Can Putin Survive?
The Lessons of the Soviet Collapse
THE hundredth anniversary of the Monroe Doctrine has now been duly celebrated. In the literature elicited by this occasion the dominant note has been one of satisfaction and of praise. Plainly the American people with few exceptions are proud of the Monroe Doctrine. They look on it as a monument to the wisdom of the fathers. They believe that it has proved beneficial, not only to themselves, but to the whole Western Hemisphere, without giving cause of legitimate umbrage to the rest of the world for it is a doctrine of defense, not aggression. It has been and still is the shield of many a weak state. So far from being "an obsolete shibboleth,"[i] it is as living today as when it was first enunciated and is admitted to be the fundamental principle of our foreign policy from which no statesman at Washington may swerve even by a hair's breadth.
To be sure, these views come a little more glibly from the Republicans than from the Democrats. The Monroe Doctrine did get into the Peace of Versailles, but it was rather as an after-thought with the not very inspiring appellation of a "regional understanding." It may not be incompatible with the League of Nations, but the relations between the two require a certain amount of explanation. This explanation the Democrats have offered, indeed they have had to keep on offering it, yet at the best theirs is only a defensive attitude, however vigorous, while the Republicans can expatiate on the triumphant continuity of the truly American policy from the days of Monroe and John Quincy Adams to those of Harding and Hughes. Certainly its success has been remarkable and great is its present renown.
A century ago when the Monroe Doctrine was promulgated, though it warmed the heart of people at home, its effect abroad was less than many have imagined. In actual fact it did not attract widespread attention in Europe or enthusiasm in South America, nor can one demonstrate that it had any direct influence in the settlement of the two questions which led to its formulation--namely, the attempt of the Russians to extend their American coast to the southward, and the half-formed, quickly abandoned, plan of the Holy Alliance to assist Spain in the subjugation of her insurgent colonies. But the new principle was launched and today there are no nations, great or small, which do not know that they must regard it as the ark of the covenant of the foreign policy of the most powerful country in the world. Its enforcement is ensured by the determination of the American people with all the immense strength, moral as well as material, which they represent. No European minister is now in a position to reject any part of it as outspokenly as was done by Canning, or sixty years later by Lord Salisbury. It may not be liked everywhere but it has been recognized by the fifty-four states who have joined the League and there can be little doubt of their readiness to pay it whatever further respects may be required.
The Monroe Doctrine is, as we have always admitted, based on mixed motives. This is proper and human. The harping on its altruistic side to an extent which arouses the cynical amusement, if not the actual wrath, of the foreigner, is also natural enough, even if perhaps peculiarly characteristic of the English-speaking peoples. Nevertheless, no reasonable critic can deny that in regard to it there has been altruism in the attitude, and on numerous occasions in the conduct, of the United States towards its sister republics. Even today when the necessity of protecting them is pretty well passed, there is a strong popular sentiment, not to say sentimentality, about them,--a sentimentality, be it noted, that does not extend to Canada, which is nearer to us in almost every respect, but which has so far been content to enjoy her liberties under a monarchial government. As has been well said by Mr. Root, the Monroe Doctrine "crystallized the sentiment for human liberty and human rights which has saved American idealism from the demoralization of narrow selfishness, and has given to American democracy its true world power in the virile potency of a great example."
This idealism, which still exists, helps to account for the enthusiastic support accorded by the American public, regardless of party, not only to the words of President Monroe, but to the later applications of his policy. The most striking example was in the case of the Venezuelan boundary dispute, a matter no one had heard of before President Cleveland sent his message to Congress but which the country was quite ready to go to war about, although the territory under discussion was in itself negligible. On the other hand, the tangible material advantages which the Monroe Doctrine has ensured and still seems to promise require no subtlety for their comprehension by the average voter as well as by those who guide his opinions. Its popularity is therefore established. Whatever uncertainty there may be as to its status and its prospect of duration may be ascribed not to weakness or to lack of faith in its devotees or to the might and perversity of its adversaries but to defects in its own nature, if there be such, or else to tendencies of the age which threaten it with decadence. What are these defects or tendencies and why should we entertain doubts about the future?
