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FP-Monroe Doctrine

1896 political cartoon depicting the Monroe Doctrine.

“In this administration, we’re not afraid to use the phrase ‘Monroe Doctrine.’ This [Venezuela] is a country in our hemisphere; it’s been the objective of presidents going back to Ronald Reagan to have a completely democratic hemisphere.”

    – White House national security adviser John Bolton

In at appearance earlier this month on CNN, national security adviser John Bolton expressed to host Jake Tapper the policy justification behind the Trump administration’s open attempt to overthrow Nicholas Maduro, the elected president of Venezuela, whom Bolton had earlier referred to in a Tweet as a “dictator.” Bolton based the argument for his and the administration’s stance on Maduro on the Monroe Doctrine, a historic foreign policy tenet of the United States dating back to the 1820’s.

Many Americans have a vague sense of the Monroe Doctrine, that it has something to do with the US keeping overseas powers out of the Western Hemisphere. There’s truth to this, of course. But is that all the Monroe Doctrine is about? Many think so. Interestingly, Bolton did not assert this aspect of the Monroe Doctrine, instead arguing that the Monroe Doctrine was about US presidents, going back to Ronald Reagan, ensuring that all nations in the Western Hemisphere have democratic governments.

On Friday, Bolton issued a statement concerning Russian military personnel in Venezuela that sounded more like a traditional understanding of the Monroe Doctrine. As Reuters reports, Bolton warned Russia about its military presence in Venezuela, saying the US would consider as a “direct threat” any attempt by Russia to establish or expand its military activities in that country.

No doubt, Russia’s military presence in Venezuela ups the ante in an already tense situation. Further, a European power’s entry into oil-rich, and therefore strategic, Venezuela certainly seems to be a challenge to Washington’s ability to enforce the Monroe Doctrine.

With this in mind, let’s take a closer look at the Monroe Doctrine to see if its current use by the Administration is in keeping with its actual terms.

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