US revives Monroe Doctrine to provoke China, defend hegemonism

Oct 11, 2022
World map with flag United States of America
image: iStock

After the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, visited Taiwan on August 2, 2022, her compatriots continued to stoke regional tensions. They have sought to provoke China at every opportunity, hoping to trigger a response. Whereas their rhetoric has been inflammatory, their hypocrisy has been blatant.

On September 28, for example, when the US Vice President, Kamala Harris, visited Japan for the funeral of its former leader, Shinzo Abe, she could not resist stirring things up. Instead of concentrating on the obsequies, she chose instead to needle China, accusing it of undermining the “international rules-based order”. This, of course, is code for American hegemony, and she even claimed, notwithstanding the US having done the same thing for years, that Beijing was flexing “its military and economic might to coerce and intimidate its neighbours”.

Shortly thereafter, the US Defence Secretary, Lloyd Austin, was also tasked to stir the pot. On October 2, while welcoming his Australian and Japanese counterparts to the US military headquarters in Hawaii, he said he was “deeply concerned by China’s increasingly aggressive and bullying behaviour on the Taiwan Straits and elsewhere in the region”. He presumably imagined his guests were ignorant of America’s own record of interference, although the likelihood is that they knew but could not care less.

Anybody listening to Harris and Austin could be forgiven for marvelling at their hypocrisy, not least because neither was seemingly aware of America’s “Monroe Doctrine”, let alone the harm it has caused. The doctrine was announced by US President James Monroe to the US Congress in 1823, and it warned the European powers that the Western Hemisphere was now America’s own sphere of interest, and that anybody failing to respect this did so at their peril. Over the past 199 years, the doctrine has become central to US foreign policy, and has been repeatedly used to justify its interventionist policies.

Indeed, in 2004, the American philosopher, Noam Chomsky, pointed out that the Monroe Doctrine had been used by US governments as both a declaration of hegemony and a right of unilateral intervention in the Americas, and he can hopefully find the time to explain this to Harris and Austin.

As US power grew, it became bolder still, and this prompted President Theodor Roosevelt to add the so-called “Roosevelt Corollary” to the Monroe Doctrine in 1905. This proclaimed that, if the US considered that any Latin American country was guilty of flagrant and chronic wrongdoing, it would be entitled to intervene in it. This was a significant extension of the Monroe Doctrine, and Roosevelt’s Corollary became closely associated with his “Big Stick” policy, that has been used by successive presidents to assert US domination in the area, and beyond.

However dressed up, Roosevelt’s policy was basically an affirmation that “might is right”, and early examples arose in Nicaragua in 1911 and 1912, when the US intervened to ensure the country had a government that was supportive of American interests, economic and otherwise.

The “Big Stick” policy, however, has only ever been used against countries that disagree with the US, such as Cuba. Other places, if compliant, are left alone, no matter how vile their regimes, and successive military dictators have prospered. Indeed, the policy’s rationale was nicely encapsulated by President Franklin D Roosevelt (Theodor’s cousin), who famously said of Nicaragua’s former dictator, General Anastasio Somoza Garcia, “he may be a son of a bitch, but at least he’s our son of a bitch.”

In other words, dictatorships are fine, provided they play along, but woe betide any that do not. This, of course, was why, in 1989, after years of supporting him, the US sent troops into Panama City to overthrow Panama’s military strongman, General Manuel Noriega, whom it considered to have stepped out of line.

Whenever the US has intervened, there has invariably been an economic angle. When, for example, on June 27, 1954, there was a CIA-sponsored coup in Guatemala (“Operation PBSuccess”), aimed at deposing its democratically elected leader, President, Jacobo Arbenz, who was seen as being soft on communism, it was encouraged by the country’s United Fruit Company, a multinational American corporation with ties to the US government. The company feared Arbenz would clamp down on exploitative labor practices, as had recently happened in Guatemala, and this would damage profits. Once Arbenz was replaced with a military dictatorship, led by Colonel Castillo Armas, the agrarian reforms were reversed, opposition political parties were banned, and the resulting civil war, that lasted until 1996, claimed the lives of an estimated 200,000 civilians.

After Fidel Castro’s Cuban Revolution of 1959 had ended the kleptocracy of General Fulgencio Batista, who was backed by the Florida mafia, the US presidential election of November 1960 was dominated by the theme “get tough with the Communists”. In March 1960, the outgoing President, Dwight Eisenhower, had instructed the CIA to train a force of Cuban exiles for an armed invasion of Cuba, designed to overthrow Castro and restore a friendly government.

