Sunday, December 25, 2011

De Facto Governments and U.S. Foreign Policy

On this Christmas day you might want to consider the virtue of our early American republic's foreign policy.

That foreign policy can be summed up in two key ideas: de facto recognition of governments, and non-interference in the internal affairs of other nations, including those with de facto governments.

The best known statement of these policies was made in the Monroe Doctrine. President James Monroe had fought in the Revolutionary War, served in the Continental Congress under the Articles of Confederation, and played a key role in getting the new Constitution adopted by the State of Virginia. In 1823 President Monroe warned against Spain trying to regain control of any of its former North or South American colonies that had become independent. Partly this reflected a sympathy for Republics and Democracies over the reassertion of monarchies then prevalent in Europe. Partly it reflected the desire of the ruling class of the U.S. to exert influence over a potential commercial empire. But consider it as just principled, sincere policy.

As to the colonies still in the Western Hemisphere, the Monroe Doctrine stated, "With the existing colonies or dependencies of any European power, we have not interfered, and shall not interfere." It is notable, however, that in the Spanish-American War the United States not only interfered with the remnants of the Spanish Empire, but grabbed Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Philippines.

Further, the doctrine with regard to Europe was "not to interfere in the internal concerns of any of its powers; to consider the government de facto as the legitimate government for us; to cultivate friendly relations with it."

It makes sense that the founding citizens of the United States of America should see the value of recognizing de facto governments, and of one nation not interfering in the internal affairs of another nation. The Continental Congresses and individual State governments that fought the British Empire during the American Revolution were precisely de facto governments. The British legal system did not recognize them, nor, at first, did any other members of the international community. The Royal governors of the British Empire were the legal, de jure, government of the British colonies, and in certain places, the very real government right up until the King agreed to the independence of the colonies.

Non-interference was also important to our early republican democracy-in-the-making. Monroe, Patrick Henry & their crew were not in a position to interfere in the internal affairs of other nations, but the great powers of Europe had occasional reason to interfere in the relatively weak United States.

Of course, like all general principles, de facto recognition and non-interference have their particular issues in real world circumstance. Before taking on that complexity, it should be admitted that neither principle got in the way of American appetites for land speculation and empire. American Indian nations were interfered with and stomped on with little or no justification. Florida was grabbed from Spain, Northern Mexico was grabbed, Hawaii was grabbed (its native de facto and de jure government ignored). For good measure the de facto government of the Philippines was not recognized, the U.S. preferring to pretend that Spain still held the colony, so that it might be transferred easily to U.S. control.

Basically, the more powerful the United States government (and its economic ruling class) became, the more the U.S. interfered in the affairs of other nations. Bullying of Latin American nations became a regular event as the 19th century wore on (and we ran out of Native American tribes to reduce to ethnic "reservations"), puppets were installed when feasible, and starting with President Woodrow Wilson, U.S. troops were sent in on almost any pretext. In Asia, even before the U.S. program of genocide in the Philippines, we started manipulating the Chinese and forced Japan to provide fueling stations for the U.S. Navy (which needed to refuel on its way to and from bullying the Chinese).

Many Americans wished we had done some interfering with the Spanish Civil War and the National Socialist rise to power in Germany in the 1930's. They argued that if we had supported the Republicans in Spain, World War II would not have happened. That, and Pearl Harbor, was pretty much the end of non-interference. During World War II the U.S. even set up the United Nations to provide a fig leaf of democracy for the new global empire. Internal interference became the rule.

Unfortunately the new bossing-other-nations-around foreign policy of the U.S. has not been used to promote democracy, freedom of religion and speech, and other rhetorical ideals. In every case the sole deciding factor has been the "interests," mainly economic, but sometimes strategic, of the capitalist, imperialist class. Examples could fill a book on U.S. (or global) history since World War II. Just a few:

When it looked like elections would result in parties winning that were not considered "pro-U.S.," the U.S. has installed dictators. South Korea, South Vietnam, and Iran, were major examples in the 1940's and 1950's. Most Latin American countries have suffered at times under U.S. backed military regimes in the last half-century.

Elections are only encouraged when they will get rid of anti-U.S. regimes. This was true in Eastern Europe. The elections held in Iraq and Afghanistan would have been shut down had anti-U.S. politicians won them. We saw that in Algeria in the 1980's. Only elections won by pro-American political parties are honored by the State Department.

Somalia is a rather spectacular case of counter-productive interference in foreign nations. The United States did not like a mildly Islamic regime (the Islamic Court System) so we paid to overthrow it. The result was a de facto government by Al Shabaab fighting a non-stop civil war with a U.S. appointed and financed "provisional" government. The holocaust of the Somali people this past decade can be directly attributed to the actions of the U.S. governments led by Barack Obama and George W. Bush.

But what else would you expect from the new, pseudo-democratic American corporate security state?

Aside from the likely Green Party presidential nominee, Jill Stein, the only current presidential candidate who supports non-interference as a foreign policy is Ron Paul. Hopefully when the election comes around you will be able to vote for non-interference, rather than feeling you have to vote for one or the other of the two corporate security state nominated candidates.

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