To answer this we must begin by examining a theory which is too often presupposed as a fact, namely that there is an especial community of interests and aspirations between the peoples of the western world. If so, why so? On what is that community based? Some would say on geography, but this view, which though common has never been very sound, is becoming every year more antiquated. As time goes on the division of the world by continents has less and less actual significance. For instance, as a political, cultural or economic entity, the old conception of a separate "Europe" has lost most of its meaning. Either it should include Siberia or it should not include Russia, for the Urals no more mark a division between the two than do the Alleghenies between our own East and West. Again who will maintain that a Frenchman from Algeria, even if born and bred there like Mr. Viviani, is in any true sense an African, and that his natural affinities should draw him not towards Paris but Timbuktu? In the same way, why should the circumstance that the United States and Argentina happen to be connected by land (a matter of physical geography but of no practical consequence) outweigh the one that Buenos Ayres is about as near and New York is much nearer to London, Paris, Berlin, and Rome than Buenos Ayres and New York are to one another? Calling them in the same hemisphere does not bring them any closer together. And what is true geographically is equally true economically. Foreign trade depends on many variable as well as permanent factors, among which sentimental ones are apt to play a small part and are not likely to be durable. There is no inherent reason why non-contiguous American countries should deal with each other rather than with anyone else. In the long run trade will follow whatever are the natural lines.
If we come to cultural affinities the case is still clearer. By and large, the average American, even when like the late President Roosevelt not primarily of English descent, has more in common with not only the Englishman but with other northern Europeans than he has with the vast majority of Latin Americans. He is also at bottom more interested in them and their countries. Ireland is nearer to us in miles than is Uruguay. It also means, and will mean, much more to us. To be sure, we have ten million negroes in the United States who may feel more akin to the blacks in Hayti or Brazil than they do to Europeans. Still it can hardly be said that it is for their especial benefit that we are fostering Pan-Americanism.
We stand on firmer ground in another argument which is frequently urged in behalf of the Monroe Doctrine and of Pan-Americanism, to wit the similarity in historical origin, in political outlook, and in the problems to be confronted by the young independent states of this hemisphere. That there is a certain amount of similarity between them in these respects is undeniable. Historically the republics of the new world have freed themselves from European domination and monarchical rule and have thereby cast off many of the trammels of the past; they are still sparsely peopled over much of their extent and are full of untapped resources which give them the expectation of a brilliant future. They have thus the freshness and vigor, the hopes and the ideals of youth, as contrasted with the hoary antiquity of Asia and Europe. This in itself has been enough to create a natural bond of sympathy between them.
So far so good, but we must not forget that in these days republics are the rule, not the exception. There are as many of them in Europe as there are in South America. Liberty has made enormous strides in the last generation, and the despotisms of today are no longer based on the divine rights of kings. Some of the new republics of the Eastern Hemisphere may be as oppressive and as ruthless as the systems they have dispossessed, but there are no such theoretical differences between our "system" and that of Europe as there were when President Monroe wrote about them, nor, except in the case of Russia, is there any essential discrepancy in political outlook. As for the protection we have extended against foreign interference, forms of government have had little or nothing to do with it,--witness the fact that for the last fifty years the United States would no more have tolerated aggression against an American state on the part of the French Republic than it would have on that of the British Empire.
