The Monroe Doctrine: America Cuts the Cord

The Monroe Doctrine: America Cuts the Cord

            It was time for America to move out, be independent, live alone, and follow their own rules. The Monroe Doctrine was a bold statement establishing the United States as an independent world power and the only power in the Western Hemisphere going largely unchallenged by the rest of the world. The Doctrine was a response to a British proposal to America about the settlement of the rest of the unclaimed land in the New World and the rising powers of Spain and Russia. United States President James Monroe made clear that the Americans claimed sovereignty over all of the New World. America was asserting their independence from Europe, setting themselves up as protectors of the New World. While the Doctrine was made on no legal grounds and did not have any power of enforcement behind it, was left unchallenged by other nations. As a consequence, America bolstered its independence from Britain and started its confident path to the superpower they are today. They took a risk and their gamble paid off. In return, America was able to establish not only that the New World was theirs, but also that they were a nation to be respected. For that reason, Americans should be proud (1.5).   

            The Monroe Doctrine is made up of four main points. The first being that the United States would not interfere or take part in any European internal affairs or conflicts. This meant that unless provoked directly, the United States would not get involved in any old world conflicts as it was not their business to do so. The second point was that the United States recognized and would not interfere with existing colonies and dependencies in the Western Hemisphere, meaning that America would let the South American colonies do what they wanted and would not interfere with their decisions. The third point stated that the Western Hemisphere was no longer open for colonization or settlement saying “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” (James Monroe, 1823). The Western Hemisphere has been claimed and protected and the old world has no further role settling and colonizing in the Americas. Colonization brings foreign political systems and ways of governing that were not welcome in the Western Hemisphere. The United States recognized that the political system of the allied powers was different from that of America’s and any attempt to assimilate to their political structure could be detrimental to the country. The fourth point said that any attempt to control or oppress any nation in the Western Hemisphere by a European power would be considered as an act of hostility towards the United States, meaning that if some European power tried to stake a claim to some land somewhere in South America for example, they would meet with American resistance. These points sent a clear message to Europe that America was not to be messed with.

            The Monroe Doctrine came at a time where there were many revolts and revolutions for independence and attempts for peace around the world. The Doctrine provided the Latin-American colonies that were starting to claim independence around the same time with an extra boost of motivation to push for independence. The Latin American Wars of Independence were, as the name suggests, a series of wars where South American colonies fought for independence from Europe. Prior to the Doctrine, America and Spain had good relations. Spain, having supported American troops in the French Revolution and the 1795 “Treaty of Friendship, Limits, and Navigation Between Spain and the United States” that set clear boundaries and cleared up land disputes. The Monroe Doctrine, though strengthening the relationship between America and South American colonies, negatively impacted their relationship with Spain leading America to no longer welcome Spain in the Western Hemisphere as colonists. Meanwhile, in Europe, Pax Britannica, a period of relative peace between the big powers of the time, was starting. Britain’s navy ruled the sea and adopted the role of a global policeman. Britain was trying to keep as much peace as possible. Having already fought 7 wars since 1800, Britain did not have the money nor did they have the manpower to be fighting in any more. The British wanted to strike an agreement with America, preventing other European powers from settling in the New World, potentially disrupting their trade agreements. In a letter to Thomas Jefferson, Monroe writes:

           My own impression is that we ought to meet the proposal of the British govt, & to make it known, that we would view an interference on the part of the European powers, and especially an attack on the Colonies, by them, as an attack on ourselves, presuming that if they succeeded with them, they would extend it to us. (Monroe, 17 October 1823)

           Though America declined the offer, they produced the Monroe Doctrine, which ended up being a relatively similar concept. Britain was content and lent support to America for the Doctrine by having the British Navy enforce it.

            The Monroe Doctrine still applies today with one example being the current situation in Venezuela. Juan Guaidó is being recognized as the interim President of Venezuela by many countries including America, but there are some conflicts. Not all countries are recognizing Guaidó as the President like Russia, who supports Nicolás Maduro, the elected President. Russia has been interfering and sending their military support to help Maduro and America, displeased, sees this as a violation of the Monroe Doctrine and has threatened to take action if Russia does not comply and stop sending reinforcements. This proves that America still stands by the Doctrine.

           While America seems to uphold the principles of the Munroe Doctrine, they are also infamous for their meddling in international politics and governments, particularly in the Western Hemisphere. America has supported “the Latin American militaries, normally acting with the support of the U.S. government, [who] overthrew civilian governments and destroyed other centers of democratic power…” (Patrice McSherry in Chomsky, 2008) such as Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega and Chilean leader Augusto Pinochet, but then turn on them when they were not needed anymore or were getting out of control. America has done this in almost every single South American country. Some of which, are still recovering from American interference. This really calls into question whether America still stands by the Monroe Doctrine, or whether it is just used as an excuse to do some things or not do others and just turn their back on it when it is inconvenient for them.

            The Monroe Doctrine has been a large factor in the decision making and actions of the United States. It has been referenced by many different presidents over the years, including Theodore Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. Americans could be proud of what the Monroe Doctrine has accomplished. It gained America international respect, set them up to become the superpower they are today, and still, nearly 200 years after originally being said, America still uses the Monroe Doctrine to judge their decisions. Though there have been some controversies about whether or not America keeps true to the Monroe Doctrine, it is still a powerful and influential message. It helped and still helps America be the power they are today.

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