[Paleopsych] NYT Op-Ed: Tom Wolfe: The Doctrine That Never Died

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The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Contributor: The Doctrine That Never Died
January 30, 2005


    SURELY some bright bulb from the Council on Foreign Relations in New
    York or the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs
    at Princeton has already remarked that President Bush's inaugural
    address 10 days ago is the fourth corollary to the Monroe Doctrine.
    No? So many savants and not one peep out of the lot of them? Really?

    The president had barely warmed up: "There is only one force of
    history that can break the reign of hatred and resentment, and expose
    the pretensions of tyrants ... and that is the force of human
    freedom.... The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends
    on the success of liberty in other lands. ... America's vital
    interests and our deepest beliefs are now one..." when - bango! - I
    flashed back 100 years and 47 days on the dot to another president.
    George W. Bush was speaking, but the voice echoing inside my skull - a
    high-pitched voice, an odd voice, coming from such a great big hairy
    bear of a man - was that of the president who dusted off Monroe's idea
    and dragged it into the 20th century.

    "The steady aim of this nation, as of all enlightened nations," said
    the Echo, "should be to strive to bring ever nearer the day when there
    shall prevail throughout the world the peace of justice. ...Tyrants
    and oppressors have many times made a wilderness and called it peace.
    ...The peace of tyrannous terror, the peace of craven weakness, the
    peace of injustice, all these should be shunned as we shun unrighteous
    war. ... The right of freedom and the responsibility for the exercise
    of that right cannot be divorced."

    Theodore Roosevelt! - Dec. 4, 1904, announcing to Congress the first
    corollary to the Monroe Doctrine - an item I had deposited in the
    memory bank and hadn't touched since I said goodbye to graduate school
    in the mid-1950's!

    In each case what I was hearing was the usual rustle and flourish of
    the curtains opening upon a grandiloquent backdrop. But if there was
    one thing I learned before departing academe and heading off wayward
    into journalism, it was that these pretty preambles to major political
    messages, all this solemn rhetorical throat-clearing - the parts
    always omitted from the textbooks as superfluous - are inevitably what
    in fact gives the game away.

    Theodore Roosevelt's corollary to President James Monroe's famous
    doctrine of 1823 proclaimed that not only did America have the right,
    à la Monroe, to block European attempts to re-colonize any of the
    Western Hemisphere, it also had the right to take over and shape up
    any nation in the hemisphere guilty of "chronic wrongdoing" or
    uncivilized behavior that left it "impotent," powerless to defend
    itself against aggressors from the Other Hemisphere, meaning mainly
    England, France, Spain, Germany and Italy.

    The immediate problem was that the Dominican Republic had just reneged
    on millions in European loans so flagrantly that an Italian warship
    had turned up just off the harbor of Santo Domingo. Roosevelt sent the
    Navy down to frighten off the Italians and all other snarling
    Europeans. Then the United States took over the Dominican customs
    operations and debt management and by and by the whole country,
    eventually sending in the military to run the place. We didn't
    hesitate to occupy Haiti and Nicaragua, either.

    Back in 1823, Europeans had ridiculed Monroe and his doctrine. Baron
    de Tuyll, the Russian minister to Washington, said Americans were too
    busy hard-grabbing and making money to ever stop long enough to fight,
    even if they had the power, which they didn't. But by the early 1900's
    it was a different story.

    First there was T.R. And then came Senator Henry Cabot Lodge. In 1912
    Japanese businessmen appeared to be on the verge of buying vast areas
    of Mexico's Baja California bordering our Southern California. Lodge
    drew up, and the Senate ratified, what became known as the Lodge
    Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine. The United States would allow no
    foreign interests, no Other Hemispheroids of any description, to give
    any foreign government "practical power of control" over territory in
    This Hemisphere. The Japanese government immediately denied having any
    connection with the tycoons, and the Baja deals, if any, evaporated.

