Posts Tagged ‘Monroe Doctrine’

El señor Secretario de Estados de Estados Unidos, Mr. John Kerry, pronunció ayer, 18 de noviembre,  un discurso ante la Organización de Estados Americanos, declarando el fin de la Doctrina Monroe. Aunque claramente dirigidas a mejorar la imagen de Estados Unidos, afectada por el tema del espionaje, las declaraciones de Kerry no dejan de tener importancia, especialmente, ante el actual contexto internacional. Está por verse si las palabras de Kerry marcan el fin definitivo de  uno de los elementos más importantes en el desarrollo de las relaciones entre Estados Unidos y América Latina.

Comparto con mis lectores el texto integro del mensaje de Kerry.

Remarks on U.S. Policy in the Western Hemisphere

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Organization of American States
Washington, DC
November 18, 2013

Mr. Secretary-General, thank you very, very much. Thank you for a wonderful welcome on this absolutely beautiful, luscious, seductive fall day, as pretty as it gets, and one that’s quickly prompting all of us to ask why we’re at work today. I’m privileged to be here. I want to thank the Inter-American Dialogue. Thank you, Michael Shifter, and thank you, Ambassador Deborah-Mae Lovell for the invitation to be here. I want to thank the Organization of American States for inviting me to speak here this morning. And it’s always wonderful to be in this remarkable, beautiful, historic building.A few minutes ago, we were down below in the atrium and Secretary-General Insulza took me over to see the peace tree that President Taft planted more than 100 years ago. It’s a remarkable tree, and it’s a testimony to the deep roots of the OAS, which is the quintessential multilateral entity of the Americas and has its origins obviously dating back to even before that peace tree was planted. The – I was tempted to tell a story about William Howard Taft who – and a famous introduction that he made – but I’m going to spare you that particular story – (laughter) – but it’s a very funny one, and worth at some point sharing with you. I’m delighted to be in the company of former Trade Representative Carla Hills. Great to be here with you. And I’m particularly proud to be here with our Assistant Secretary Roberta Jacobson, who does such an outstanding job with respect to all of the Western Hemisphere, has come – just come back from China on a dialogue in China regarding the Western Hemisphere and Latin America particularly.

Since I became Secretary of State, I’ve had the privilege of speaking in some beautiful rooms like this in about, what, 30 countries all over the world. But I cannot tell you how nice it is to speak in one where I get to drive for two minutes instead of fly 12 hours. It makes a difference.

The fact is that this is a very important moment for all of the American states. Fifty years ago, President Kennedy spoke about the promise of the Western Hemisphere, and in what would become, sadly, his final address on foreign policy. President Kennedy expressed his hope for a hemisphere of nations, each confident in the strength of its own independence, devoted to the liberty of its citizens. If he could only see where we are today. In the half century since he spoke, more and more countries are coming closer and closer to realizing his vision and all of our hopes.

When people speak of the Western Hemisphere, they often talk about transformations that have taken place, but the truth is one of the biggest transformations has happened right here in the United States of America. In the early days of our republic, the United States made a choice about its relationship with Latin America. President James Monroe, who was also a former Secretary of State, declared that the United States would unilaterally, and as a matter of fact, act as the protector of the region. The doctrine that bears his name asserted our authority to step in and oppose the influence of European powers in Latin America. And throughout our nation’s history, successive presidents have reinforced that doctrine and made a similar choice.

Today, however, we have made a different choice. The era of the Monroe Doctrine is over. (Applause.) The relationship – that’s worth applauding. That’s not a bad thing. (Applause.) The relationship that we seek and that we have worked hard to foster is not about a United States declaration about how and when it will intervene in the affairs of other American states. It’s about all of our countries viewing one another as equals, sharing responsibilities, cooperating on security issues, and adhering not to doctrine, but to the decisions that we make as partners to advance the values and the interests that we share.

As the old proverb says, La union hace la fuerza. The union – in unity, there is strength. Through our shared commitment to democracy, we collectively present a vivid example to the world that diversity is strength, that inclusion works, that justice can reject impunity, and that the rights of individuals must be protected against government overreach and abuse. We also prove that peace is possible. You don’t need force to have fuerza. The vision that we share for our countries is actually within our grasp, but we have to ask ourselves some tough and important questions in order to secure our goal.

First and foremost, will we together promote and protect the democracy, security, and peace that all the people of the Americas deserve? Second, will we seize the chance to advance prosperity throughout the Western Hemisphere and educate the young people who will drive the economies of the future? And third, will we together meet a responsibility that requires more strength, and thus more unity than ever before, and thereby effectively address the threat posed by climate change?

