IS THE MONROE DOCTRINE DEAD?
Is the Monroe Doctrine outdated? Not by a long sight. It can not possibly be regarded as dead. Has it been put in the hands of an Inter-American Committee? Or docs it have the pristine vigor with which President James Monroe challenged the threat of banded European powers to recapture the colonies that had revolted against Spain?
In 1825, President Monroe told the monarchs of the Holy Alliance that “we should consider any attempt on their part to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere as dangerous to our peace and safety.”
The Doctrine worked. With the blessing of the British fleet. And when Napoleon III set up archduke Maximilian as emperor of Меxicо during our Civil War, it worked again, this tune supported by a fifty thousand army of observation moved to the Mexican border, as soon as the war ended.
President Cleveland vigorously invoked the Monroe Doctrine in 1895 against Britain in a dispute over the boundaries between British Guiana and Venezuela, and the British consented to place all the disputed territory under arbitration. At this tune Cleveland wrote that the Doctrine “cannot become obsolete while our Republic endures”. Perhaps not — but it did change. Still its importance has been as great as that of any principle in America.
Originally the United States did not object, in theory, when European nations resorted to debt-collecting by force against defaulting Latin American slates. But it did not fail to grasp the danger of such expedition. The Caribbean became recognized as a particularly sensitive area and President Theodore Roosevelt in 1901 produced a variant on the doctrine which became known as the Roosevelt (or Caribbean) corollary.
Flagrant cases of chronic wrongdoing or governmental impotence, said Roosevelt, “may ultimately require intervention by some civilized nation,” and in the Western hemisphere the adherence to the Monroe Doctrine “may force the United States, however reluctantly … to the exercise of an international police power.” The power was exercised in a number of Caribbean nations — Cuba (where it was provided for by the treaty of 1903), Santo Domingo, Haiti and Nicaragua among them.
The idea of the United States as international policeman was, of course, not popular in Latin America, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt, dedicating the nation “to the policy of good neighbor,” moved rapidly toward the renunciation of “armed intervention.”
So the Americans moved by degrees toward common measure for defense and mutual assistance. In 1939, when war broke out in Europe, the Act of Panama set up a neutral zone on the seas (sometimes called the Pan-American security zone, but more commonly “chastity belt”).
Measures for defense against the Axis powers were concerted (with some feet dragging) and the destroyers-for-bases deal with Britain was billed as a measure for hemispheric protection. With the war’s end, the hemisphere moved to a treaty of mutual defense and establishment of the Organization of American States. These provide for consultation and joint action. There has been rather more consultation than action.
Feeling against intervention, joint or single is strong in Latin America, as well as fear of the Yankie “Colossus of the North”. Some are afraid lest it should apply the Monroe Doctrine independent of and even opposing the Charter of the United Nations (New York Herald Tribune, 1963)