Similarity of problems to be faced unquestionably tends to create a tie or at least understanding between peoples as it does between individuals. It is more or less correct, too, though decreasingly so as the years pass, to divide countries into old and new from the point of view of their economic development. The republics of the Western Hemisphere are all of them new countries with many of the same sort of difficulties to solve. This gives them a community of interests and, to a certain extent, of view point. What can be more natural than for them to cöoperate and to proffer to one another the benefit of suggestion if not of actual assistance in the carrying out of their manifold tasks, as has been done in the Pan-American Scientific Congresses and other non-political conferences which can arouse no objection and should be productive of good to all concerned. Parenthetically, we may regret that Canada has so far not been invited to take part. To leave her out is ridiculous and betrays a narrowminded reluctance to get away from nationalistic conceptions. One must admit, too, that the term "the new world" cannot properly be confined to the Western Hemisphere. Australia, New Zealand and most of South Africa and Siberia are in truth just as new countries as are the United States or Brazil or Peru, and offer like problems to be solved and helpful illustrations of how to solve them. Of course this is not a reason against coöperation for the common good between the American republics themselves, but it does strengthen the doubt whether the Monroe Doctrine and the Pan-Americanism which has grown out of it are based on any unusual solidarity between the commonwealths concerned.
Finally it should be remembered that the policy of "America for the Americans" until recently has been accompanied by a clear admission that if Europe must keep out of American affairs it is incumbent on America to keep out of European ones. This has been proclaimed again and again, and is today the official dogma of the Republican Party. On the whole the principle has been well observed in practice. American statesmen have more than once resisted not only temptations but urgent solicitations to take a hand in the settlement of European questions. In their refusal to do so they have met with popular approval. But willy-nilly, as time has gone on, we have become increasingly involved, and this not through desire of our own but through the working of the improved means of communication and of the vast economic forces which have brought the different parts of the world so much nearer to one another. American interests, political as well as commercial and cultural, have expanded. Already before the World War we had shown that we were willing to intervene in Asia and even acquire possessions there, and it is no longer true that "in the wars of the European powers in matters relating to themselves, we have never taken any part, nor does it comport with our policy so to do." On the contrary, we have taken part on a tremendous scale with results of incalculable importance for the future. Of course the Monroe Doctrine never suggested that we should not respond to provocation, and with our whole might. We did so and exacted the satisfaction we were entitled to, but in so doing we sent huge armies across the seas, assumed an active role in remaking the map of Europe and the leading one in creating a league meant sooner or later to include all nations. It is true that we remained an "associated" not an "allied" power, that the Senate did not ratify the peace treaty recommended to them by the President, and that the country has endorsed their action, but this has not undone the provisions which he and his advisers helped to draw up and impose. It has merely put an end to our participation in their fulfilment. Besides, there is no certainty that we may not intervene again before long. The Republican Party may loudly proclaim the error of the ways of the former administration--in the matter of the peace though not of the war--and may be filled with the belief that the path of wisdom lies in keeping out of European entanglements. But who can say that a Democratic victory a few months hence may not lead to a reversal of our policy. Indeed to many, both in this country and abroad, the attempt to return to our former comparative isolation looks like a desperate effort to make water run up hill. Even a Republican administration is willing to interest itself, at least indirectly, in the question of Reparations, for whether we like it or not the payment of the allied debts to us may depend on its solution. What the Republicans deny is not the right but the wisdom of our intervening in European affairs. The welfare of the United States is the only criterion to be observed.
As regards Asia our position has still less basis of reciprocity. In recent years since the rise of Japan we have maintained that the Monroe Doctrine applies to Asia as well as to Europe and that no interference would be tolerated from that side any more than from the other. This was stated by Secretary Hughes in his speech in Philadelphia last November. Yet we have possessions and keep troops in Asia and have definite policies there. In the Philippines, which are of as much interest to the Japanese as say Venezuela is to us, we are their next door neighbors. We took the islands before Japan was strong enough to have a voice in the matter, and we feel no more obliged to consult her about them than Spain did us about Cuba as long as she held it. But if Japan had been strong enough she would have had as good a right to oppose the transfer as we had in the nineteenth century to veto any transfer of Cuba to England or France. Remembering this and also our political and commercial activities in China, we need not wonder if the Japanese look on the Monroe Doctrine as one-sided in so far as they are concerned. They will agree with Mr. Hughes that "it is a principle of exclusion."