Now, how we answer these questions will determine whether or not we can actually become the hemisphere of nations that President Kennedy envisioned, each country existing side-by-side, confident, strong, and independent and free. The first question is actually answered by the broad protection of democratic values that have become the rule and not the exception within the Western Hemisphere. In a few short decades, democratic representation has, for the most part, displaced the repression of dictators. But the real challenge of the 21st century in the Americas will be how we use our democratic governments to deliver development, overcome poverty, and improve social inclusion.

Last summer, I traveled to Brasilia, and as I was leaving my meeting with the Foreign Minister, I was greeted by a group of protestors. Now, I don’t speak Portuguese – my wife does, I don’t – but I did understand the four-letter words that they yelled because they were in English. (Laughter.) And as jarring as it can be sometimes, that moment was actually the picture of a healthy democracy.

And today, it is our shared democratic values that have enabled us to weather challenges like the understandable concerns around the surveillance disclosures, concerns that prompt us all to figure out how we’re going to get through and build a stronger foundation for the future based on our common democratic values and beliefs.

Successful democracies depend on all citizens having a voice and on respecting those voices, and all governments having the courage and the capacity to listen to those voices. We can be immensely proud, I think, of this hemisphere’s democratic trajectory and of the institutions that we built in order to hold ourselves to the future and to be accountable. That is the difference, and to hold ourselves to the OAS Charter.

And we also express our concern when democratic institutions are weakened, as we’ve seen in Venezuela recently. In March of this year, the United States joined with many of you right here in this very room, as a matter of fact, to affirm the independence and the mandate of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

We have also joined together to support the OAS electoral observation missions throughout the hemisphere, including the one for the election in Honduras next week. All of us here have an opportunity to help assure that this election is transparent, inclusive, peaceful, and fair, and that the process is one that the Honduran people could actually rely on in order to express their will. We – all of us – must do everything that we can to support the OAS efforts to provide assistance and impartially observe the elections. There is no better expression of our strength and unity than following through on that effort.

We also know well that the critical ingredient of a successful democracy is how we provide for our security at home for all of our citizens. Safe streets, safe neighborhoods, safe communities, really do depend on upholding the rule of law.

In June, I went to Guatemala and I met with Attorney General Paz y Paz. She has made extraordinary progress in combating corruption and organized crime, protecting women from violence, and prosecuting human rights violations.

In August, I traveled to Bogota and I saw a remarkable demonstration of Colombia’s sacrifice and progress in the fight against illegal drugs and violence, a fight which has actually made it possible for President Santos’s courageous effort to achieve sustainable and just peace.

I think it is undeniable what our unity of purpose is. Step by step, making our democracies stronger and our people more secure – in Guatemala, in Colombia, and throughout the Americas. And for the most part, I think you’ll agree with me the Western Hemisphere is unified in its commitment to pursuing successful democracies in the way that I describe.

But one exception, of course, remains: Cuba. Since President Obama took office, the Administration has started to search for a new beginning with Cuba. As he said just last week, when it comes to our relationship with Cuba, we have to be creative, we have to be thoughtful, and we have to continue to update our policies.

Our governments are finding some cooperation on common interests at this point in time. Each year, hundreds of thousands of Americans visit Havana, and hundreds of millions of dollars in trade and remittances flow from the United States to Cuba. We are committed to this human interchange, and in the United States we believe that our people are actually our best ambassadors. They are ambassadors of our ideals, of our values, of our beliefs.

And while we also welcome some of the changes that are taking place in Cuba which allow more Cubans to be able to travel freely and work for themselves, these changes should absolutely not blind us to the authoritarian reality of life for ordinary Cubans. In a hemisphere where citizens everywhere have a right to be able to choose their leaders, Cubans uniquely do not. In a hemisphere where people can criticize their leaders without fear of arrest or violence, Cubans still cannot. And if more does not change soon, it is clear that the 21st century will continue, unfortunately, to leave the Cuban people behind.

We look forward to the day – and we hope it will come soon – when the Cuban Government embraces a broader political reform agenda that will enable its people to freely determine their own future. The entire hemisphere – all of us – share an interest in ensuring that Cubans enjoy the rights protected by our Inter-American Democratic Charter, and we expect to stand united in this aspiration. Because in every country, including the United States, each day that we don’t press forward on behalf of personal freedoms and representative government, we risk sliding backwards. And none of us can accept that.

