In This Review

The Last Years of the Monroe Doctrine, 1945-1993
The Last Years of the Monroe Doctrine, 1945-1993
By Gaddis Smith
Hill and Wang, 1994, 280 pp.

This elegant work, by a distinguished diplomatic historian at Yale, chronicles the use and abuse (the latter, mostly) of U.S. power in the western hemisphere since 1945. Smith nicely describes the recurring tension between America's insistence on a sphere of influence and its denial of the legitimacy of such spheres when claimed by other great powers. His dominant theme, however, is how the zealous determination to prevent communist penetration of the Americas, in the name of the Monroe Doctrine, led to repeated U.S. interventions in the internal affairs of hemispheric states, the support of repressive governments, and ultimately the discrediting of the doctrine itself.

The Monroe Doctrine would appear to be dead not only in the sense that Smith intends: with the end of the Cold War and the absence of an external threat to the hemisphere, a doctrine intended to ward off external threats can have no relevance. It is dead also in that the principle of nonintervention that once lay at the heart of the doctrine has now been displaced by a Wilsonian principle of democratic legitimacy. The Monroe Doctrine is dead! Long live hemispheric intervention!