Belaboring the Obvious

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

About this business of "doctrines"....

Ever since Monroe rather presumptuously declared the Western Hemisphere to be off-limits to Europe, we've been in the thrall of broad presidential pronouncements as if they had the weight of international law and the moral force of the Bible as inerrant word of God.

To be sure, some presidents modified those doctrinal pronouncements, but, the general trend--especially post-WWII--is to see them as set in stone. Theodore Roosevelt introduced his corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, in which he declared that the U.S. had the right to intervene militarily in the affairs of any Latin American country where the U.S. government determined that U.S. business interests were threatened. Coolidge modified that through the Clark memorandum, saying that the U.S. had no right to intervene except to deter European powers (it's funny that the Clark memorandum was seen as a reversal of the Roosevelt Corollary--since Roosevelt's Corollary was prompted by German threats of intervention in Venezuela at the turn of the century). Franklin Roosevelt adopted the Good Neighbor Policy, supposedly a further repudiation of the Roosevelt Corollary, espousing non-intervention, at pretty much the same time as the rise of tinpot dictators in Latin America whose corruption benefitted U.S. business (Roosevelt's Secretary of State, Sumner Welles, supposedly said of Anastasio Somoza Garcia of Nicaragua, "but, he's a bastard!," to which Roosevelt replied, "yes, but he's our bastard").

Immediately after WWII, the Truman Doctrine, however well-intentioned, became the CIA's raison d'etre, and this, combined with the evolving notion in and out of government that unfettered predatory American capitalism was synonymous with democracy (for which we can principally thank John Foster Dulles and his brother, Allen, I think), led to the general neo-conservative belief that anything that was anti-communist was good, and anything that had even a whiff of communism to it--even popular democratic movements that embraced principles of social justice--was bad. It was also convenient that the more rapacious capitalists could point to a Democratic president's doctrine as their justification.

Truman's doctrine thus became the excuse for exceptionally bad behavior by the U.S. around the world. Because they were not communist, even military dictatorships were seen as not only preferable to governments which might restrict U.S. capitalism to protect their local economies, but, were actually seen as desirable to the U.S., since their innate corruption and disrespect for democracy were good for business. As well, because those dictatorships prized power above all else, they could be counted upon to accumulate large national debts which made them malleable to U.S. demands.

From Truman's edict and those perversions of the definition of democracy issued many of the worst actions of the United States--early on, the outside interference in Italy's elections, the coup in Iran, the overthrow of the Arbenz government, the support of miltary dictatorships throughout Latin America, and, hence, the tacit or outright cooperation of the United States in some of the modern world's worst human rights violations--in Chile, in Argentina, in Greece, Vietnam, Cambodia and elsewhere.

The Eisenhower Doctrine was a response to the Suez Crisis (which Eisenhower had backhandedly provoked by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing U.S. aid for a development project Nassar badly wanted), and ended up being validated by Eisenhower sending U.S. troops to Lebanon--in order to protect that government from attacks by indigenous opponents. The Eisenhower Doctrine became, as well, the excuse for Reagan ordering U.S. forces to Lebanon, ostensibly to support the Lebanese government, but, in practical terms, aided in Israel's aggressive occupation of southern Lebanon. The true nature of that endeavor may be part of the reason why Reagan's move ended in disaster.

The Carter Doctrine, in which Carter expressed an unreserved right of the U.S. to use military force to protect the flow of oil to the United States, became the presumption upon which the first Gulf War was constructed by the first Bush administration, as was Reagan's introduction of the U.S. Navy in the Persian Gulf during the Iran-Iraq war.

Which brings me around to the Bush Doctrine, and its inherent protestation that the United States has the sovereign right to abrogate ratified treaties and to aggressive war, including the use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear nations, in contravention of all existing international norms, if it even suspects that a nation might, at some indeterminate point in the future, become a threat to "U.S. interests." U.S. interests, as we've seen so often in the past, is simply codespeak for U.S. multinational profit via resource extraction and labor exploitation, so the Bush Doctrine is particularly dangerous to world peace--as the last eight years have more than amply demonstrated.

Which is why it's so damned puzzling that the new President has not formally and firmly disavowed the Bush Doctrine as the malignant aberration of a lawless administration it most assuredly is.

Most presidential doctrines can be traced back to the collective interests of U.S. business, which historically has been notoriously indifferent to human rights and greatly in favor of war profiteering--particularly in the time of the deification of Milton Friedman, whose pronouncement from on high that the only obligation of the corporation is to make profits for its shareholders--so, it seems to me that perpetuation of the Bush Doctrine, even in diffident silence, is a particularly ominous sign that U.S. foreign policy continues to be driven by the notion, wholly manufactured by corporate self-interest, that predatory capitalism is the same as democracy.


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