Even as we celebrate the democratic values that have spread throughout Latin America, we must also acknowledge where those values are being challenged. After all, timely elections matter little if they are not really free and fair with all political parties competing on a level playing field. A separation of powers is of little comfort if independent institutions are not able to hold the powerful to account. And laws that guarantee freedom of the press, freedom of expression, and freedom of religion are of little consequence if they are not enforced. Democracy is not a final destination; it is an endless journey. And every day, all of us must renew our decision to actually move it forward. And we are no less immune to that reality here in the United States than anywhere else; in fact, in recent days, perhaps even more susceptible to it.

We’ve also – all of us – got important decisions to make about how we bring about shared economic prosperity – the prosperity to which we all aspire. To start with, educational opportunity, above all, must be a priority. It is only with widely available, high-quality education that our workforce, the workforce of the hemisphere, will be equipped for the jobs of the future. Education, as we all know, opens up other doors as well. As former Senator J. William Fulbright said: “Having people who understand your thought is much greater security than another submarine.” That’s the idea behind the State Department’s Fulbright exchanges. And it is the idea behind President Obama’s 100,000 Strong in the Americas initiative, which is aimed at increasing the flow of exchange students in both directions here in the Western Hemisphere.

But my friends, education, as we know, is only the first step. We must also press even harder to help create jobs and economic opportunity for our young people for the day after graduation comes and goes. Our hemisphere is already, as the Secretary General mentioned in his introductory comments, a thriving market of nearly a billion people. Over the past decade, the economies of Latin America and the Caribbean grew at a rate of 4 percent a year. The United States is proud to play a role in this. Just last week, we announced more than $98 million in private financing for 4,000 small- and medium-sized businesses throughout the hemisphere in order to encourage this energy and create it and keep it moving.

And the kind of growth that the region is experiencing fueled by sound economic policies, innovative social programs, and increased international trade and investment – that growth has dramatically improved the lives of all of our citizens. In the past decade alone as trade has grown between the United States and Latin America – nearly tripled – more than 73 million people, as the Secretary General mentioned, have been lifted out of poverty. Think about that. That’s more people than live in Canada and Argentina combined. It’s an extraordinary story, and it’s a story of success. It’s a story of policies that are working but need to be grown, not moved away from. Imagine what is possible if we continue to open up trade and investment in our children’s futures.

When I was a senator, I was very proud and pleased to vote to ratify both the Colombia and the Panama Trade Promotion Agreements, which President Obama signed into law. And we’re already seeing the growth that these agreements made possible. During the first year of the U.S.-Colombia FTA, nearly 800 Colombian companies of all sizes entered the U.S. market for the very first time. These new exporters sold their goods and services in more than 20 different American states. And today, Vice President Biden is traveling to Panama to visit the canal expansion project that will continue to spark increased trade throughout the region.

Under President Obama’s leadership, we’ve also helped expand the region’s participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, taking it beyond Chile and Peru to include Canada and Mexico. And we have redoubled our commitment to NAFTA, the greatest single step toward shared prosperity in this hemisphere, which I am pleased to say also I voted for at a time when I think people remember it was very contentious and very difficult. But all of us know – can’t rest on those agreements alone. That’s not enough. We know we can do more. And if we do more, the Western Hemisphere will continue to be a leader in the global markets for decades to come.

One of the opportunities that is staring at us that I just mentioned a moment ago about these many opportunities – one of those opportunities is a $6 trillion market and has 4 billion users. I’m talking about the new energy market – biggest market in human history. The market that created such extraordinary wealth in the 1990s where in America, in the United States, every single quintile of American income earner, from the bottom right through to the top – everybody saw their incomes go up. And we all know it was a time when we balanced the budget three years in a row. It was a time of extraordinary growth.

The market that drove that growth was a $1 trillion market with 1 billion users – the high-tech computer, home computer model. That was the market – technology. The energy market is six times that market. And the 4 billion users today will grow to 6 billion, ultimately 9 billion between now and 2050. It will help us to answer the third and final question that I mentioned – whether or not we will leave to our children and grandchildren a planet that is healthy, clean, and sustainable. Actually, this is not so much a question as it really is a compelling challenge, the challenge of a generation, maybe even the challenge of a century, maybe even the challenge of life itself on the planet if you digest adequately all that science is telling us today.

More than two decades ago, I visited Brazil as part of the U.S. delegation to the Rio Summit. This was the first time that the global community came together united to try to address climate change. It was also the trip where I got to know an amazing Portuguese-speaking woman named Teresa, who three years later would become my wife. So I like Rio. It’s a good place. (Laughter.)

