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Is the Monroe Doctrine Really Dead?

posted June 08, 2008 4:39 pm

Tomgram: Greg Grandin

At least once a week -- I've long suspected -- the Chinese leadership must file into the streets of Beijing's Forbidden City to sing, dance, and pray to the (geo)political gods who drew the Bush administration into the black (gold) hole of Iraq. Without Iraq, we would undoubtedly have heard a great deal more these last years about the "China threat" from the neocons. Without Iraq, Latin America, too, would undoubtedly be a very different place.

Some years ago, it was evident that both former Cold War superpowers were losing control over what the Russians liked to term their "near abroad" (the Baltic states, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia) and Americans preferred to call their "backyard" (Latin America). Despite mutterings about, and a coup attempt against, Hugh Chávez (and another against Haiti's Jean-Bernard Aristide), Latin America has, since 2001, experienced as close to benign neglect from Washington as might be imaginable. In those years, new regional blocs have begun to form, the most surprising of which may be a growing set of left-leaning democracies in Latin America determined to pursue their own collective interests whatever the Bush administration has in mind.

As Russia rose from the ashes as an energy superpower and began to use its control over natural gas to put renewed pressure on parts of its former "near abroad," a distracted U.S. has remained somewhat laggard about the state of its backyard. It's worth noting, however, that the Pentagon has just officially reconstituted the "U.S. Fourth Fleet" -- for the Caribbean and the coasts of Central and South America -- "after nearly a 60-year slumber." As of now, it remains a symbolic gesture meant, as Rear Admiral James Stevenson has said, to send "the right signal, even to the people that you know aren't necessarily our greatest supporters."

As for just whose backyard, if anyone's, Latin America will prove to be in the years to come, let Greg Grandin, author of that indispensable book on the American imperial role in Latin America, Empire's Workshop, take up the topic with his usual intelligence. Tom

Losing Latin America

What Will the Obama Doctrine Be Like?
By Greg Grandin

Google "neglect," "Washington," and "Latin America," and you will be led to thousands of hand-wringing calls from politicians and pundits for Washington to "pay more attention" to the region. True, Richard Nixon once said that "people don't give one shit" about the place. And his National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger quipped that Latin America is a "dagger pointed at the heart of Antarctica." But Kissinger also made that same joke about Chile, Argentina, and New Zealand -- and, of the three countries, only the latter didn't suffer widespread political murder as a result of his policies, a high price to pay for such a reportedly inconsequential place.

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