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The Monroe Doctrine was a US foreign policy regarding Latin American countries in the early 19th century. It stated that further efforts by European nations to colonize land or interfere with states in North or South America would be viewed as acts of aggression, requiring U.S. intervention. At the same time, the doctrine noted that the United States would neither interfere with existing European colonies nor meddle in the internal concerns of European countries. The Doctrine was issued at a time when nearly all Latin American colonies of Spain and Portugal had achieved or were at the point of gaining independence from the Portuguese and Spanish Empires; Peru consolidated its independence in 1824, and Bolivia would become independent in 1825, leaving only Cuba and Puerto Rico under Spanish rule. The United States, working in agreement with Britain, wanted to guarantee that no European power would move in.
President James Monroe first stated the doctrine during his seventh annual State of the Union Address to Congress. The term "Monroe Doctrine" itself was coined in 1850. By the end of the nineteenth century, Monroe's declaration was seen as a defining moment in the foreign policy of the United States and one of its longest-standing tenets. It would be invoked by many U.S. statesmen and several U.S. presidents, including Theodore Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and many others.
The intent and impact of the Monroe Doctrine persisted with only minor variations for more than a century. Its primary objective was to free the newly independent colonies of Latin America from European intervention and avoid situations which could make the New World a battleground for the Old World powers, so that the United States could exert its own influence undisturbed. The doctrine asserted that the New World and the Old World were to remain distinctly separate spheres of influence, for they were composed of entirely separate and independent nations. However, the policy became deeply resented by Latin American nations for its overt interventionism and perceived imperialism.
It is believed that the Monroe Doctrine was inspired by the Napoleonic Wars. The U.S. government feared the victorious European powers that emerged from the Congress of Vienna (1814-1815) would revive the monarchical government. France had already agreed to restore the Spanish Monarchy in exchange for Cuba. As the revolutionary Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815) ended, Prussia, Austria, and Russia formed the Holy Alliance to defend monarchism. In particular, the Holy Alliance authorized military incursions to re-establish Bourbon rule over Spain and its colonies, which were establishing their independence.
The United Kingdom shared the general objective of the Monroe Doctrine, if from an obviously opposite standpoint and ultimate aim, and even wanted to declare a joint statement to keep other European powers from further colonizing the New World. The British Foreign Secretary George Canning wanted to keep the other European powers out of the New World fearing that its trade with the New World would be harmed if the other European powers further colonized it. In fact, the United Kingdom , for much of the early years of the Monroe Doctrine, was the sole nation enforcing it through the use of its navy (the United States still lacked sufficient naval capabilities to contribute to the effective enforcement of the doctrine as declared). In 1829, however, despite the UK's active acquiescence to the Monroe Doctrine and having contributed to its enforcement by keeping foreign powers out of the New World, rumors spread that a group of British merchants tried to strike a deal with Mexico offering $5,000,000 for Texas which would be held under the protection of the United Kingdom. Ultimately, nothing came of the British merchants' offer but the rumor was proved to be true -- a clear violation of the Monroe Doctrine. Allowing Spain to re-establish control of its former colonies would have cut the United Kingdom off from its profitable trade with the region. For that reason, Canning proposed to the United States that they mutually declare and enforce a policy of separating the new world from the old. The United States resisted a joint statement because of the recent memory of the War of 1812, leading to the Monroe administration's unilateral statement.
The full document of the Monroe Doctrine is long and couched in diplomatic language, but its essence is expressed in two key passages; the first is the introductory statement:
The second key passage, a fuller statement of the Doctrine, is addressed to the "allied powers" of Europe (that is, the Holy Alliance); it clarifies that the United States remains neutral on existing European colonies in the Americas but is opposed to "interpositions" that would create new colonies among the newly independent Spanish American republics:
Because the U.S. lacked both a credible navy and army at the time, the doctrine was largely disregarded internationally. The doctrine, however, met with tacit British approval, and the British Royal Navy mostly enforced it tactically, as part of the wider Pax Britannica, which enforced the neutrality of the seas. This was in line with the developing British policy of laissez-faire free trade against mercantilism. Fast-growing British industry was ever seeking outlets for its manufactured goods, and were the newly independent Latin American states to become Spanish colonies once more, British access to these markets would be cut off by Spanish mercantilist policy.
The Monroe Doctrine was viewed as a precursor to the "Special Relationship" between the United States and the United Kingdom. Similar to President Woodrow Wilson's proposal of a League of Nations nearly 100 years later, Canning's proposal "defected ideas into the American decision-making process in such a manner that they imperceptibly seemed to be a part of Washington's own".