But Teresa and I still talk about a young 12-year-old girl from Vancouver named Severn Suzuki, who took the stage at that summit in order to, as she put it, quote, “fight for her future.” Twenty-one years later, I still remember what she said about climate change, as follows: “I’m only a child,” she told us, “yet I know we are all in this together and should act as one single world towards one single goal.” Severn understood something that a lot of folks today need to grasp, something still missing from our political debate, like the saying goes that I said a moment ago, La union hace la fuerza – we need that more than ever now with respect to this challenge of climate change. Decades later, we have a lot to learn from that young woman.

The Americas have become the new center of our global energy map. Our hemisphere supplies now one-fourth of the world’s crude oil and nearly one-fourth of its coal. We support over a third of global electricity. And what that means is that we have the ability and the great responsibility to influence the way that the entire world is powered. To do this, it will require each of our nations to make some very fundamental policy choices. We need to embrace the energy future over the energy of the past.

And I am well aware – I’ve been through these battles in the United States Senate – I know how tough it is. I know how many different industries and how many powerful interests there are to push back. But we, people, all of us have a responsibility to push back against them. Climate change is real. It is happening. And if we don’t take significant action as partners, it will continue to threaten not only our environment and our communities, but as our friends from the Caribbean and other island nations know, it will threaten potentially our entire way of life, certainly theirs.

The challenge of climate change will cost us far more for its negative impact than the investment that we need to make today in order to meet the challenge. Every economic model shows that, and yet we shy away. Our economies have yet to factor in the monetary costs of doing nothing or doing too little. The devastating effects that droughts can have on farmers’ harvests; the hefty price tag that comes with rebuilding communities after every catastrophe, after every hurricane or tropical storm tears through them and leaves a trail of destruction in their wake; the extraordinary cost of fires that didn’t burn as ferociously and as frequently as they do today because of the increased dryness; the increasing signs of loss of water for the Himalayas as the glaciers shrink; and therefore, as the great rivers of China and other countries on one side and India on the other are threatened as billions of people see their food and food security affected.

These are real challenges, and they’re not somewhere in the future. We’re already seeing them now. For all of these reasons, combating climate change is an urgent priority for President Obama and myself, and we know that we are one of the largest contributors to the problem. There are about 20 nations that contribute over 90 percent of the problem. That’s why President Obama unveiled a new Climate Action Plan to drive more aggressive domestic policy on climate change than ever before. And the good news is the agenda that he’s put together is one specifically designed to be able to be done by administrative order so you don’t have to wait for Congress to act.

Many other nations in the Western Hemisphere are also working hard to do their part as well. And I’m proud to say that as part of the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas, the United States has collaborated with more than two dozen countries, Latin America, and the Caribbean in order to support effective programs to address the reality of this grave threat. But if we take advantage, my friends, this is not a threat where there is not a solution. We have a solution, a number of them staring us in the face. We just don’t make the political decision because of these forces that push back.

We know what the alternatives are. We know the advantage of the enormous breakthroughs that are happening in clean energy. And if we share expertise and deploy new technologies throughout the region, if we connect the electrical grids throughout the Americas, then we can share and sell power to each other at different points of time in different ways with a more vibrant marketplace. If we harness the power of the wind in Mexico and the biomass in Brazil, the sunshine in Chile and Peru, the natural gas in the United States and Argentina, then the enormous benefits for local economies, public health, and of course climate change mitigation could reach every corner of the Americas and beyond.

This is what a new inter-American partnership is really all about. The Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho, one of the most widely read authors in the world, wrote “When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change.” So the question for all of us is: Will we have the courage to make the tough choices and the willingness to change? Fifty years from today, on the hundredth anniversary of President Kennedy’s call to the region, will the hemisphere of nations that he dreamed about become a reality?

Many years ago, the United States dictated a policy that defined the hemisphere for many years after. We’ve moved past that era. And today, we must go even further. All of the things that we’ve talked about today – the future of our democracies, the strength of our democracies, the development of those democracies, the inclusion of all of our people in a system with accountability and without impunity for the defections, our shared prosperity and all that brings us, the education of our children, the future of our planet, our response to climate change – all of these things do not depend on the next administration or the next generation. They depend on us now.

And the question is: will we work as equal partners in order to achieve our goals? It will require courage and a willingness to change. But above all, it will require a higher and deeper level of cooperation between us, all of us together, as equal partners in this hemisphere. That is the way we will make the difference, and that is the way we will live up to our responsibility.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

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An Isolationist United States? If Only That Were True
Tim Reuter

Forbes, October 10, 2013

“Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none.”  Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address.

