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The Monroe Doctrine - What is it?

Updated: Jan 21

As part of President James Monroe’s 7th annual message to Congress on December 2, 1823, the Monroe Doctrine became a cornerstone of future United States foreign policy [1]. It warned European powers not to interfere in the affairs of the Western Hemisphere (the Americas), and if they did, that would be seen as a threat to the U.S. The doctrine also stated that North and South America were no longer open to colonization.


5th U.S. President James Monroe


President Monroe said in his speech that day, “…the American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers…” [2]

He basically pointed out two spheres of influence: the Americas, and Europe. The U.S. claimed independent lands of the Western Hemisphere as its domain and in exchange, pledged to not interfere with the affairs of Europe and its existing colonies in the Americas.


Newspaper with a portion of President Monroe’s 1823 address, including the Monroe Doctrine


Why the Need for it?


The doctrine was born out of Britain and United States’ concerns about colonization [3]. Several European powers wanted to help Spain regain control over its former colonies in Central and South America, which declared themselves independent in the early 1800s. Russia also wanted to establish a colony on North America’s Northwest Coast.

George Canning, British foreign minister to the U.S., came up with the idea to issue a declaration forbidding future colonization in the Americas. He suggested that the U.S. and Britain make a joint declaration (since both had motives for limiting colonization), and President Monroe was open to the idea. However, U.S. Secretary of State John Quincy Adams was strongly against a bilateral declaration, worried that it would limit U.S. expansion in the future. President Monroe eventually agreed with Adams and chose a unilateral declaration, which he shared in his annual message to Congress and only several decades years later, became known as the “Monroe Doctrine.”

U.S. Intervention in Latin Countries


The Monroe Doctrine was a policy that couldn’t have been enforced militarily at the time. The U.S. was not viewed as a major power, and European powers weren’t too serious about recolonizing Latin America, so the doctrine was basically ignored outside of the U.S.

There was no serious European interference until 1861, when the leader of France tried to establish a monarchy in Mexico [4]. The U.S. was entering the Civil War at that time, but it still protested France. Once the war ended in 1865, U.S. troops were sent to the Mexican border in support of President Benito Juárez. That support helped lead to a successful revolt against French Emperor Maximilian, and the French Army left Mexico in 1867.

About 30 years later, the Monroe Doctrine played a part in the Spanish-American War [5]. Cuba was struggling for independence from Spain. The U.S. Congress issued resolutions to declare Cuba’s right to independence and demand that Spain withdraw its armed forces from the island. They also gave President William McKinley authorization to use force to secure that withdrawal.

In 1898, both Spain and the U.S. declared war. The war ended later that year with the signing of the Treaty of Paris. Spain renounced all claim to Cuba (allowing its independence), and the U.S. took possession of Guam and Puerto Rico and purchased the Philippines from Spain. After this war, the U.S emerged as a world power and gained a new stake in international politics.


Gunboat Diplomacy

In 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt expanded the Monroe Doctrine by announcing a new Latin-American policy, later called the “Roosevelt Corollary” or the “Big Stick” policy [6]. It was used to justify intervention in Central America and the Caribbean. European creditors of several Latin American countries were threatening armed intervention to collect debts, so the U.S. intervened. The corollary stated that in the case of clear, chronic wrongdoing by a Latin American country, the U.S. could become involved in the internal affairs of that country, asserting “international police power” to try to prevent European countries from violating the Monroe Doctrine.


President Roosevelt expanded the Monroe Doctrine with his Roosevelt Corollary


The threat of military power to force the cooperation of a foreign government, also known as “gunboat diplomacy,” became a new tool of U.S. foreign policy. U.S. Marines were sent into Santo Domingo in 1904, Nicaragua in 1911, and Haiti in 1915.


Monroe Doctrine political cartoon


The Monroe Doctrine did not help U.S. relations with Latin America. Countries from Mexico to Chile had doubts about U.S. interventions, and relations were strained for years. Latin American nations referred to the U.S. as the “Yankee Colossus of the North,” grabbing territory from its weaker neighbors.

The Roosevelt Corollary remained a cornerstone of American policy in the Caribbean until it was reversed a decade later.


A “Good Neighbor”


As soon as President Franklin Roosevelt took office in 1933, he adopted his Good Neighbor Policy, stating that countries should respect themselves and their neighbors [7]. The nation’s relationships should benefit both countries, not just one side. With this policy, the U.S. gave up its right to meddle with the internal affairs of other countries.

“In the field of world policy, I would dedicate this Nation to the policy of the good neighbor… We now realize as we have never realized before our interdependence on each other; that we cannot merely take, but must give as well,” President Roosevelt said in his first inaugural address.

In the years before and after World War II, the U.S. tried to influence Latin American countries and the world without resorting to military force. Many North and South American countries agreed to work together to help keep other powers from interfering in the hemisphere. In 1947, they came together to sign the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (also known as the Rio Treaty), which said that an armed attack against one is an attack against them all [8].

Years later, during the rise of communism and the Cold War, the U.S. again used the Monroe Doctrine to justify intervening in the affairs of its southern neighbors to prevent an outside nation from meddling within America’s sphere of influence. President John F. Kennedy invoked the doctrine in 1962 when the Soviet Union began building missile launch sites in Cuba, giving the Soviets the possibility of unleashing a nuclear hellscape on America before it could even respond [9]. The deployment of nuclear missiles was also seen as a violation of the Rio Treaty, since the Soviets would have de facto control over Cuba. President Kennedy put a naval and air quarantine around the island, pushing the world to the brink of war and possibly a nuclear war. The crisis ended shortly after it began; the Soviet Union officially withdrew the missiles and dismantled the launch sites.