The reaction in Latin America to the Monroe Doctrine was undeniably upbeat. John Crow, author of The Epic of Latin America, states, “Simón Bolívar himself, still in the midst of his last campaign against the Spaniards, Santander in Colombia, Rivadavia in Argentina, Victoria in Mexico—leaders of the emancipation movement everywhere— received Monroe's words with sincerest gratitude”. Crow argues that the leaders of Latin America were realists. They knew that the President of the United States wielded very little power at the time, particularly without the backing of the British forces, and figured that the Monroe Doctrine was powerless if it stood alone against the Holy Alliance. While they appreciated and praised their support in the north they knew that their future of independence was in the hands of the British and their powerful navy. In 1826, Bolivar called upon his Congress of Panama to host the first “Pan-American” meeting. In the eyes of Bolivar and his men, the Monroe Doctrine was to become nothing more than a tool of national policy. According to Crow, “It was not meant to be, and was never intended to be a charter for concerted hemispheric action”.
In 1836, the United States government objected to Britain's alliance with the newly created Republic of Texas on the principle of the Monroe Doctrine. On December 2, 1845, U.S. President James Polk announced to Congress that the principle of the Monroe Doctrine should be strictly enforced and that the United States should aggressively expand into the West, often termed as Manifest Destiny.
In 1852, some politicians used the principle of the Monroe Doctrine to argue for forcefully removing the Spanish from Cuba. In 1898, following the Spanish-American War, Spain ceded to the United States for the sum of $20 million, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Guam, and Cuba (until granted formal independence from the US in 1902).
The doctrine's authors, chiefly future-President and then secretary-of-state John Quincy Adams, saw it as a proclamation by the United States of moral opposition to colonialism, but it has subsequently been re-interpreted and applied in a variety of instances. President Theodore Roosevelt asserted the right of the United States to intervene to stabilize the economic affairs of small nations in the Caribbean and Central America if they were unable to pay their international debts. This interpretation, intended to forestall intervention by European powers that had lent money to those countries, has been termed the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine.
In 1862, French forces under Napoleon III invaded and conquered Mexico, giving the country to Austrian-born Emperor Maximilian. Americans proclaimed this as a violation of "The Doctrine," but were unable to intervene because of the American Civil War. This marked the first time the Monroe Doctrine was widely referred to as a "doctrine." After the civil war came to an end, the U.S. brought troops down to the Rio Grande in hopes of pressuring the French government to end its occupation. Mexican nationalists eventually captured the Emperor and executed him, reasserting Mexico's independence.
In the 1870s, President Ulysses S. Grant and his Secretary of State Hamilton Fish endeavored to replace European influence in Latin America with that of the United States. Part of their efforts involved expanding the Monroe Doctrine by stating "hereafter no territory on this continent [referring to Central and South America] shall be regarded as subject to transfer to a European power."
1895 saw the eruption of the Venezuela Crisis of 1895, "one of the most momentous episodes in the history of Anglo-American relations in general and of Anglo-American rivalries in Latin America in particular." Venezuela sought to involve the US in a territorial dispute with Britain over Guayana Esequiba, and hired former US ambassador William L. Scruggs to argue that British behaviour over the issue violated the Monroe Doctrine. President Grover Cleveland through his Secretary of State, Richard Olney cited the Doctrine in 1895, threatening strong action against the United Kingdom if the British failed to arbitrate their dispute with Venezuela. In a July 20, 1895 note to Britain, Olney stated, “The United States is practically sovereign on this continent, and its fiat is law upon the subjects to which it confines its interposition.” British Prime Minister Lord Salisbury took strong exception to the American language. The United States objected to a British proposal for a joint meeting to clarify the scope of the Monroe Doctrine. Historian George Herring wrote that by failing to pursue the issue further the British “tacitly conceded the U.S. definition of the Monroe Doctrine and its hegemony in the hemisphere.”
The Drago Doctrine was announced on December 29, 1902 by the Foreign Minister of Argentina, Luis María Drago. This was a response to the actions of Britain, Germany, and Italy during the Venezuela Crisis of 1902–1903, in which they had blockaded and shelled Venezuela's ports in answer to its massive debt, acquired under president Cipriano Castro. Drago set forth the policy that no European power could use force against an American nation to collect debt. President Theodore Roosevelt rejected this as an extension of the Monroe Doctrine, declaring "We do not guarantee any state against punishment if it misconducts itself".
In the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, President John F. Kennedy cited the Monroe Doctrine as a basis for America's "eyeball-to-eyeball" confrontation with the Soviet Union that had embarked on a campaign to install ballistic missiles on Cuban soil.