This image depicts the Territorial acquisitions of the United States, such as the Thirteen Colonies, the Louisiana Purchase, British and Spanish Cession, and so on.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This image depicts the Territorial acquisitions of the United States, such as the Thirteen Colonies, the Louisiana Purchase, British and Spanish Cession, and so on. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

George Orwell once wrote that if “thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.”  He derided his contemporaries for how their use and abuse of the term fascism emptied the word of any meaning.  The subsequent inability to define fascism degraded it “to the level of a swearword,” and a slur for use against anyone or anything deemed undesirable.

The same holds true for the word isolationism, and its use in American foreign policy discussions.  Proponents of American empire hurl the words isolationism and isolationist at their critics to tar them as ignoramuses and kooks.  The neoconservative movement’s scion, super hawk Bill Kristol, has dismissed, the non-interventionist and possible 2016 presidential candidate, Senator Rand Paul as a “neo-isolationist.”

Charles Krauthammer was more explicit in a Washington Post op-ed on August 1:

“The Paulites, pining for the splendid isolation of the 19th century, want to leave the world alone on the assumption that it will then leave us alone.  Which rests on the further assumption that international stability — open sea lanes, free commerce, relative tranquility — comes naturally, like the air we breathe.  If only that were true. Unfortunately, stability is not a matter of grace.  It comes about only by Great Power exertion… World order is maintained by American power and American will.  Take that away and you don’t get tranquility.  You get chaos.”

The specter of renewed intervention in the Middle East (attacking Syria) may have passed, but the slur remains.  Neoconservative intellectuals, obsessed with American military might, have stamped non-interventionists and the war weary public alike as isolationists.

But in the history of American foreign affairs, isolation has never meant a lonely existence.  Instead, it implied security.  The “splendid isolation” phrase mocked by Krauthammer comes from late Nineteenth Century British statesman who viewed Britain’s interests as distinct from continental Europe’s.  The English Channel separated British security concerns from the continent’s power politics and wars.  This geographic isolation helped demarcate differences between colonial security interests, which Britain routinely acted on, and homeland security.

Something similar was true for the United States.  German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck put the matter well: “The Americans are truly a lucky people.  They are bordered to the north and south by weak neighbors and to the east and west by fish.”  The Founding Fathers agreed.

Americans had the geographic luck of distance from Europe and its conflicts.  Out of this ability to avoid unnecessary wars that jeopardized life and liberty, came the Founders’ caution.  Before Jefferson’s aforementioned quip, George Washington stated the matter bluntly in his Farewell Address.  “It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world.”

Such counsel contained a powerful strain of realism.  Strict neutrality was the infant nation’s best hope for survival amid international turmoil.  The global nature of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars threatened to ensnare and destroy the republic with one misstep or ill-fated alliance.  President James Madison nearly did just that in the War of 1812 when British forces burned Washington D.C.

In the republic’s harrowing early years, one should note the impossibility of isolation or having no foreign contact.  The world war meant the U.S. needed diplomatic relations and readiness for conflict.  Sometimes the two overlapped, such as when hostilities began in 1812 over the repeated impressment of American sailors into the Royal Navy.  But, the key for the Founders was to comprehend foreign threats and respond appropriately.

Prescribed aloofness from European power politics never concerned diplomacy or trade.  The Founders encouraged the latter, while the former became easier after Napoleon’s fall in 1815.  Indeed, diplomacy was critical to bolstering U.S. security.

The Louisiana Purchase of 1803 did more than add land.  It reduced the presence of France, and then Spain, in North America and secured American control of the Mississippi River.  The Adams-Onís Treaty of 1819 built off of Jefferson’s work.  It exchanged vague boundary claims in present-day Texas for Spanish Florida, and consolidated American control of land east of the Mississippi River.  Moreover, New Spain (Mexico and Central America) became independent soon thereafter.

In 1823, President James Monroe warned European nations against re-colonizing Latin America.  Such efforts would constitute a serious threat to U.S. security.  Despite America’s inability to enforce the Monroe Doctrine, and whether by design or accident, Britain tacitly approved.  Spanish re-conquest likely meant a reestablished mercantilist system.  If the Royal Navy kept prospective colonizers out, those new markets would likely stay open.  This overlap of British economic interests and American geopolitical interests benefited the United States immensely.

