Here's a pretty significant speech you may have missed: yesterday at the Organization of American States in Washington, D.C., John Kerry announced that the era of the Monroe Doctrine, a historic policy used to justify U.S. intervention in Latin America, is now over. Here's what the U.S. Secretary of State said:
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.
In case your memory of grade school history is a little fuzzy, here's a little history lesson:
The Monroe Doctrine was introduced in 1823, ostensibly as a kind of "friendly neighbour policy" meant to keep European powers from getting any fancy ideas about invading parts of the Americas that were weakened following a series of independence wars.
At first, the idea was well-received in Latin America. Simon Bolivar, the Venezuelan military and political leader, was said to have welcomed it.
But as the U.S.'s military and economic power grew, the doctrine was increasingly used to gain territory. Texas in 1836, Hawaii in 1842. It was even used as part of the argument for the Spanish American War, which won Puerto Rico for the U.S. During the Cold War, the doctrine was invoked to support actions against leftist governments who got too close to the Soviet Union (CIA Director Robert Gates used it to advocate for attacks against Nicaraguan military targets in the 1980s).
These days, the influence of the U.S. in Latin American affairs has been on the wane, so as Slate notes, Kerry was in some ways simply stating the obvious. Still, the speech marked the official end of a 190-year era — and grade school history, at least, may never be the same.