilized society may, in the United States as elsewhere, ultimately require the intervention of some civilized nation, and in the Western Hemisphere the adherence of the United States to the Monroe Doctrine may compel the United States to States, however reluctantly, in flagrant cases of such irregularities or impotence, resort to international police power.”

In the same 1904, the United States received “in perpetuity” the right to use, occupy and control the Panama Canal Zone, and also the right to intervene in the cities of Panama and Colon to “preserve order”. And that same year, the United States sent warships to the Dominican Republic, establishing external control there. This has been called the big stick policy, dollar diplomacy and gunboat diplomacy. Britain’s former colony now behaved like a colonial power, resorting to the strictest measures against dissident countries in the region, mainly Central America and the Caribbean, which was already perceived as the backyard of the United States.

Woodrow Wilson further tightened the Monroe Doctrine during the First World War. Here a truly global breakthrough has already occurred. His 14-Point Peace Agreement, submitted to Congress on January 8, 1918, became part of the Treaty of Versailles and laid the foundation for the League of Nations. Incidentally, one of the points was directly dedicated to Russia: “The liberation of all Russian territories and a settlement of all problems affecting Russia which will assure her the fullest and most free assistance from other nations in obtaining a full and unimpeded opportunity to make an independent decision as to her own political development and national policy, and assure her a warm welcome into the community of free nations, under such form of government as she herself may choose. And more than welcome, also every kind of support in all that she needs and desires for herself. The attitude toward Russia on the part of sister nations in the coming months will be a touchstone of their good feelings, of their understanding of her needs and their ability to separate them from their own interests, as well as an indicator of their wisdom. and the altruism of their sympathies.” In fact, in 1918, the United States carried out an intervention in the Far East, while on the European side Entente units attacked Russia.

The Great Depression moderated slightly the ardor of the United States in the international arena, but already in World War II, due to the evident weakness of England, Washington began to seize the upper hand in the geopolitics of the Old World. The demonstration of nuclear weapons in peaceful Japanese cities elevated the United States to the status of a military superpower. Although this seemed little to them, the NATO bloc was formed in 1949 to “contain communism.” But even in conventional conflicts in Asia (Korea, Vietnam), the United States failed to demonstrate its power.

During the Cold War era, the Monroe Doctrine remained a beacon in U.S. foreign policy. Thus, in 1954, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles invoked the Monroe Doctrine and the Roosevelt Colonial Government at the Tenth Pan American Conference in Caracas, supporting his puppet in Guatemala. And then Latin America was confronted with Operation Condor and the death squads, which prepared the CIA and the Pentagon for the physical destruction of any force, party and movement that aroused suspicion in Washington (similar measures were expected in Southeast Asia, where the United States had the opportunity to interfere in the internal affairs of these countries).

In January 1980, U.S. President Jimmy Carter formulated a policy that became known as the Carter Doctrine. It became another expansion of the Monroe Doctrine and the US expansionist movement in southern Eurasia. In the context of the Islamic Revolution in Iran and the entry of Soviet troops into Afghanistan, Carter asserted that “an attempt by any foreign power to seize control of the Persian Gulf region will be considered an attack on the vital interests of the United States of America. United States, and such an attack will be repelled by all necessary means, including military force.” Previously, for a long time, Britain had been the “security guarantor” of U.S. interests in the region. Now Washington was taking everything into its own hands and, given the huge oil and gas reserves, this area was of enormous strategic importance.iii

The United States began to increase its military presence in many Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Qatar. And until recently, such cooperation was considered mutually beneficial. Only recently have Arab states become skeptical of U.S. strategies and policies in the region, and their image has deteriorated significantly since they supported Israel’s aggressive actions against the Palestinians.

But, just as Roosevelt’s colorarium appeared at the time, the Carter Doctrine was modified in 1981 by his successor Ronald Reagan. He promised nothing less than to prevent Saudi Arabia from becoming another Iran. “There is no way we can stand idly by and watch someone who cuts off the oil supply take over this [country],” he told a news conference. In reality, the Reagan Doctrine represented support for any anti-communist force, even if it was not democratic enough by Western standards. Subsequently, the cultivation of the mujahideen to fight the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan led to the rise of Al-Qaeda, which turned its weapons against the United States. As for oil interests, after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, the United States immediately reaffirmed its commitment to this position by forming an international military coalition for Operation Desert Storm.

And in 2001, George W. Bush’s global war on terrorism followed, expanding the U.S. military’s physical presence to countries in Asia and Africa. The 20-year occupation of Afghanistan and the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which killed millions of people, were, in essence, a fight against the consequences of the Reagan Doctrine.

Although Barack Obama shifted the focus of U.S. interests to Asia, paying less attention to the Middle East, Libya was destroyed and Syria could have faced the same fate had Russia not come to the rescue. However, the coup in Ukraine in February 2014, with obvious U.S. support, demonstrated that the U.S. was not about to abandon its expansionist neocolonial plans. Both Donald Trump’s subsequent Abraham Accords and the so-called Bidenomics, which includes global economic projects and clearly confrontational lines with China, Iran, Russia and the DPRK (all countries are officially included in the list of top threats to the U.S..) ) show a continuation of the course charted under James Monroe .


https://web.archive.org/web/20181003183245/http://library .ua/m/articles/view/-OLNEY-DOCTRINE-AND-ITS-FALSIFIATION-IN-AMERICAN-HISTORIOGRAPHY
https://www.hoover.org/research/whither-carter-doctrine-biden-administration-and- Gulf

Source: Network in Defense of Humanity translation Resumen Latinoamericano – English