Recalling the Monroe Doctrine

Russia is trying to rebuild its connections with left-leaning governments. Thus we have the visit of Russian President Medvedev and a Russian naval flotilla to the Venezuela of Hugo Chavez. I wonder if the Russians are aware of The Monroe Doctrine, which forbids nations outside the Western hemisphere from starting colonies and establishing spheres of influence here. Or if the Russians are testing whether our new government will enforce that doctrine.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Larry

    Ukraine? Georgia? Kazakhstan? Etc.? Why does all of this only work one direction? Those places are closer to Russia than Venezuela and we meddle in all of them with great gusto. The Monroe Doctrine is not law, we have no right, other than our great power, to keep others out of sovereign states when they are there at the invitation of those states. If they were invading and we were asked for help that might be a different story, but they are not.

  • The Jones

    When it comes to international relations, there is no such thing as law. It’s just vigilante nations with guns and other means of power. When it comes to things we typically call “international law,” what we really mean is bigger vigilante nations, or vigilante nations that are bigger together a group, ganging up and forcing their will on other nations. So, Larry (@1) is right when he says that the Monroe Doctrine is not law. It’s just what we say it is backed by the power and means to power held by the United States government.

    This sounds very caustic and Machiavellian, but it really is the way the world works out. Sure nations take certain “moral” actions and don’t just push their weight around, but you shouldn’t count on that! The United States is moving into Russia’s “Near Abroad” because we know that we are a force for prosperity and a good partner for the region. Russia has its own form of the Monroe Doctrine, but it has a nasty tendency to involve outright invasions. We don’t like that, so this vigilante nation (just like every other nation on Earth) conveniently ignores Russia’s claims. If we are going to step up to Russia’s ignorance of our own long-standing Monroe doctrine, we can’t go out and scream about “international law,” we’ve got to man up and assert our will against Russia, using most appropriate means of power, be it our diplomatic, military, economic, or alliance-related clout.

    This is the Great Game that nations play to keep their power in the world. I’m eager to see how Obama plays.

  • Don S

    Do the leftists in our country, and presently fully in charge of our government, understand the Monroe Doctrine? Do they even know about it, given the dreadful state of history education in our country? And, if the answer to both of the above is “yes”, do they agree with it? These questions are all prefatory to the question of whether they will actually enforce it.

  • Carl Vehse

    For more information on the demise of the Monroe Doctrine, ironically aided by Marilyn Monroe’s ex-boyfriend, check out The Last Years of the Monroe Doctrine: 1945-1993 by Gaddis Smith (Macmillan, 1994).

    Or, from The Cuban Missile Crisis: Violation of the Monroe Doctrine:

    “Has the Doctrine ever been violated?

    “Yes, and the answer is a ‘pick ‘em’ for assigning responsibility to either President Eisenhower who could have headed if off, or President Kennedy who did nothing to enforce the Doctrine.

    “The violation occurred when Fidel Castro came to power in Cuba and immediately submitted his country to the influence and virtual control of the Soviet Union. There was a lot of posturing and verbiage from Washington but the Monroe Doctrine was not enforced.”

  • http://www.oldsolar.com/currentblog.php Rick Ritchie

    A nation is a sovereignty over a geographical area. The Monroe Doctrine is an attempt to claim sovereignty over an area not occupied by a nation. How this would be justified morally is a good question. (The idea that the nation is sovereign within its borders itself seems shaky to me, but I’ll allow it for the sake of argument here.) At the time it was promoted, the doctrine might have had a pragmatic defense that could be made on its behalf. Now, however, even that is gone.

    National sovereignty is by “right” of conquest. If you cannot hold the land militarily, you lose the right. But if you never held the land, you really don’t have claims on it. This is like claiming squatters rights on land on which you never squatted. It may be near land you held. But claims are cheap. They gain force when some rule can enforce them. Individuals can make claims they cannot personally enforce when a nation honors their claims. Likewise, I suppose a nation could make such claims that it could not enforce if some international body honored their claim and was prepared to back it up.

    Perhaps Monroe saw colonialization as a threat. But if other nations colonized without attacking us, this just means that the President was making an excuse to justify a war where Just War criteria had not been met.


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