Taking The Monroe Doctrine Exam

By Don Vitale

Let's face it, Americans are clueless when it comes to this country's founding principles. Take the Monroe Doctrine. Let me tell you, this is a high-octane,Take-No-Prisoners, Private-Property-Trespassers-Beware foreign policy. Don't believe me? Take the Monroe Doctrine Exam.

It's The Man-On-The-Street approach. Ask any ten fellow Americans this simple question, namely: What exactly is the Monroe Doctrine? Makes no difference where you ask, be it in downtown Chicago's Loop, La Cienega Blvd in L.A. or Park Avenue in New York. Reaction? A serious look, a bit of head scratching and.....not much else. Out of the ten you ask, you might have one, maybe two who got straight A's in American history. The other eight?  Hunched shoulders (the 'don't know' answer) or "Monroe...hmm... you mean that Marilyn actress?" or "sorry I'm, busy".

OK, so what's all the hullabalu about? The Monroe Doctrine, as a document, is very,  very L o n g. You'd probably fall asleep before you finished it. Simply stated, it warned European nations not to colonize or interfere with states in North or South America. "Hands off Buddies", Founder James Monroe said, or you'll regret you ever thought about it. There was more, a lot more, but that's the gist of it.

Our President at the time, James Monroe issued the statement in his State of the Union Address to Congress in 1823. His statement was buried in a few paragraphs, ignored, if not unregarded. When he issued his edict, the colonies of Spain and Portugal were in the process of stabalizing their relationships with Latin American countries. Except for Cuba and Puerto Rico, nations to the south of us were getting their independence.  All was serene, is a way of describing Latin American politics at that time.

America, there's reason to believe, put Europe on notice that if they want to wage wars, do it on European soil. Meddle in the Old World, not in our Brave Unsullied New World. Actually Monroe's statement wasn't understood to be a "Doctrine" when issued in 1823. It wasn't even known as a doctrine until James Polk, our 11th President, speaking in 1845, coined the term. It really wasn't a force, didn't come into its own until the last years of the 19th century.

Since then, there have been many instances where the Monroe Doctor has been invoked. It has stood the test of time as the cornerstone and foundation of America's relationships in the Western Hemisphere.

Our country's second President John Adams, alive and well in his eighties, described the policy: "In crafting something of use in our own time we may well have designed a device that will last and be of service through the centuries." How right can you be!

That's the end of the Monroe Doctrine Exam.

Fortunately for us, the Doctrine carries on.--dv