The Monroe Doctrine was introduced on December 2, 1823 by John Quincy Adams when he served as the United States's Secretary of State under President Monroe. The Doctrine warned European nations not to interfere with or attempt to colonize territories in North and South America or else the United States would intervene militarily.
At the time, nearly all former European colonies had obtained their independence except Cuba and Puerto Rico. Of particular interest, given subsequent American involvement in World Wars One and Two in Europe, the Doctrine also stated that the US would consequently stay out of internal concerns of European nations as well as their existing European colonies elsewhere in the world. Of course, we know from history and current events today that this never happened.
The timing for introduction of the Monroe Doctrine was less than a decade following the War of 1812 when the US did not have the military might to back up its threats. The Washington, DC capital had been burned by the British and the American attempt to invade Canada had failed following numerous battles including the US burning of Toronto in an invasion attempt.
While many European leaders laughed at the upstart United States, which did not have a strong navy or army during these early years, for proposing a doctrine they could not enforce, like most of history the reality was somewhat different. The Doctrine was actually enforced through the American War Between the States period, mostly by British naval power defending their trade with South America that at the time was a far larger trading partner than the US.
The British approved of the Doctrine because of concern the Latin American states could again become Spanish colonies, thus cutting off their trade and exports. Therefore, the Monroe Doctrine was actually the first Anglo-American measure following the War for Independence and the War of 1812 and set the stage for 200 years of British and American elites working together to advance their unique interests and profits at the expense of the rest of the world.
The Monroe Doctrine has continued for almost 200 years and has at times served the Western hemisphere well in keeping out most European intrusions. This continued until at least the late 19th century when it became useful as a pretext for US expansion and colonialism in the Americas.
Theodore Roosevelt re-interpreted the Monroe Doctrine as a useful tool to take economic benefits by force when Latin nations failed to pay their debts to European and US banks and business interests. This was termed the Roosevelt Corollary to the Doctrine. This also asserted the right of the US to intervene militarily and otherwise in Central and South America when there was "flagrant and chronic wrongdoing by a Latin American nation." Since all governments are involved in these kinds of actions, this was an open invitation to invade, occupy and send in troops whenever US business interests were supposedly threatened by domestic nationalism or outside business interests.
In addition, as the US became a world power it was used to describe the recognized sphere of influence that America controlled in the western hemisphere and elsewhere. Earlier, in 1842, the American government had used the Doctrine to begin the control and eventual annexation of Hawaii to the United States, although thousands of miles away in the Pacific Ocean.
Thus, what began as a moral opposition to colonialism in the western hemisphere was later turned into a justification of intervention, invasion and occupation against many peoples ranging from the occupation, control and annexation of Hawaii to the Spanish-American War, the incorporation of the Philippines, Puerto Rico and Cuba into a new American empire. More importantly, it was used as well for US military action to remove the province of Panama from Colombia in order to secure and rule the territory needed for the Panama Canal.
Many critics of the Monroe Doctrine today in both North and South America, regardless of the initial support and moral benefits, now see the Doctrine has degenerated into little more than a declaration of hegemony and military right for continued intervention and domination of smaller nations by the power elites of the United States. The Daily Bell encourages a formal repeal of the Monroe Doctrine.
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