A fanciful argument that superpower rivalry in Latin America undermined and finally killed the Monroe Doctrine (which...



A fanciful argument that superpower rivalry in Latin America undermined and finally killed the Monroe Doctrine (which asserted American dominance in the Americas and nonintervention in Europe) as a basic feature of American foreign policy. Smith (History/Yale; Morality and Power, 1986) proclaims that the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, after which America yielded to pragmatic considerations to allow a Soviet satellite in the Western Hemisphere, ""would appear to mark the death of the Monroe Doctrine as an absolute mandate for the conduct of American foreign policy."" After WW II, American policy makers struggled to reconcile tensions between the doctrine's unilateral assertion of US influence in the Americas with the UN Charter's multilateralist vision. Arguing that the US followed inhumane and ultimately counterproductive policies in the Americas by backing repressive regimes in order to meet the threat of communism, Smith reviews American backing for antidemocratic forces in Brazil, the Dominican Republic, and Chile under Johnson and Nixon; a move away from ""Monroeism"" under Carter; and American intervention throughout the Americas under Reagan. Smith concludes that the Monroe Doctrine has been discredited by the crimes committed in its name and by the partisanship with which it has been used. He pronounces the doctrine, and the unilateralism that accompanied it, extinct. Smith is probably right that the doctrine in the form proclaimed by President Monroe is inconsistent with America's commitments under the UN Charter and other treaties (although arguably it died earlier than Smith claims, along with the American isolationism that gave it birth); but he makes no persuasive case that US policymakers will not continue, when they deem it necessary and desirable, to invoke the doctrine to justify intervention in Latin America. The muddled historical argument about the Monroe Doctrine is redeemed by a thoughtful review of recent US policy in the Americas.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0809015684

Page Count: 288

Publisher: "Hill & Wang/Farrar, Straus & Giroux"

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1994