As Europe settled into peace, foreign crises abated and the market revolution began.  Over the succeeding years, U.S. economic growth exploded, the restraints of weakness fell away, and politicians’ desire to exercise power grew.  From 1815 to the Civil War, Americans made plenty of mischief abroad.  The U.S. declared one war (against Mexico 1846-1848), threatened another with Britain over border disputes regarding Canada out west (1845-1847), and issued ultimatums to Spain about freeing Cuba (the 1854 Ostend Manifesto).

The justification for this belligerency may sound familiar, freedom.  In July 1845, a young writer named John L. O’Sullivan published an editorial entitled “Annexation” in The United States Democratic Review.  This piece mixed freedom with foreign policy, and turned a famous phrase.  O’Sullivan opined about America’s “manifest destiny” to “overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions.”

O’Sullivan did not mean territorial acquisition by force.  Instead, the spread of free peoples and success of free institutions would exercise a gravitational pull.  American energy and productivity would inexorably draw North America’s foreign territories into the Union.  California, then part of Mexico, was a case in point.

“Already the advance guard of the irresistible army of Anglo-Saxon emigration has begun to pour down upon it, armed with the plough and the rifle, and marking its trail with schools and colleges, courts and representative halls, mills and meeting-houses.  A population will soon be in actual occupation of California, over which it will be idle for Mexico to dream of dominion.”

Stated succinctly, freedom’s power lay internally.  Americans’ success as free people marked them as chosen by God to show the way to a better future.  Moreover, once the U.S. conquered North America, no European power would equal its strength.  O’Sullivan concluded:

“Away, then, with all idle French talk of balances of power on the American continent [emphasis in the original]… And whosoever may hold the balance, though they should cast into the opposite scale all the bayonets and cannon, not only of France and England, but of Europe entire, how would it kick the beam against the simple solid weight of two hundred and fifty, or three hundred millions-and American millions-destined to gather beneath the flutter of the stripes and stars, in the fast hastening year of the Lord 1945!”

Others shared such sentiments, including the new president.  In his first annual message to Congress in December 1845, President James Polk stated, “the expansion of free principles and our rising greatness as a nation are attracting the attention of the powers of Europe.”  That attention brought about the threat of a “ ‘balance of power’ ” system imposed “on this continent to check our advancement.”

The solution was territorial acquisition.  A trans-continental United States would, excluding British Canada, end European intrigue and mischief making in North America.  If it came at the expense of others, then so be it.  Such thinking was not confined to the younger generation.  President Andrew Jackson said of Mexico’s breakaway Texas province in 1844: it was “the key to our safety” and would “lock the door against future danger.”  Texas was duly annexed in February 1845, while the Oregon territory and California followed soon thereafter.

But ultimately, America’s exaltation of freedom did not stop with continental conquest.  It turned outward after Reconstruction and the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.  While not inevitable, the transition from Jefferson’s “empire of liberty,” to an imperial power built off early expansionist impulses.

As European nations carved up Africa, Americans watched a horror show closer to home.  In February of 1895, Cuba’s Spanish masters brutally suppressed an insurrection.  Mass arrests, concentration camps, and destruction of property continually wracked the island.  Such carnage, inflamed by mass media, attracted renewed American interest in obtaining Cuba.  However, the reasons for annexation had changed with the times.

Early interest fit into O’Sullivan’s model of gravitational pull.  As Monroe’s Secretary of State (1817-1825), John Quincy Adams labeled Puerto Rico and Cuba “natural appendages of the North American continent.”  Once free, both could “gravitate only towards the North American Union.”  His contemporaries and successors agreed: Madison tried to buy the island in 1810 and annexationists eagerly awaited its freedom in 1848 as revolution gripped Europe.  Yet, Cuba stayed Spanish real estate.

With wealth and power by the end of the Nineteenth Century, American opinions on imperialism had changed.  Given its proximity, Cuba was a logical target.  Some, such as Senator Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts, appealed to security concerns.  He called Cuba a “necessity” to the defense of the Panama Canal upon its completion.  Others, namely Senator Morgan of Alabama, thought the prior generations’ wisdom was obsolete.  He unabashedly stated, “Cuba should become an American colony.”

While Cuba burned, jingoists kept agitating for colonialism on newer, and more expansive, grounds.  In April 1898, with war declared on Spain, freedom’s forceful expansion reached its supreme perversion in a speech by Senator Albert Beveridge of Indiana.  “The progress of a mighty people and their free institutions” begun at the Nineteenth Century’s start was nearing its apex.  “Fate has written our policy for us; the trade of the world must and shall be ours.”  This quest for an empire of trade wrested Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines from Spain in three months.

