Yleem and I shared an enjoyable evening with good friends yesterday in Fredericksburg, Virginia. There is a lot of history in Fredericksburg, some of it pre-dating what the region is most known for today, the scene of many pivotal Civil War battles and events. One of the pre-Civil War nuggets you may not know is Fredericksburg’s connection to early 19th century U.S. foreign policy and the Monroe Doctrine.
Penned in 1823 by our fifth President James Monroe (his law office was located in the heart of town) as part of his seventh Annual Message (what today we call the State of the Union address), the Monroe Doctrine, in essence, told the European powers to stay out of the Western Hemisphere and the Americans agreed not to intervene in European matters elsewhere in the world. In turn, the U.S. would stay a “neutral” in global affairs so long as foreign powers did not threaten the Americas or U.S. interests.
Leaders of the international Left, especially in Latin America (think Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, etc.), have distorted the Doctrine to advance anti-America agendas for some time. In reality, it is the (Teddy) Roosevelt Corollary that should be the target of their ire. I’ll explain all of that some other day, for for just focus on the fact that Monroe was pressing forward with an idea in defense of republicanism and a pre-cursor to future policies by future President’s for defending U.S. national interests.
Depending on who you ask, scholars and academics will tell you that the ideals embodied by the Monroe Doctrine are dead and no longer relevant. This is especially true if you’re talking with, not ironically, American Leftists, most members of the Council of Foreign Relations, and a laundry list of Washington, DC think tanks. Our current Secretary of State John Kerry, in his best New England droll, said as much last November at the OAS:
“The era of the Monroe Doctrine is over. (Applause.) The relationship – that’s worth applauding. That’s not a bad thing …”
Pandering to a Potemkin regional organization inhabited by anti-Americans may lead to applause lines, but hurts our image throughout the Americas. I’ll leave it to the academics, policy experts, and the politicos to sort it all out; however, I think Kerry and others who espouse that view are being extremely myopic and, usually, dead wrong. There are elements of the Monroe Doctrine that stay relevant, always will. As much as Kerry thinks or says otherwise, it is a deep part of our tradition. A good one, not one to be ashamed of.
Foreign and regional Hemispheric adventurism the past few decades has led to the propping up of a series of governments and systems (e.g., the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America) that are contrary to U.S. interests. These anti-U.S. governments and systems have been supported by China, Russia, Iran, and, yes, even the Europeans, among others. This pre-dates the Obama team; however, it has recently gone beyond the somewhat benign neglect of the Bush II Administration to sheer political malpractice.
The Obama Administration has allowed foreign interests to meddle unchecked throughout the Americas. China is a frequent offender, so is even tiny Iran. However, this week the Russians raised the matter to a whole new level. What Vladimir say or do?
For starters, Putin wants to open new Russian military bases in Latin America including locations in Cuba, Venezuela, and, even one in Central America in the old Cold War battleground of Nicaragua. Using the Snowden backlash as an excuse, late last year Russia made a bid to sell fighter jets to Brazil.
Russian (and Chinese) weapons are being used in Caracas against peaceful protestors demanding democracy and rule of law. And this is just in the last few months. I could go on and on with financial transactions as well as business deals that threaten U.S. interests.
The Obama Administration should dust off the history books and heed Monroe’s vision, be a little more focused on U.S. interests when engaging in the Americas and “cultivate friendly relations with it, and … preserve those relations by a frank, firm, and manly policy, meeting in all instances the just claims of every power, submitting to injuries from none.”
Yleem has a post coming soon on this subject. Stay tuned.