Manifest Destiny and the Monroe Doctrine

Manifest Destiny and Monroe Doctrine were accepted as the basis for US foreign policy during much of the 19th and 20th centuries. Manifest Destiny, in its broadest interpretation, meant that Americans were a chosen people ordained by God to create a model society. More specifically, it referred to the territorial expansion of the United States from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The idea of manifest Destiny was used to justify US annexation of Texas, Oregon, New Mexico, and California and later, US involvement in Cuba, Alaska, Hawaii and the Philippines

The Monroe Doctrine a cornerstone of early US foreign policy was enunciated by President James Monroe in a public statement proclaiming three basic dicta: no further European colonization in the New World, abstention of the United States from European political affairs, and non-intervention of European governments in the governments of the Western Hemisphere.

In 1881, its principles were evoked in discussing the development of a canal across the Isthmus of Panama. Theodore Roosevelt applied the Monroe doctrine with an extension that became known as the Roosevelt Corollary. The corollary stated that not only would the United States prohibit non-American intervention in Latin American affairs but it would also police there and guarantee that Latin American nations met their international obligation. The corollary sanctioning American intervention was applied in 1905 when Roosevelt forced the Dominican Republic to accept the appointment of an American economic adviser who quickly became the financial director of the small state. It was also used in the acquisition of the Panama Canal Zone from Colombia in 1903 and the formation of a provisional government in Cuba in 1906.

The manner in which the United States acquired the land for the Panama Zone typifies the Roosevelt Corollary – whatever is good for the United States is justifiable. As the Global Perspective illustrates the creation of the country of Panama was a total fabrication of the United States.

According to US history these Latin American adventures were a justifiable part of our foreign policy; to Latin Americans, they were unwelcome intrusions in Latin American affairs. This perspective has been constantly reinforced by US intervention in Latin America since 1945. The way historical events are recorded and interpreted in one culture can differ substantially from the way those same events recorded and interpreted in another. From the US view each of the interventions illustrates below:

What do the Mexican American war, Ireland and Griongo Have in common?

Revered in Mexico, honored in Ireland and all but forgotten in the United States are the San Patricios (St. Patrick’s Battalion). During the Mexican American War the San Patricios were approximately 250 men, mostly Irish, who made up a battalion of defectors from the US Army and fought for Mexico. During the two year conflict the immigrant deserters forged a strong alliance with the Mexicans. For their pains, the Americans executed, most, but they became a symbol of independence and defense against imperialism.

The San Patricios fought well, but when they ended up back in American hands, 50 of them died by hanging and many others were branded on the right cheek with a two inch letter D for deserter. When the war ended, Mexico was forced to cede half its territory to the United States.

The Mexican American conflict that lasted from 1846 to 1848 may be dismissed as irrelevant history north of the border, but not south of it. Every year the San Patricios are remembered with a ceremony in Mexico City and County Galway Ireland home of the brigade’s commanding officer.

Now we know what Ireland and the Mexican American War have in common, but what about the word gringo? According to some sources, at day’s end the San Patricios would sit around their campfires singing a song called Green Grow the Lilacs. The story goes that the Mexican soldiers began to refer to their comrades as Los gringos. To be fair we should share the other explanation for the derivation of gringo. Some historians say the word was used in Spain prior to the discovery of American and was an alteration of griego (Greek) to indicate foreign gibberish or its Greek to me.

A comparison of histories goes along way in explaining the differences in outlooks and behavior of people on both sides of the border. Many Mexicans believe that their good neighbor to the north is not reluctant to throw its weight around when it wants something. Suspicious that self interest is the primary motivation for good relations with Mexico abound.