The turn from the past finished four years later in a faraway land.  On July 4, 1902 President Theodore Roosevelt extended pardons to all those involved in the Filipino insurrection.  This gesture came after roughly a million Filipinos died in a guerilla war against U.S. forces.  Upwards of 75,000 American soldiers suppressed the rebellion, captured Aguinaldo (the rebellion’s leader), and solidified American control over the nation’s new Pacific trade post.  All that remained was to “civilize and Christianize” the “little brown brothers.”  While it might take a while, Governor-General William Howard Taft estimated “fifty or one hundred years,” the empire would endure.

The neocons’ chest thumping about American power relies on alleged international benefits, open seas, outweighing the negatives of expense or quagmires.  They seemingly do not consider, or care about, domestic consequences; centralized power, distorted perceptions of the military’s role in protecting society, and intellectuals playing social engineers.

Some statesmen, in their humility, knew better.  Eighty-one years before Roosevelt’s pivot to imperialism, John Quincy Adams channeled his father’s generation.  On July 4, 1821, he issued as sublime a statement of U.S. foreign policy ever written.

“But she [America] goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy.  She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own… She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom.  The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force [emphasis added].”

How prophetic.  Yet, it seems the era of intervention that climaxed under President George W. Bush is at its end.  Its foundational ideas are in retreat despite the bellowing of its loudest spokesmen.   The next, and final, step for such bankrupt ideas and the isolationist slur is residence in the dustbin of history.

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Opinionator - A Gathering of Opinion From Around the Web

Maximilian in Mexico

New York Times, October 4, 2013

On Oct. 3, 1863, a Mexican delegation arrived in the Austrian port city of Trieste to officially offer Mexico’s imperial crown to the 31-year-old Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian, a scion of the Austrian branch of the Hapsburg royal family and the brother of the Austrian emperor, Franz Josef I.

For 300 years the family’s Spanish branch and its successors had, by virtue of its seat in Madrid, ruled over colonial Mexico and much of the Western Hemisphere. After Mexico won independence in 1821, it fell into a constant state of near anarchy; There were 75 government successions by the time the American Civil War started. Conservative Mexicans and wealthy ex-patriots longed for the stability that a European monarchy might provide, and some of them recalled wistfully the steady hand of the Hapsburgs.

Maximilian was interested for two reasons. The liberal-minded archduke felt he could improve Mexico. Perhaps more important, there was nothing for him at home: his brother was just two years older, and was looking forward to a long reign (in fact, he ruled until his death during World War I).

Still, Maximilian would never have ascended the Mexican throne were it not for yet another emperor, Napoleon III of France. Since Napoleon III’s famous uncle sold Louisiana to the United States in 1803, France had no major stake in the Western Hemisphere. With the advent of America’s Civil War, the French monarch sensed an opportunity to change that, with Maximilian as his puppet.

In early 1862, as America convulsed through the first year of its Civil War, France began placing troops in Mexico to collect customs duties on goods, in order to force the country to make payments on a defaulted debt to several European countries. But the Mexican government was too poor to concurrently make the payments and at the same time support the army of President Benito Juárez. Initially, soldiers from Spain and Britain joined the French, but were withdrawn once they realized Napoleon was scheming to establish a puppet monarchy. As a result, Maximilian would have no power without the presence of the 40,000-man French Army.

Napoleon had hoped to get Maximilian installed a year or so earlier, but he did not capture Mexico City until June 1863. Additionally, the archduke’s October ’63 acceptance of the crown was conditioned on “a vote of the whole country,” which was quickly achieved by gathering signatures under the glitter of French bayonets.

Still, Napoleon knew how drawn out the war was becoming and reasoned that President Abraham Lincoln would be too focused on suppressing the Confederacy to oppose him. The Monroe Doctrine would be temporarily impotent, while the future offered possibilities to render it permanently ineffective.

Although Juárez was forced out of Mexico City, he remained in the country opposing Maximilian during the entire American Civil War. Juárez quickly sided with Lincoln. Early in the war he granted the United States the right to land troops on Mexico’s west coast, where they could march rapidly into Arizona territory if needed to confront a possible Confederate drive westward. On doubtful authority the first Confederate minister to Mexico, John Pickett, countered by offering to support Mexico in the reoccupation of territories lost in the Mexican War, including the present states of California, Arizona, and New Mexico, if Juarez would cancel his deal with Lincoln.

