The Monroe Doctrine is officially dead. This was the famous promise that America would allow no European power to gain a foothold in North or South America. The Obama administration has repeatedly repudiated it. As part of the same trend, Cuba—long shut out by America due to its communism and flirtations with Russia—is being welcomed back into the community of nations.
It’s a radical shift in American foreign policy. But more than that, it displays a dangerous worldview held by America’s leaders. To understand why, it is important to understand why the Monroe Doctrine was established in the first place.
The policy was first established in 1823 by United States President James Monroe in response to the concerns that Spain and France were trying to reassert rule in independent parts of Latin America. “The American continents … are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers,” Monroe said. In 1984, Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger brought the spirit of the doctrine up to date, saying “there should be no interference, no sponsorship of any kind of military activity in this hemisphere by countries in other hemispheres.”
Since shortly after the founding of the United States, it has been arguably the most important pillar of American foreign policy.
In 2013, Secretary of State John Kerry officially proclaimed, “The era of the Monroe Doctrine is over.” This statement to the Organization of American States was a historic proclamation—but what he said next was perhaps more surprising: “That’s worth applauding,” he said. “That’s not a bad thing.”
More recently, U.S. President Barack Obama confirmed its death. Note the way he expressed it, in a meeting with civil society leaders from across Latin America in Panama on April 10: “The days in which our agenda in this hemisphere so often presumed that the United States could meddle with impunity, those days are past.” He too was applauded.
These men speak as though the Monroe Doctrine was evil—an excuse for an imperialist (and probably racist) America to “meddle” in the affairs of other nations just to get its own way. Is that the truth? What are the real fruits of the Monroe Doctrine?
For starters, without this doctrine, the U.S. as we know it would not exist today.
Europe has been engulfed in huge and destructive wars throughout America’s history. Yet these wars have not spread to mainland America. Why? It’s not for a lack of desire. It is because it is incredibly difficult to fight a war over 3,000 miles of ocean—as the British discovered in the late 1770s.
But during that time, there have been repeated schemes to attack the U.S. And they all revolve around getting a foothold in the Americas. Here is a brief history of some attempts to attack America.
“Napoleon’s ambition was to build a great colonial empire,” wrote historian Ralph Korngold. “The keystone of that empire was of course to be the incomparable colony of St. Domingue, from which France is said to have derived more profit than all other nations derived from their combined colonies in Asia, Africa and America.”
To that end, Napoleon reacquired the vast French colony of Louisiana from Spain. Then he sent his brother-in-law, Gen. Charles Leclerc, with what Korngold called “the most powerful army that had ever crossed the Atlantic” to retake St. Domingue, on the island of Hispaniola, after the French authorities had been defeated by a slave rebellion. (Today, the island is split between Haiti and the Dominican Republic.)
Napoleon believed Leclerc would reconquer St. Domingue in six weeks. He gave Leclerc secret orders to take most of his force to New Orleans once the victory in St. Domingue was complete.
There was no Monroe Doctrine in those days. Instead, it was stubborn resistance, disease and British naval power that defeated Leclerc in St. Domingue. Deprived of the “keystone” to his American empire, Napoleon realized he could not succeed. He cut his losses and sold Louisiana to America.
We cannot know now how much America would have occupied Napoleon’s attention had he been successful in Haiti. But James Leyburn wrote in his book Haitian People, “Certain historians are of the opinion that if Napoleon had been successful in the reconquest of St. Domingue, he would have turned his attention to America rather than to Europe, for he had great colonial schemes.”
We can only speculate about what-ifs. But without Leclerc’s defeat, it is easy to imagine a world in which the United States does not exist, and is instead a French-speaking nation in the south and an English-speaking one in the north. It would be immeasurably weaker than the America we see today, and it may have spent the last 200 years riven by bloody conflicts, just like Europe.