But if there is to be no reciprocity in regard to the interference of the great powers of one hemisphere in the affairs of the other, if the Western Hemisphere is to be free to meddle with the Eastern while remaining a closed preserve, or if at best we are to say "we will not, others must not," the logic of the situation and of the Monroe Doctrine looks peculiar. Other countries may submit to it because they have to--and at the present moment they need American help too much to bother about logic, on the contrary many of them are beseeching us to disregard it,--but is such a doctrine fair and can it be maintained in the long run?
One may reply that we don't care what others think. The first duty of a nation is to look after its legitimate interests, as it has a perfect right to do if it does not infringe on the rights of others. The Monroe Doctrine is and has been most useful to us, and we mean to maintain it on our own account, only incidentally congratulating ourselves that it shields our weaker neighbors and does injury to no one. By such a frank abandonment of altruistic grounds we put the Doctrine on a level with other policies of national interest, for instance the one held so long by Great Britain that Britannia must rule the waves if she is to preserve her Empire and to keep herself from being starved out by her enemies. From the British point of view there is much to be said for this creed, but none the less Britain has just had to modify it to avoid a ruinous competition with the United States. Instead she must content herself with such security as is afforded to her by the resolutions of the Disarmament Conference. We are thus witnessing what, amidst the immeasurable changes taking place about us, bids fair to mark the beginning of the end of a principle which for centuries England has held to be vital to her very existence. Is it not possible that in like manner the Monroe Doctrine may be superseded by some new conception, either because of increasing resistance to it as it stands or because its objects may be obtained by other and better means?
A possible coalition of European nations to set the Doctrine aside has been suggested here and there in the past, though not very seriously or by responsible statesmen. Such a thing is perhaps imaginable in the future, but has never looked less probable than it does now. Should some of the European powers band themselves together to oppose us, it is much more likely to be against what they regard as American or Anglo-Saxon domination all the world over than with the thought of aggression in the Western Hemisphere. Similarly, the peril of future conflict between Japan and the United States is due, as far as this side of the Pacific is concerned, to Japanese resentment at the discrimination against her nationals, and not to Japanese designs on Magdalena Bay. On the other hand, it is by no means inconceivable that the Monroe Doctrine may lose its vitality by the drawing asunder of the parties for whose benefit it was elaborated, and that an estrangement between the United States and Latin America will lead to their forming in other quarters permanent ties stronger than the mutual bonds which today bind them together.
Such an outcome might result from certain tendencies on either side or from parallel ones on both. Let us take the most obvious possibility. In the present age when "systems" of government are becoming more or less the same all over the globe and when former geographic conceptions are getting out of date, ultra nationalism, both as a creator and as a destroyer of empires, is one of the dominating impulses in the political and cultural world. Nationalism tends to be bound up with some particular language and there is a marked disposition on the part of the people speaking that language, and even of those speaking languages in the same group, to draw closer together. The natural drift of the future would therefore appear to be on the one hand towards something like a federation between the so-called Anglo-Saxon nations, with perhaps union between the United States and Canada (it is too late to talk of "annexation"); on the other towards Pan-Iberianism, that is to say a strengthening of the connections between Latin America and the mother countries of Spain and Portugal. This new happy family of what are termed Latin peoples, whatever their blood, might perhaps include Italy and at a later date possibly, though not so probably, France, thereby consummating a grand Pan-Latin entente. If this double evolution were to occur, there would not be much left of the Monroe Doctrine, nor reason for its further existence.
