E Pluribus Plures

Friday, September 6, 2019
Image credit: 
Poster US 3615, Poster collection, Hoover Institution Archives.

Image credit: 
Poster US 3615, Poster collection, Hoover Institution Archives.

A doctrine is a set of guiding principles shared widely by an organization or a nation. The Monroe Doctrine of 1823 stated that any effort by a European nation to take control of any North or South American country would be viewed as “the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward the United States.” In 1962, the Doctrine was invoked during the Cuban Missile Crisis. With the support of the Organization of American States (OAS), President Kennedy established a naval quarantine around the island.

Does the Monroe Doctrine apply today? Probably not, for three reasons. First, the current case in point is Venezuela, where starvation and descent into misery are underwritten by Cuba’s unrelenting support for thugs who are leaching the blood from their own people. Although the situation is as overt as it is repugnant, the feckless OAS cannot summon the moral authority to censure and force the Maduro oppressors from power.

Second, the problem is compounded by President Trump’s approval—indeed, almost his endorsement—of the world’s most prominent oppressors: Xi of China and Putin of Russia. Putin’s geopolitical dalliances with Cuba and Venezuela, intended to diminish and distract America, pass without criticism from the White House. At the same time, the instincts of the Vice President Pence, Secretary of State Pompeo, and National Security Adviser Bolton incline toward a vigorous Monroe Doctrine, as manifested by the imposition of stringent economic sanctions against the Maduro tyranny. On balance, President Trump seems guided more by a transactional business mindset than by a moral compass or a consistent set of doctrinal beliefs. He defines any country’s “disposition toward the United States” based upon material, often meretricious bargaining.

The third reason to doubt the applicability of the Monroe Doctrine is our national divisiveness. President Trump instinctively employs divisive rhetoric in the furtherance of his many policies that in themselves are sensible, such as combating the predatory behavior of China and enhancing our economic growth while chopping back the suffocating vines of bureaucratic regulations. Most of his opponents for the presidency employ equally divisive rhetoric solely to further the reallocation of material wealth. The acquisition and distribution of money has become the talisman in political discourse and competition. Those old enough to vote are wooed by liberal progressives with preposterous promises, ranging from free college education to free and unlimited health care.

No matter his personal inclinations, no American commander-in-chief can simply concoct and declare a doctrine. While the office of the presidency has accumulated powers not intended by the Founding Fathers, any geopolitical doctrine must still strike a resonant chord in the body politic as a whole in order to endure. President Monroe’s overt declaration of hemispheric hegemony, if reiterated today in even the most bowdlerized locution, would be denounced by academia, the mainstream press, and half the population.

Our Congress tolerates—nay, by its legislative actions and inactions it encourages—a monthly flow of 100,000 illegal immigrants at our southern border. Immigrants and their descendants are projected to account for 88% of U.S. population growth through 2065. The composition of our nation is changing dramatically. How can we unite behind any doctrine when we cannot agree what defines an American citizen or what kind of country we want to be and what our basic principles and history are? We are a divided nation, unmoored from our founding principles of individual liberty, equality of opportunity and of justice, and limited government. It is hard to believe there would be strong public support for a firm stand against nations manifesting “an unfriendly disposition toward the United States.” Instead, Americans have an unfriendly disposition toward each other. On our coins is inscribed, E Pluribus Unum. Out of many, one. Of our current culture, it would be more accurate to inscribe, E Pluribus Plures.