Kaiser Wilhelm ii of Germany was obsessed by empire. By the end of the 19th century, all the other European powers had an empire, and he wanted one for Germany too.
One of his top plans was almost identical to Napoleon’s: establish a commercial empire in Latin America. Like Napoleon, Kaiser and the German war planners felt the key to accomplish this was a major Caribbean base—either Cuba or Puerto Rico.
The expansion of American naval power under President Theodore Roosevelt, as well as Roosevelt’s determination to enforce the Monroe Doctrine, prevented this German empire from materializing in the Western Hemisphere.
The United States came within hours of war with Germany in the winter of 1902 after Germany attacked Venezuela—ostensibly to recover unpaid debts, but with plans to establish a military base there.
President Roosevelt ordered America’s most distinguished—and anti-German—military leader, Adm. George Dewey, to exercise his fleet in the region and to prepare to sail to war at an hour’s notice.
Germany backed down. Although the German Navy almost certainly could have beaten America’s Atlantic fleet, it was dispersed and unprepared for war. Germany didn’t invade Venezuela, and instead allowed America to mediate the disagreement.
Was Roosevelt right to be so bellicose? In 2002, historians discovered that as the Venezuelan crisis was unfolding, German strategists had drawn up several plans for a surprise attack on the American Atlantic Coast.
One iteration of the plan used Puerto Rico as a staging post.
Ultimately, German strategists concluded that they would not win a war against America under Roosevelt, so they never put their plans into action.
What would have happened in 1902 without the Monroe Doctrine? Quite probably the gradual expansion of German colonies across South and Central America, with a major German naval presence in the Caribbean.
Once World War i broke out a few years later, America would have been drawn much more deeply into the maelstrom that engulfed Europe.
Kaiser Wilhelm Again
Later, the Kaiser schemed not to invade America, but to tie America’s military down in its own neighborhood. This would have prevented the United States from intervening in Europe.
Before and during World War i, Germany funded and trained Mexican soldiers. It tried several times to incite a war between Mexico and the U.S. It operated several spies and agents out of Mexico.
The most famous attempt came in January 1917. After hacking German Embassy diplomatic cables, British intelligence officers discovered that Germany was trying to persuade Mexico to attack America that year. Germany promised Mexico “generous financial support” for conquering Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. The infamous Zimmerman Telegram, as it became known, helped convince America to join World War i.
Mexico was in the midst of a civil war at the time, so it was in no position to attack the United States.
Cuban Missile Crisis
The Cuban Missile Crisis proves that even in the modern world of missiles and airplanes, a base in the Caribbean is still viewed as a huge strategic asset for any American adversary. In fact, in the age of missiles, a Caribbean base in enemy hands is far more dangerous for the United States.
Had Kaiser Wilhelm been able to launch an attack on the U.S. from Puerto Rico, his plan was merely to conquer a city or naval base on the West Coast and compel Washington to negotiate from a position of weakness. He wanted to force America to allow Germany a permanent Latin American presence. But today a nuclear missile launched from the Caribbean could wipe out a city in an instant.
Here’s how Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry described what was at stake in the Cuban Missile Crisis in his March 2015 article: “The Soviets wanted to deploy and activate their missiles in Cuba without America finding out. With supersonic nuclear missiles only minutes away from America’s cities, the Soviets could evade America’s missile warning system and launch a surprise attack. I believe there is ample evidence that the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev would have attempted to destroy America at that time. What if Khrushchev had achieved his secret plan to surprise America? He would probably never have had a better opportunity to conquer America—and he knew it! After all, he did say that the Soviets would ‘bury’ us. At the very least, the Soviet Union would have had the U.S. at nuclear gunpoint. America’s foreign policy would have been neutralized.
“However, something happened in Cuba. The Americans began hearing reports that missiles were coming in. But they needed confirmation. It was difficult to fly over Cuba, a hostile nation, without getting shot down. But somehow, the Soviet plan got out of phase. The missiles arrived and were out in the open before the antiaircraft batteries were fully operational. American spy planes spotted the missiles and brought home photographic proof of Cuba’s nuclear buildup.