But even without a regrouping of the sort, the attitude of Latin America towards the Doctrine is of more consequence than most people in this country realize. In none of our foreign questions are clear thinking, coolness and patience more necessary for us than in those affecting our southern neighbors. We have to be continually alert to avoid illusions and to appreciate the view of the other side. On our own we start with the belief that in the past, again to quote the words of Secretary Hughes, we have "rendered an inestimable service to the American republics by keeping them free from the intrigues and rivalries of European powers." But for us their liberties, nay their very life as independent communities, would have been endangered and large parts of them might have become conquered colonies of distant and alien masters. Perhaps. That we have shielded them is indisputable and for this kindly attitude they have expressed themselves as grateful. That without our protection they would have fallen a prey to foreign powers is not so susceptible of proof. It is true a good many arguments may be advanced in support of this contention. We can point to the immense colonial expansion of several European powers in Asia and Africa in the last quarter of the nineteenth century and declare that it was nothing but fear of the United States which saved the Western Hemisphere from similar imperialism. But this is not conclusive. No European power, whatever it may think of the others, will admit that it entertained designs of the kind, and many Latin Americans are convinced that by 1880 when the most active and dangerous period of European expansion began, they were quite competent to take care of themselves, especially as they would have aided one another against European aggression, and that at least south of the Caribbean basin the guarantee of the United States was superfluous. Some of the Latin republics may have been ill governed and disorderly but they were not barbarous African tribes or decrepit oriental despotisms. At the last resort they had good powers of resistance, thanks to their inherited aptitude for guerrilla warfare if for no other reason, as the Germans would have found if they had landed in Venezuela in 1902. Take the famous case of American action in 1866 in regard to the French intervention in Mexico, which is usually quoted as the most striking application of the Monroe Doctrine (although the term itself was not used in the discussion). The end of Maximilian's empire was only hastened by a few years. The French were tired enough of the whole Mexican business before Mr. Seward served his summons upon them, and anyway the war of 1870 with Germany would have led to the withdrawal of their troops from Mexico as inevitably as it did from Italy. The final crash would then have not been long delayed.
But even granting that we rendered Mexico a notable service in 1866, few will venture to assert that it surpassed the injury which we had inflicted on her twenty years earlier when, after invading her territory and storming her capital, we deprived her by right of conquest of a third of her dominions. It may be that this invasion was justified. Many will feel, too, that whatever the attendant circumstances, the transfer of California and Arizona and New Mexico from Latin-Indian to Nordic rule has been a gain to civilization. Still we can hardly wonder if there are Latin Americans who opine that whatever we may have done to preserve their republics from European aggression and perhaps transient domination, it does not compensate for the lasting curtailment of the Latin portion of the continent brought about by our annexation of Texas and by the Mexican War. Verily the famous Zimmerman note proposing to undo the work of General Scott's victories and give back to Mexico much of what she had lost must have excited a certain wistful longing in the breasts of some persons to the south of us.
We must remember likewise that hostile critics brand our profession of protecting Latin America as rank hypocrisy. They denounce our political intervention in Panama, San Domingo and elsewhere and point to our cultural work in the Philippines and in Porto Rico as attempts to supplant Hispanic by Yankee language and civilization. It is true a more sensible opinion has hailed in the past our guarantee against European aggression and even today the statesmen in such stable countries as Brazil and Argentina can understand why the United States still feels the need of shielding the comparatively weak and distracted region about the Caribbean. Also, as the most famous and effective expression of the idea of America for the Americans, the Monroe Doctrine has been acclaimed, if not always with the same sincerity, in every republic of the Western Hemisphere. In Rio Janeiro a palace has been built to its name.
But the protection which it has extended to Latin America is no longer deemed necessary. Further insistence on this point is not only looked upon as tactless but arouses suspicion and anger. After all, the idea of "protection," especially if uncalled for, is not far removed from that of a "protectorate." And a protectorate, that is to say an overlordship on the part of their great northern sister, is today infinitely more feared by the Latin republics than is any danger from European imperialism. Our repeated assurances that we respect the rights of every independent state and regard all such as equal may dispel alarm for the moment, but too often they are listened to with skepticism or their effect is quickly effaced by some untoward word or incident. Latin Americans remember well such phrases as Mr. Olney's declaration in 1898 that "the United States is practically sovereign on this continent, and its fiat is law upon the subjects to which it confines its interposition." If this is the conclusion to be drawn from the Monroe Doctrine, small wonder that they deem it not a safeguard but a menace.
