Home/Daniel Larison/Gingrich the Historian and the Monroe Doctrine

Gingrich the Historian and the Monroe Doctrine

Gingrich is making sure that Santorum’s Venezuela obsession is getting attention:

Saying the president has bowed to Hugo Chavez, Gingrich promised to confront the Venezuelan president, calling him a “bitter, deep anti-American” and pointing out his alliance with Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He vowed to keep Iranian bases out of the region, averting the potential “first overt violation of the Monroe Doctrine since the 1820s.” [bold mine-DL]

The foreign policy ideas are bad enough, but Gingrich couldn’t resist making what sounded like a learned historical reference that was complete nonsense. There were already some perceived violations of the Monroe Doctrine in the 19th century, including the French invasion of Mexico, and the Venezuelan boundary dispute of 1895-96. The U.S. was unable to do anything about the former because of the War of Secession, and the latter was resolved through arbitration, which revealed that the British had not, in fact, been laying claim to Venezuelan territory. It’s funny that Gingrich happens to be invoking Venezuela today, since the most significant dispute relating to the Monroe Doctrine before the Cold War was a case of the U.S. (rhetorically) defending Venezuela against Britain. As it turned out, the boundary dispute was much ado about nothing, and the successful resolution of the dispute paved the way for later Anglo-American rapprochement.

Iran can’t be violating the Monroe Doctrine by entering into a closer relationship with Venezuela. No one has to like that Iran and Venezuela are cooperating, but it has nothing to do with the Monroe Doctrine. The Monroe Doctrine doesn’t mean that the U.S. gets to dictate the foreign policy of other states in the Western Hemisphere. It always meant that the U.S. would support the independence of states in the Western Hemisphere against efforts by outside powers to deprive them of their independence and form of government. Since the heart of the Monroe Doctrine is U.S. opposition to new colonization of the Western Hemisphere and U.S. non-interference in the affairs of other Western Hemisphere states, we see here that Gingrich is pledging to violate one of the main principles of the Monroe Doctrine.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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