“The Cuban Missile Crisis turned out to be a victory for America, a victory that could have easily been a crushing defeat. But it proved how strategic the Cuban islands are for anyone who wants to harm the U.S. With modern weapons, how easily and quickly an enemy force can strike America’s military and its cities.”
Rejecting the Facts of History
From the time of conquistadors and pirates, a major base in the Caribbean has been the key to controlling the trade all around North America. Caribbean bases enabled Britain to siphon off huge amounts of wealth from the Spanish Empire. It’s no coincidence that the region became the target of both the French and the Germans when they were looking to kick-start their empires too.
Yet now the region seems set to be neglected—at least by America.
The Obama administration talks as if the Monroe Doctrine was a waste of time or an act of imperialistic hubris. It hates the meager mechanisms America had in place to try to bring about a friendly regime in Cuba.
America’s leaders today behave as though major wars are a thing of the past. They presume that no one would ever seek to attack the U.S., and therefore, defending America by keeping potential enemies out of its neighborhood isn’t important.
That view rejects the facts of history. This is the real world. Nations are jealous of rich and powerful rivals; they look for weaknesses to bring them down. There are foreign powers that want to harm the United States. They will use Latin America to do so if they can.
The wishful thinking that sees the world full of happy friends goes far beyond America’s rulers. It is the attitude of America as a whole. How much press coverage have you seen on this matter? It isn’t just the leaders who are unconcerned—the media don’t even consider it news because their readers probably wouldn’t care.
The United States is living in a make-believe world. The Monroe Doctrine was designed to protect the United States from foreign powers. It has been rejected because Washington apparently no longer believes there is anything to be protected from.
History is full of examples where people thought major-power wars were over—that humanity had progressed into an age of relative peace. This thinking was prevalent before the Napoleonic wars. And World War i. And World War ii.
Biblical prophecy warns that such fantasies will again prevail in the very end time (e.g. Amos 6:3-6; Luke 17:26-30).
America’s geography—protected from the world’s major powers by thousands of miles of ocean—is a blessing from God. In rejecting the Monroe Doctrine, America is largely negating that blessing.
Dozens of biblical prophecies promise blessings to Israel for obedience to God’s laws, and warn of curses for disobedience. These apply most of all to the end-time descendants of the ancient nation of Israel, of whom the United States is chief. (This truth is proven in Herbert W. Armstrong’s book The United States and Britain in Prophecy. Request a copy and we will send it to you at no charge.)
Dozens of prophecies describe foreign attack and invasion on American soil! It is difficult for most Americans to imagine because of the extraordinary security the nation has enjoyed for generations, but this is coming!
Latin America is certain to be a staging ground for some of these attacks. The plans for such invasions that have been thwarted in the past will be carried out.
One specific prophecy to consider in this context can be found in Deuteronomy 28. Among the punishments upon modern-day America that this chapter lists for rebellion against God, verse 52 warns that foreign nations “shall besiege thee in all thy gates, until thy high and fenced walls come down, wherein thou trustedst, throughout all thy land: and he shall besiege thee in all thy gates throughout all thy land, which the Lord thy God hath given thee.”
These “gates” include the vital sea-lanes by which America trades with other nations and imports goods that its people rely on every day. This is a specific prophecy that these sea-lanes will be cut off by foreign powers!
That scenario simply couldn’t happen without Latin America: It will entail an enemy or alliance of enemies closing the Panama Canal to American traffic and gaining naval and aerial superiority in the Caribbean.
The rest of the world sees a still-rich America becoming weaker and more inward-looking. The temptation and opportunity to undermine the nation has never been stronger.
If America were concerned about its future, it wouldn’t reject the Monroe Doctrine, but would rather increase its vigilance all the more. The consequences for this error are going to prove tragic.