Thereafter, on April 4, 1961, President John F Kennedy approved the operation (“Operation Zapata”), although the invasion at Cuba’s Bay of Pigs, from April 17 to 20, turned into a fiasco, with Castro, who personally commanded his troops, emerging as a hero. Although Kennedy subsequently told the Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, that the invasion was a mistake, this has not stopped his successors, Barack Obama apart, from doing their utmost to harm Cuba’s government, economy and people.

In 1973, moreover, the US had no qualms in deploying the CIA to overthrow Chile’s democratically elected President, Salvador Allende, a socialist. He was replaced by a military dictatorship, led by General Augusto Pinochet, who, despite a proven record of human rights abuses, was supported throughout by the US, whose interests he advanced. On November 20, 2000, following the release by Washington of 16,000 previously classified documents, The Guardian reported that the US had paid millions of dollars to prop up Pinochet, and that it was now possible for historians to discern “the secret diplomacy used by the US to set the stage for a coup, then to prop up the military junta leader throughout his 1973-1990 rule”. In response, the Chilean government, presumably regarding the Roosevelt Corollary as insufficient justification, announced that it would be formally protesting over US interference in its internal affairs, and who could blame it.

More recently, the US hostility towards Venezuela has demonstrated that it is as committed as ever to regime change. After Hugo Chavez won Venezuela’s presidential election on a socialist platform in 1998, he infuriated Washington by making clear that his country’s subservience to the US was over, and that he would re-take control of its oil industry. In response, President George W Bush threw American support behind Venezuela’s opposition movement.

Once Nicolas Maduro succeeded Chavez as Venezuela’s president in 2013, the US upped the ante. Thus, on January 23, 2019, when the opposition leader, Juan Guaido, unilaterally declared himself the country’s “Interim President”, the US immediately recognised his claim. The then US President, Donald Trump, announced that “all options are on the table” when it came to removing Maduro, and he was not only referring to the crippling American sanctions designed to ruin Venezuela’s economy.

On May 3, 2020, in a reprise of the Bay of Pigs operation, anti-Maduro insurgents launched “Operation Gideon”, beginning at Macuto Bay, north of Caracas. A group of armed Venezuelan dissidents, with the backing of a private military company, Silvercorp USA, invaded Venezuela by sea, with their plan being to infiltrate the country and topple Maduro. A day later, a second wave of invaders landed in Chuao, Aragua State.

However, due to good intelligence, Maduro foiled Operation Gideon, and, among the dozens killed or arrested, were two American mercenaries, both ex-servicemen, who later faced trial. The Silvercorp leader, Jordan Goudreau, a Canadian-American who served with Army Special Forces, openly claimed responsibility for organising the invasion, and there was speculation he had hoped to get his hands on a multi-million-dollar award offered by the US for the arrest of Maduro and his senior officials.

Although President Trump claimed the plot “has nothing to do with our government”, his Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, qualified this by saying “there was no US government direct involvement”. On May 6, 2020, moreover, The Washington Post provided details of a relationship between Goudreau’s Silvercorp and the US-backed “Interim President” Juan Guaido. The Miami-based Guaido advisor, JJ Rendon, disclosed that the Venezuelan opposition contracted Silvercorp’s services in October 2019, and a fee of US$213 million was agreed. This was clearly revelatory, as Guaido gets the bulk of his funding from the US, with, for example, the Trump administration having decided in 2019 to divert development aid earmarked for Guatemala and Honduras to Venezuela’s opposition.

With the US having such an astonishing record of interference in the internal affairs of others, it beggared belief that, on March 27, 2022, the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, while on a visit to Israel, declared that “we do not have a strategy for regime change in Russia or anywhere else for that matter”. If he said this with a straight face, it can only mean he takes the people of Central and South America for complete fools, and they, more than anybody else, know what happens to countries that do not accept US hegemony.

It is, moreover, extraordinary that the likes of Harris and Lloyd, as US officials, should have the gall to criticise China for defending its territorial integrity and discharging its regional responsibilities. These, after all, are a far cry from the Monroe Doctrine, the Roosevelt Corollary and the Big Stick, the instruments the US still deploys at will. If, as the Five Eyes partnership repeatedly claims, this is a values-based world, America’s bully boy tactics are an affront to the comity of nations, and must be called out. Even if its Five Eyes partners are too afraid to say anything, everybody else who believes that might is not right and that hypocrisy is unacceptable must be prepared to stand up and be counted.

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