That this menace is felt to be very real may sometimes surprise us, for we are conscious of the best of intentions. None the less the fear exists and we must take it into account. So long as we confine ourselves to regarding the Monroe Doctrine as a splendid expression of elevated policy, a lofty enunciation of principles, something like the Declaration of Independence, so long will Latin America applaud it freely and on festal occasions celebrate its glory with all the fervor of southern eloquence. But the moment it comes to be regarded as conferring on us any especial rights or privileges, and the moment the ever ready suspicion is excited that it is being used in the name of law and order as a cover for encroachment on the liberties of others, what popularity it has vanishes, and it provokes sentiments akin to those entertained in the past about that same "Holy Alliance" against whose aims it was originally directed.
Some will assert that there is a simple way out of this uncomfortable situation, a way pointed to by Latin Americans from the first as the one which would eliminate their objections, but which the United States has so far refused to follow. Although the principles laid down by President Monroe in 1823 do not seem to have provoked particular enthusiasm on the part of the liberator Bolivar, he undertook to carry them a step further and to incorporate them into an official doctrine for all the American republics. With this object he got up a congress which was to meet at Panama. The United States was invited, though not by him, but showed itself very lukewarm about taking this first step towards Pan-Americanism; indeed it hemmed and hawed and declared its aversion to any alliance, and its delegate did not arrive until after the assembly had come to an end. The fact was that the Americans then, as so often afterwards, were disinclined to do anything which would interfere with their own freedom of action. The Monroe Doctrine was theirs and they meant to keep it so. Leagues of nations, even to further the ideas they themselves had started, did not appeal to them. 'Monroeism," as the Latins call it, was thus the parent of Pan-Americanism but it refused to identify its cause with that of its offspring.
After this rebuff Pan-Americanism slumbered peacefully as far as the United States was concerned for the next sixty years or so, until it was reawakened by the active genius of Secretary Blaine who in the winter of 1890 convoked in Washington the first official Pan-American Congress. Although not much was accomplished on the occasion, a start was made in the development of general inter-American relations. But five years later when President Cleveland's intervention in the Venezuela dispute assured the Monroe Doctrine a celebrity and a standing throughout the world it had never before enjoyed, there was no attempt to enlist the aid of the other American republics which, on the contrary, although they approved of the intervention, were alarmed by the language of Secretary Olney. Since that day the first Pan-American Congress has been followed by others, countless friendly words have been uttered, useful agreements about subjects of varying importance have been entered into (though not always ratified), the political congresses have been reënforced by scientific and technical ones, and the Pan-American Bureau has been created and has functioned as a permanent central organ. By such means, first and last, a good deal has been done to bring the American republics into closer communion, to make them understand their common interests and to increase the feeling of solidarity between them. We may say that the cultivation of Pan-Americanism is now part of our recognized policy.
But that very growth of Pan-Americanism has led Latin American opinion, including that portion most friendly to the United States, to feel with increasing intensity that the Monroe Doctrine, if not superseded, might at least be absorbed. From being an article of faith of one American republic it should become the creed of all, for all have an equal interest in its maintenance. Let it be openly adopted, then, as one of the basic principles of Pan-Americanism, to which all adhere and for whose enforcement all are alike responsible. None will then have cause to fear it.
The United States, however, has not welcomed adherence of this kind. It does desire and expect the approval of the sister republics, but it prefers not to have their coöperation, of which it feels no need and which might prove embarrassing. If every American state were equally a guardian of the Monroe Doctrine, each one would have an equal right to be consulted as to its applicability to any given set of circumstances. This could hardly fail to hamper our liberty of movement. The government at Washington, therefore, has sedulously avoided calling on the Latin American republics for support, either in discussions with European powers or in trying to settle difficulties in the Western Hemisphere. The chief exception to this rule was President Wilson's appeal to the A.B.C. powers in 1914 for assistance in straightening out the tangled affairs of Mexico. They responded with alacrity and though their good offices did not meet with much lasting success many men believed that a new era had begun, and that joint action of the leading American countries rather than the isolated intervention of the United States would be the normal process in the future. But this instance of the participation of other American powers has so far remained an isolated one. The United States has shown no further inclination to share its duties, however delicate and burdensome, with the sister republics. President Wilson himself declared that "the Monroe Doctrine was proclaimed by the United States on her own authority. It always has been maintained and always will be maintained upon her own responsibility."
