January 30, 2005


The Doctrine That Never Died (TOM WOLFE, 1/30/05, NY Times)

SURELY some bright bulb from the Council on Foreign Relations in New York or the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton has already remarked that President Bush's inaugural address 10 days ago is the fourth corollary to the Monroe Doctrine. No? So many savants and not one peep out of the lot of them? Really? [...]

Theodore Roosevelt's corollary to President James Monroe's famous doctrine of 1823 proclaimed that not only did America have the right, à la Monroe, to block European attempts to re-colonize any of the Western Hemisphere, it also had the right to take over and shape up any nation in the hemisphere guilty of "chronic wrongdoing" or uncivilized behavior that left it "impotent," powerless to defend itself against aggressors from the Other Hemisphere, meaning mainly England, France, Spain, Germany and Italy.

The immediate problem was that the Dominican Republic had just reneged on millions in European loans so flagrantly that an Italian warship had turned up just off the harbor of Santo Domingo. Roosevelt sent the Navy down to frighten off the Italians and all other snarling Europeans. Then the United States took over the Dominican customs operations and debt management and by and by the whole country, eventually sending in the military to run the place. We didn't hesitate to occupy Haiti and Nicaragua, either.

Back in 1823, Europeans had ridiculed Monroe and his doctrine. Baron de Tuyll, the Russian minister to Washington, said Americans were too busy hard-grabbing and making money to ever stop long enough to fight, even if they had the power, which they didn't. But by the early 1900's it was a different story.

First there was T.R. And then came Senator Henry Cabot Lodge. In 1912 Japanese businessmen appeared to be on the verge of buying vast areas of Mexico's Baja California bordering our Southern California. Lodge drew up, and the Senate ratified, what became known as the Lodge Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine. The United States would allow no foreign interests, no Other Hemispheroids of any description, to give any foreign government "practical power of control" over territory in This Hemisphere. The Japanese government immediately denied having any connection with the tycoons, and the Baja deals, if any, evaporated.

Then, in 1950, George Kennan, the diplomat who had developed the containment theory of dealing with the Soviet Union after the Second World War, toured Latin America and came away alarmed by Communist influence in the region. So he devised the third corollary to the Monroe Doctrine. The Kennan Corollary said that Communism was simply a tool of Soviet national power. The United States had no choice, under the mandates of the Monroe Doctrine, but to eradicate Communist activity wherever it turned up in Latin America ... by any means necessary, even if it meant averting one's eyes from dictatorial regimes whose police force did everything but wear badges saying Chronic Wrongdoing.

The historian Gaddis Smith summarizes the Lodge and Kennan Corollaries elegantly and economically in "The Last Years of the Monroe Doctrine, 1945-1993." Now, Gaddis Smith was a graduate-schoolmate of mine and very much a star even then and has remained a star historian ever since. So do I dare suggest that in this one instance, in a brilliant career going on 50 years now, that Gaddis Smith might have been ...wrong? ... that 1945 to 1993 were not the last years of the Monroe Doctrine? ... that the doctrine was more buff and boisterous than it has ever been 10 days ago, Jan. 20, 2005?

Actually, even the Monroe Doctrine is just a gloss on the Declaration. Every great revolution in American foreign affairs thinking has really just been an extension of the universalist principles contained therein to farther shores.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 30, 2005 7:18 PM

what a joy finally to see a timeline like this that delineates US foreign policy history vis a vis the Monroe Doctrine. The most important ideas are actually easily explainable by an organized mind. Jerry

Posted by: jerry dodge at January 30, 2005 8:04 PM

My goodness, Orrin is sounding like a Jaffaesque West Coast Straussian with that welcome reference to the Declaration and founding principles.

Posted by: kevin whited at January 31, 2005 11:36 AM


The problem with Jaffa, as with all neo-cons, is that the Declaration is simply ancient Judeo-Christianity for the State:

[the Bible] begins with two fundamental statements. The first, perhaps the most revolutionary in Western civilization, is the declaration in Genesis 1, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness." In the ancient world it was not unknown for human beings to be in the image of God. That is what Mesopotamian kings and Egyptian pharaohs were. What is revolutionary about the Bible is its claim that this is true not only of rulers but of each of us.

The second, in Genesis 9, is God's covenant with Noah, the first covenant with all mankind, through which God asks humanity to construct societies based on the rule of law, the sovereignty of justice and the non-negotiable dignity of human life.

It is surely these two passages that inspire the great words, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights. . . ."


Posted by: oj at January 31, 2005 11:45 AM