    Then, in 1950, George Kennan, the diplomat who had developed the
    containment theory of dealing with the Soviet Union after the Second
    World War, toured Latin America and came away alarmed by Communist
    influence in the region. So he devised the third corollary to the
    Monroe Doctrine. The Kennan Corollary said that Communism was simply a
    tool of Soviet national power. The United States had no choice, under
    the mandates of the Monroe Doctrine, but to eradicate Communist
    activity wherever it turned up in Latin America ... by any means
    necessary, even if it meant averting one's eyes from dictatorial
    regimes whose police force did everything but wear badges saying
    Chronic Wrongdoing.

    The historian Gaddis Smith summarizes the Lodge and Kennan Corollaries
    elegantly and economically in "The Last Years of the Monroe Doctrine,
    1945-1993." Now, Gaddis Smith was a graduate-schoolmate of mine and
    very much a star even then and has remained a star historian ever
    since. So do I dare suggest that in this one instance, in a brilliant
    career going on 50 years now, that Gaddis Smith might have been
    ...wrong? ... that 1945 to 1993 were not the last years of the Monroe
    Doctrine? ... that the doctrine was more buff and boisterous than it
    has ever been 10 days ago, Jan. 20, 2005?

    But before we go forward, let's take one more step back in time and
    recall the curious case of Antarctica. In 1939 Franklin Roosevelt
    authorized the first official United States exploration of the South
    Pole, led by Admiral Richard E. Byrd. The expedition was scientific -
    but also military. The Japanese and the Germans were known to be
    rooting about in the ice down there, as were the Russians, the
    British, the Chileans, the Argentines, all of them yapping and
    stepping on one another's heels. Gradually it dawned on the whole
    bunch of them: at the South Pole the hemispheres got ... awfully
    narrow. In fact, there was one point, smaller than a dime, if you
    could ever find it, where there were no more Hemispheres at all.
    Finally, everybody in essence just gave up and forgot about it. It was
    so cold down there, you couldn't shove a shell into the gullet of a
    piece of artillery ... or a missile into a silo.

    Ah, yes, a missile. On the day in November 1961, when the Air Force
    achieved the first successful silo launching of an intercontinental
    ballistic missile, the SM-80, the Western Hemisphere part of the
    Monroe Doctrine ceased to mean anything at all - while the ideas
    behind it began to mean everything in the world.

    At bottom, the notion of a sanctified Western Hemisphere depended upon
    its separation from the rest of the world by two vast oceans, making
    intrusions of any sort obvious. The ICBM's - soon the Soviet Union and
    other countries had theirs - shrank the world in a military sense.
    Then long-range jet aircraft, satellite telephones, television and the
    Internet all, in turn, did the job socially and commercially. By Mr.
    Bush's Inauguration Day, the Hemi in Hemisphere had long since
    vanished, leaving the Monroe Doctrine with - what? - nothing but a
    single sphere ... which is to say, the entire world.

    For the mission - the messianic mission! - has never shrunk in the
    slightest ... which brings us back to the pretty preambles and the
    solemn rhetorical throat-clearing ... the parts always omitted from
    the textbooks as superfluous. "America's vital interests and our
    deepest beliefs are now one," President Bush said. He added, "From the
    day of our founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on
    this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value, because they
    bear the image of the maker of heaven and earth."

    David Gelernter, the scientist and writer, argues that "Americanism"
    is a fundamentally religious notion shared by an incredibly varied
    population from every part of the globe and every conceivable
    background, all of whom feel that they have arrived, as Ronald Reagan
    put it, at a "shining city upon a hill." God knows how many of them
    just might agree with President Bush - and Theodore Roosevelt - that
    it is America's destiny and duty to bring that salvation to all

    [1]Tom Wolfe is the author, most recently, of [2]"I Am Charlotte


    1. http://www.nytimes.com/indexes/2004/11/23/books/authors/index.html
    2. http://www.nytimes.com/2004/11/28/books/28WEISBER.html

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