Last year at the Congress at Santiago the differences of opinion as to the proper position of the Monroe Doctrine in the scheme of Pan-Americanism came to a head. In answer to attempts to make the Doctrine part of a common program, Ambassador Fletcher flatly proclaimed that it was a unilateral expression of our individual policy in which no one else could take part and whose applicability to a given case we alone must determine, though we should welcome the other American countries following similar policies of their own. In this attitude he has been supported by the Administration. In his speech of August 30, 1923, Secretary Hughes declared: "The Monroe Doctrine is distinctively the policy of the United States; the Government of the United States reserves to itself its definition, interpretation, and application." The question is therefore settled for the time being.
It is too early as yet to judge what will be the effects on Pan-Americanism of this latest pronouncement. The State Department has only followed its almost constant tradition, and for weighty reasons, but the decision is serious. Such a stand cannot increase the popularity of the Monroe Doctrine, indeed there is a general belief in this country as elsewhere that the Santiago Congress, although it established some useful rules of business procedure, failed in its main object, the promotion of better relations between the American peoples. At any rate, the Latin American ones have been notified that the Monroe Doctrine, even if it is for their benefit, is none of their business. But as they on their side no longer feel any particular need of it they are not likely henceforward to give it at the best more than polite lip service. At the worst they will view it with increasing suspicion and hostility, as an arrogant assumption of superiority if not a permanent threat to their liberties. "Monroeism" and Pan-Americanism in spite of our efforts to reconcile them may come to represent incompatible ideals between which we shall have to choose. Such a prospect is not pleasant. No doubt we are strong enough to endure it but it offers a poor outlook for the future, and the question naturally arises whether under such circumstances the game would be worth the candle.
Another set of reflections is suggested when one considers the relations of the Monroe Doctrine to the League of Nations. The Covenant of the League as first conceived and first drafted in Paris appeared to threaten the further existence of the Doctrine by rendering it supererogatory. President Wilson may have felt about this as he did when he yielded to British objection to his first insistence on the freedom of the seas, that it mattered not as the greater included the less. Such, however, was not the feeling of the public at home which soon gave so clear indications of uneasiness over the impending peril to a cherished tradition that the President after his return to Paris caused to be inserted a special provision in its favor. If he imagined that this was enough to reassure supersensitive patriots he was mistaken. His afterthought quite failed to satisfy them. The alarm he had occasioned did not die down and was one of the causes of his ultimate failure in rallying the country to his support.
But although we have not entered the League of Nations almost all of the Latin American republics have. We can find no fault with this. At the time they did so they had fair reason to hope that the United States, which had taken the leading part in the creation of the League, would sooner or later be one of its members. At any rate they are independent communities, free to join or not as they please without consulting us. We may suspect, however, that among the motives of some of them was the thought of finding a counterpoise to too much tutelage on the part of "los Yankis." This is natural, but not calculated to increase the none too great friendliness of Washington for Geneva. Let the Latin American members of the League interest themselves if they will in the question of Lithuanian boundaries or the government of the Saar, that is their affair; but it would be a very different matter if the League, whose membership is preponderantly non-American, were to show a desire to meddle, even if invited, in such matters as the frontier dispute between Costa Rica and Panama or the Tacna-Arica question between Chile and Peru. There can be little doubt that the United States, although on several occasions in the past it has not protested against arbitral decisions by European powers in American controversies, will be opposed to such things in the future, and in its present mood will regard even the most peaceful interventions not only of individual European states but of the League of Nations as contrary to the Monroe Doctrine.
