The Monroe Doctrine…The Original “Get Off My Lawn!”

Today in History, December 2: 1823 – The Monroe Doctrine. European powers had, in recent years, settled wars and were once again turning their attention westward…Russia had declared that the northwest American continent was theirs. In his 7th annual address to Congress, President James Monroe made it clear that while the US would not interfere with current foreign colonies in the western hemisphere, any additional attempts at colonization would draw American ire…

“….We owe it, therefore, to candor and to the amicable relations existing between the United States and those powers to declare 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. With the existing colonies or dependencies of any European power we have not interfered and shall not interfere. But with the Governments who have declared their independence and maintained it, and whose independence we have, on great consideration and on just principles, acknowledged, we could not view any interposition for the purpose of oppressing them, or controlling in any other manner their destiny, by any European power in any other light than as the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward the United States….”

It would be some time before Monroe’s statement of policy would be known as the “Monroe Doctrine”, but it would set the standard for American foreign policy for two centuries. The British wanted to make a joint statement in regards to the policy, wanting to secure their interests in the Americas. Monroe and his Secretary of State, John Quincy Adams, who drafted the statements, refused, still lacking trust of the British after the War of 1812. The Royal Navy would nonetheless enforce the Doctrine for years until the US was powerful enough to do so herself.

Presidents from James K. Polk (Texas independence), US Grant (Venezuela conflict), Theodore Roosevelt (Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine), and John F. Kennedy (Russian missiles in Cuba), and Ronald Reagan (Contra affair) have invoked the Monroe Doctrine in foreign policy incidents. Recently Presidents seem to have put the Doctrine aside (Soviet influence in Venezuela, giving up the Panama Canal, which is now primarily under Chinese control), but the future will someday be history; and I’m not convinced Monroe’s far reaching, prescient policies will not be utilized again, more in cooperation with our neighbors rather than as a “big brother.”

On the Brink of Armageddon

Today in History, October 22, 1962:  President Kennedy announces in a speech from the Oval Office that the Soviet Union has placed nuclear missiles in Cuba, only 90 miles from Florida.  Any city within the United States could be destroyed within moments.

President Kennedy announced the US Navy was conducting a “Quarantine” of Cuba, another name for a Blockade, which “could” be considered an act of war.  He also made clear that any missile launched from Cuba upon any nation in the Western Hemisphere would result in an attack on the Soviet Union.  Could this be interpreted as enforcement of the Monroe Doctrine?

Today we are experiencing stressful times, a showdown with North Korea.  We’ve been here before, even worse.  We are made nervous by the rhetoric voiced by our government.  President Kennedy kept us safe by letting the Soviets and Cuba know the consequences would be dire if they acted in bad faith.  At that time Castro and the Soviet government were viewed as “madmen” much as Kim is today.