The "Big Brother" policy was an extension of the Monroe Doctrine formulated by James G. Blaine in the 1880s that aimed to rally Latin American nations behind US leadership and to open their markets to US traders. Blaine served as Secretary of State in 1881 in the cabinet of President James A. Garfield and again from 1889 to 1892 in the cabinet of President Benjamin Harrison. As a part of the policy, Blaine arranged and led the First International Conference of American States in 1889.
As the United States began to emerge as a world power, the Monroe Doctrine came to define a recognized sphere of control that few dared to challenge. Before becoming president, Theodore Roosevelt had proclaimed the rationale of the Monroe Doctrine in supporting intervention in the Spanish colony of Cuba in 1898. After he became president, and following the Venezuela Crisis of 1902–1903, Roosevelt added the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine in 1904. This corollary asserted the right of the United States to intervene in Latin America in cases of “flagrant and chronic wrongdoing by a Latin American Nation”.
The Roosevelt Corollary was the most significant amendment to the original doctrine and was widely opposed by critics, who argued that the Monroe Doctrine was originally meant to stop European influence in the Americas. This amendment was designed to preclude violation of the doctrine by European powers that would ultimately argue that the independent nations were “mismanaged or unruly”. Critics, however, argued that the Corollary simply asserted U.S. domination in that area, essentially making them a "hemispheric policeman."
In 1928, the Clark Memorandum was released, concluding that the United States need not invoke the Monroe Doctrine as a defense of its interventions in Latin America. The Memorandum argued that the United States had a self-evident right of self-defense, and that this was all that was needed to justify certain actions. The policy was announced to the public in 1930.
In 1954, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles invoked the Monroe Doctrine at the Tenth Pan-American Conference, denouncing the intervention of Soviet Communism in Guatemala. This was used to justify Operation PBSUCCESS. U.S. President John F. Kennedy said at an August 29, 1962 news conference:
The Monroe Doctrine means what it has meant since President Monroe and John Quincy Adams enunciated it, and that is that we would oppose a foreign power extending its power to the Western Hemisphere [sic], and that is why we oppose what is happening in Cuba today. That is why we have cut off our trade. That is why we worked in the OAS and in other ways to isolate the Communist menace in Cuba. That is why we will continue to give a good deal of our effort and attention to it.
During the Cold War, the Monroe Doctrine was applied to Latin America by the framers of U.S. foreign policy. When the Cuban Revolution (1953-1959) established a Communist government with ties to the Soviet Union, after trying to establish fruitful relations with the U.S., it was argued that the spirit of the Monroe Doctrine should be again invoked, this time to prevent the further spreading of Soviet-backed Communism in Latin America.
The United States thus often provided intelligence and military aid to Latin and South American governments that claimed or appeared to be threatened by Communist subversion. This, in turn, led to some domestic controversy within the United States, especially among some members of the left who argued that the Communist threat and Soviet influence in Latin America was greatly exaggerated.[who?]
The debate over this new spirit of the Monroe Doctrine came to a head in the 1980s, as part of the Iran-Contra affair. Among other things, it was revealed that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency had been covertly training "Contra" guerrilla soldiers in Honduras in an attempt to destabilize and overthrow the Sandinista revolutionary government of Nicaragua and its President, Daniel Ortega. CIA director Robert Gates vigorously defended the Contra operation, arguing that avoiding U.S. intervention in Nicaragua would be "totally to abandon the Monroe doctrine".
The Monroe Doctrine is often related with the idea of American isolationism -- the idea that America keeps to itself and does not get involved with other countries. However, According to historian Hilde Restad and other dissenters from the "old paradigm," America has never been isolationist. It was around the Presidency of James Knox Polk that the idea of Manifest Destiny in relation to the Monroe Doctrine developed. Polk attached Manifest Destiny to the Monroe Doctrine and used it to support expansion westward. People do not tend to commonly think of western expansion as taking foreign lands, however, the land was not America's and therefore by definition was foreign. Polk was able to keep the Europeans out of America under the Monroe Doctrine while he could grab lands westward with less competition. Westward expansion was interventionist not isolationist.
President Barack Obama's Secretary of State John Kerry told the Organization of American States in November 2013 that the Monroe Doctrine was dead. Several commentators have noted that Kerry's call for a mutual partnership with the other countries in the Americas was more in keeping with Monroe's initial message than with the policies that had been enacted long after Monroe's death.
Analysts of the Monroe Doctrine, such as Noam Chomsky, argue that in practice the Monroe Doctrine has functioned as a declaration of hegemony and a right of unilateral intervention over the Americas: a sphere of influence “to leave America for the Americans” that would grow stronger with the Roosevelt Corollary. Chomsky points to the work of filibusters, most notably William Walker, who tried to conquer and annex various countries in Latin America. Walker acted on his own in defiance of official opposition.
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