So far the League has had the wisdom to refrain from activity of this kind. It stands in too great awe of us to run such risks. When in 1921 Bolivia made complaint against Chile and asked for a revision of her peace treaty of 1883 the matter was promptly buried in a commission which has never reported. The honor and the difficulty of settling the long standing and bitter dispute between Chile and Peru, and incidentally, let us hope, of doing something for Bolivia, are now in the hands of the State Department, which will need its whole stock of wisdom to find an arrangement that shall not lead to deep and lasting disappointment, not to say resentment, in one quarter or another.
Perhaps the League is to be congratulated on not having to deal with this particular question, but patently it is left in a position of humiliating impotence if, owing to the disapproval of an outside power, it does not dare to accept the appeals under the articles of the Covenant of one of its own members against another. But supposing it should find the courage to do so, or supposing both parties to some American dispute should prefer, in spite of Pan-Americanism, to submit the issue to the arbitration of the League, are we to take it as outside "interference" and to forbid all such action? If we do, and this would seem to be consistent with our general attitude, many in Latin America will accuse us of imperialistic tyranny and of subjecting them to a servitude from which they will yearn to escape. We must realize that to assume the right of being the sole arbiter who can be called in is to assume the ungrateful role of the policeman. And even the policeman cannot well bar voluntary compacts beneficent to everybody. For instance should the meeting at Rome under the auspices of the League of Nations bring about among the smaller powers, including the Latin American ones, an agreement to extend the principles of the Disarmament Conference and to cease all naval competition, the world including ourselves could only applaud. But applause from Washington might be tempered by a touch of chagrin that the League had succeeded where Pan-Americanism under our aegis had failed at Santiago.
Of course partisans of the League of Nations do not hesitate to point out that the obvious way for the United States to avoid all such troubles is for itself to join the League. Pan-Americanism will only profit by the change. Everything that the Monroe Doctrine has achieved in the past will remain; everything that it might legitimately hope to achieve in the future will be as well accomplished through another agency. As long as the "law of the jungle" is the guide of conduct among peoples, including our own, the Doctrine may be a necessity. In a world transformed by the League of Nations, the much decried Article X would alone be enough to guarantee the fulfilment of its principles. If from sentimental motives we wish to maintain its being, the Covenant has specifically provided that we may do so. The power that we now hold in readiness to see that it is observed would exist equally under the League, but there would be no longer the same danger that we might be called upon to use that power.
This reasoning, though not easy to refute, is hardly likely to make many converts among those opposed to the League. They will regard it as a mere sugaring of a pill which they do not intend to swallow.
Be that as it may, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that if we do some day become a party to the League or to any association with like objects, and if these pacts are honestly observed, the Monroe Doctrine in the spirit in which it was conceived will no longer have the same reason for continuance. It may linger on as a pious memory or as another name for a fraternal spirit of Pan-Americanism, but its political significance can hardly remain unchanged. Even without the League, a World Court with wide jurisdiction might by itself act as a dissolvent of the same kind. Here, too, the price may be worth paying, but there is a price to pay even if it is only a sentimental one. To be sure, the mere suggestion of our being called upon to sacrifice one of our most cherished dogmas is still enough to fill with anger many, perhaps the majority, of the American people and to imperil the prospect of their adhesion to either League or Court. Yet there are others who believe that the sun and the moon will not stand still and that the very controversy which has raged about the proper nature of our relations with the rest of the world is not empty wrangling over a closed incident but one of the steps in a new evolution.
Thus, when all is said and done, the Monroe Doctrine, however safe against attack from without, is not equally immune to the gentler perils of dissolution from within, nor to absorption in some broader humanitarian ideal. Today it is a name to conjure with; perchance in some not very distant tomorrow it will be nothing but a name. But even so, its task will have been performed.
[i]See The Monroe Doctrine, an Obsolete Shibboleth, by Hiram Bingham, Yale Press, 1913. The fact that the author revised his opinions later does not make the book less worth reading.