In 1983, Marxist rebels loyal to Cuba and the Soviet Union overthrew the government of the tiny Island nation of Grenada. President Ronald Reagan, an ardent anti-communist, demanded the rebels leave the country. As violence escalated, the President was concerned about the threat to nearly 1,000 Americans who had become trapped on the island. Fearing for their safety and rumors of the Soviets looking to build a strategic bomber base on the island, President Reagan invoked the Monroe Doctrine and ordered U.S. forces to invade Grenada and restore order [10]. Nearly 2,000 U.S. troops were sent to the island. They were met by Marxist guerrillas and Cuban soldiers, who fought to retain control of the island in a brutal forty-eight hour battle.

Once the fighting was over, nearly 6,000 U.S. troops had participated in the invasion and capture of the island. The Marxist government collapsed and was replaced by a democratically elected one. The Reagan administration called it a victory for democracy and cited it as the first “rollback” of communism since the Cold War began.

Reagan also used the policy of the Monroe Doctrine to intervene in El Salvador and Nicaragua to counter further Soviet interventions in those countries [11]. Several years later, President George H.W. Bush ordered an invasion of Panama to oust dictator Manuel Noriega who had turned his nation and government into a de facto narco-state.


Forgotten, Then Revived


Nearly two centuries after President Monroe introduced it, the doctrine was nearly killed by the Obama administration [12]. In November 2013, during a speech at the Organization of American States (OAS), Secretary of State John Kerry said that the U.S. saw its Latin American neighbors as equals.

“The era of the Monroe Doctrine is over,” Kerry declared. “The relationship that we seek and that we have worked hard to foster is not about a United States declaration about how and when it will intervene in the affairs of other American states.”

The subsequent administration then revived the doctrine. President Donald Trump, during his September 2018 address to the UN General Assembly, declared that America would intervene where necessary and warned foreign actors not to meddle in the affairs of America or the American hemisphere [13].

President Trump speaking to the UN General Assembly


President Trump said, “It has been the formal policy of our country since President Monroe that we reject the interference of foreign nations in this hemisphere.”

This time, instead of this being a warning to European countries, it was a warning to Russia and China not to interfere, especially in Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua.

The White House began using crippling economic and financial sanctions to force compliance with “uncooperative” countries in place of military force. President Trump has brought aggressive sanctions against Venezuela’s government, including asset freezes and measures to curtail oil exports and fuel imports, in hopes of causing the ouster of Socialist President Nicolas Maduro [14]. The Trump administration is part of a coalition of countries in the Western Hemisphere standing against Maduro and recognizing National Assembly leader Juan Guaido as interim president.

Regarding the pressure placed on Madura, President Trump’s National Security Advisor, John Bolton told CNN in 2019, “In this administration, we’re not afraid to use the word Monroe Doctrine [15]. This is a country in our hemisphere; it’s been the objective of presidents going back to Ronald Reagan to have a completely democratic hemisphere.”

Many Venezuelans are hoping that the U.S. will continue to put pressure on Maduro.


Monroe Doctrine Thriller


Authors James Rosone & Miranda Watson have written a compelling espionage and military thriller, set in the near future, based on the premise of the Monroe Doctrine. In their thriller, we see the People’s Republic of China look to expand their Belt & Road Initiative into Central America and the Caribbean. With the promise of economic development and foreign direct investment, the PRC is able to gain a foothold in El Salvador, Cuba, and Venezuela. When a deposit of rare earth minerals and an offshore oil discovery is made in Cuba, the Chinese set their eyes on transforming the country into a resource hub that will power their nation into the future.

Similarly, the untapped economic and mineral resources of Venezuela are too much for the Chinese not to want to intervene in their affairs. In exchange for helping the pariah of a regime stay in power, the PRC gains access to the untapped resources of the country. All of this fueled by the advent of a technological leap in machine learning and artificial intelligence by a Chinese scientist who has generated hundreds of thousands of models showing the leaders of China that now is the time to act. The Chinese super-AI helps the PRC stay one step ahead of America and the West, economically, diplomatically, and militarily.

The story is one of will. Does America and the West stand up to China’s globalist agenda, or will it be undone by the technological advancements in machine learning and artificial intelligence?


We hope you enjoy this little piece of background information as we prepare to release our fourth military-espionage thriller in early 2021.


#MonroeDoctrine #Futureofmodernwarfare #JamesRosone #MirandaWatson #Frontlinepublishinginc

Sources:

[1] https://www.britannica.com/event/Monroe-Doctrine

[2] https://www.ushistory.org/documents/monroe.htm

[3] https://www.britannica.com/event/Monroe-Doctrine

[4] https://kids.britannica.com/kids/article/Monroe-Doctrine/628231

[5] https://www.history.com/topics/early-20th-century-us/spanish-american-war

[6] https://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=true&doc=23

[7] https://www.historians.org/about-aha-and-membership/aha-history-and-archives/gi-roundtable-series/pamphlets/em-14-is-the-good-neighbor-policy-a-success-(1945)/what-is-the-good-neighbor-policy

[8] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inter-American_Treaty_of_Reciprocal_Assistance

[9] https://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=true&doc=23

[10] https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/united-states-invades-grenada

[11] https://www.history.com/topics/westward-expansion/monroe-doctrine

[12] https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2019/03/04/what-is-monroe-doctrine-john-boltons-justification-trumps-push-against-maduro/

[13] https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/6/19/trump-revives-monroe-doctrine-as-warning-to-china-and-russia

[14] https://ca.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-reaction-venezuela-idCAKBN27K2N6

[15] https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2019/03/04/what-is-monroe-doctrine-john-boltons-justification-trumps-push-against-maduro/


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