On Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry told the Organization for American States that “The era of the Monroe Doctrine is over.” After the assembled delegates applauded, Kerry proceeded to misquote the doctrine as “a United States declaration about how and when it will intervene in the affairs of other American states.” In fact, the Monroe Doctrine declared that the U.S. would oppose European intervention in the Americas.
In other words, the plain meaning of the Monroe Doctrine was exactly the opposite of that which Kerry ascribed to it. The Monroe Doctrine protected the new Latin American states from intervention by European powers. Though critics later suggested the U.S. had abused the Monroe Doctrine to adopt a paternalistic policy towards Latin America, in practice it facilitated the independence and prosperity of the hemisphere as a whole.
In eight short words, Kerry cast aside two centuries of U.S. foreign policy–indeed, the one of the first major achievements of American diplomacy–and managed to mangle history in the process. Kerry’s goal–in which he took evident pride (“that’s worth applauding,” he told the delegates as they clapped) was to humble the U.S. on the world stage: “It’s about all of our countries viewing one another as equals,” he said, describing the new approach.
It is unclear what prompted Kerry to announce this radical new departure in U.S. foreign policy. It was not a gaffe, but a prepared declaration. As China and Russia expand their influence across the world, as even Iran seeks ties in Latin America, the Obama administration is declaring unilateral surrender, and abdicating U.S. leadership. It is typical of Obama and Kerry that this change is not only jarring, but based on a misreading of historical fact.
The message to other allies is clear: no matter how long and deep the ties with the United States, no policy is sacred, no tradition is safe from the Obama administration’s eagerness to appease America’s critics and enemies. The cancelation of the Monroe Doctrine ought to prompt immediate Senate hearings to demand an explanation. What it will certainly provoke, in the meantime, is global instability, as the free world realizes it is on its own.