Although Juárez declined, Washington realized that the Confederates could make a similar offer to Maximilian, turning the Mexican crisis into a proxy war. As one visitor to the archduke’s castle in Trieste wrote the Confederate minister in Paris,

Maximilian expressed the warmest possible interest in the Confederate cause. He said he considered it identical with that of the new Mexican Empire … that he was particularly desirous that his sentiments upon this subject should be known to the Confederate President.

The presence of a monarchy supported by a French army south of the border alarmed Washington and the far western states. In January 1864 Senator James McDougall of California proposed a Congressional resolution stating that French intervention in Mexico was “an act unfriendly to the republic of the United States.” It called upon the French to withdraw by March 15, and threatened war if they didn’t. But Lincoln wanted only one war at a time and had the motion sidetracked.

Nonetheless, three months later the House of Representatives unanimously approved a resolution that stated:

The Congress of the United States are unwilling … to leave … the impression that they are indifferent … [to] the deplorable events … in Mexico and … declare that it does not … acknowledge any monarchial government … in America under the auspices of any European power.

Although the Union’s concerns had validity, France wanted to avoid open warfare. In a Paris meeting before departing for Mexico, Napoleon, hopeful of territorial gains whichever side was victorious, convinced Maximilian to avoid endorsing the Confederacy until it won independence. As early as January 1863 the French consuls in Galveston and Richmond had been urging Texans to secede from the Confederacy..

After hearing about the French agitation in Texas, the Confederate Secretary of State, Judah Benjamin, instructed his Belgium minister to investigate. The man replied, “Mexico as she was previous to her dismemberment is the … cherished end at which [Napoleon III] aims.” Lincoln’s government captured Benjamin’s letter and asked its Brussels representative for his opinion. He confirmed that Napoleon III wanted Mexico to restore the borders applicable before the Mexican War. In short, he wanted Mexico to reclaim not only the Mexican Cession, but also Texas. Indeed, owing to its French traditions, Napoleon III believed that he might even be able to recover Louisiana. If all went as he hoped, France would once again have a major stake in the New World and the Monroe Doctrine would be meaningless.

The Confederacy reacted by expelling the offending diplomats, but Lincoln changed military priorities. After the fall of Vicksburg, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant wanted to lead an army reinforced by Gen. Nathaniel Banks against Mobile, Ala. A glance at a map confirms the obvious logic of the movement. Lincoln would not permit the advance, writing Grant, “in view of recent events in Mexico, I am greatly impressed with the importance of reestablishing the national authority in Western Texas as soon as possible.”

After a modest move against Brownsville and the Texas coast in November 1863, General in Chief Henry Halleck and cotton speculators urged a modification to the Union’s plans in the coastal Southwest that resulted in General Banks’s disastrous Red River Campaign in the spring of 1864. The goal was to capture the rebel stronghold at Shreveport, La., and then occupy the cotton fields of east Texas, while incidentally seizing up to 300,000 cotton bales (worth about $2 billion in today’s dollars) along the way. Unfortunately, even though Union forces outnumbered the rebels by more than two-to-one the Confederates turned back the federal offensive. Banks returned to New Orleans with fewer than 5,000 cotton bales, and the drive into Texas was halted.

Fortunately for the Union, the French and Maximilian were having a much harder time stabilizing their hold on Mexico than they had expected. After the end of the war, in an effort to help Juárez, Grant sent Gen. Philip Sheridan to the Rio Grande with an army of 50,000 men. Since Secretary of State William H. Seward did not want a war with Mexico or the French, he persuaded President Andrew Johnson to issue a ban on exports of weapons and ammunition. But Grant secretly ordered Sheridan to supply Juárez with matériel and weapons, including about 30,000 rifles.

Soon thereafter, Napoleon III announced a staged withdrawal of French troops, which left Maximilian nearly defenseless within two years. Juárez regained power in 1867, and promptly executed the naïve archduke.


Sources: “James J. Horgan, ““A Confederate Bull in a Mexican China Shop,” from “Divided We Fall: Essays on Confederate Nation Building,” John M. Belohlave, ed.; Henry Martyn Flint, “Mexico Under Maximilian”; Gene Smith, “Maximilian and Carlota”; Donald Miles, “Cinco de Mayo”; Robert Kerby, “Kirby Smith’s Confederacy”; Dean Mahin, “One War at a Time”; Frank Owlsey, “King Cotton Diplomacy”; Ludwell Johnson, “Red River Campaign”; G. J. Meyer, “A World Undone.”

disunion-phil-leigh-thumbStandardPhil Leigh is an independent Civil War historian and author. He is writing a book about wartime intersectional trade between North and South, “Trading With the Enemy.”

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