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In his Memoirs former U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull wrote:
"Japan violently and fraudulently misrepresented the idea of the Monroe Doctrine, deliberately forgetting that that doctrine did not give us the right to conquer and occupy or dominate sections of the Western Hemisphere or close them off to the trade of other nations. And she ignored the basic concept of the Monroe Doctrine, which was to preserve the security and independence of the nations in the Western Hemisphere. Also, the Monroe Doctrine was designed to prevent foreign nations from making conquests in this Hemisphere, whereas the Far East was being threatened by no foreign nation whatever." [page 282]
As an example of corporate security state thinking, this is perfect. Cordell was writing about the situation in 1933 and afterwards [the Memoirs were published in 1948]. This same type of thinking infects America today and applies to such perceived enemy states as Iran, Pakistan, Palestine and Somalia, or any others that may arise.
Without in any way excusing Japanese militarism, lack of democracy, war crimes or crimes against humanity from that period, I want to focus on the American side of the war and peace equation.
In case you need a refresher, James Monroe was President when he issued his annual message to Congress on December 2, 1823, part of which came to be known as the Monroe Doctrine. It basically said we would not interfere in European affairs, and expected the Europeans to keep their noses out of North and South America. At the time, however, many nations in the Americas, including Canada, were still European colonies.
Hull's interpretation of the Monroe Doctrine is questionable, but then the Doctrine may be seen to have evolved over time. He says the doctrine "was designed to prevent foreign nations from making conquests." However, it does not seem to have been designed to prevent the United States of America from making conquests. Between 1823 and 1833 the U.S.A. conquered: a variety of Native American Indian nations; northern Mexico (now Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California); Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Philippines. In addition we invaded various North and South American nations on a regular basis, and did our best to set up puppet governments in those that were nominally independent.
So really what Hull could have said, had be been franker, was that a Japanese Monroe Doctrine in East Asia was feared to be exactly like the actual practice of the U.S. under the Monroe Doctrine. Elsewhere in his Memoirs, Hull claimed to be a keen scholar of American history. He served (but did not fight) in the Spanish American war. So it was Hull that was deliberately forgetting.
Adding color, consider the source of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt family fortune [Roosevelt was President while Hull was Secretary of State. His uncle Theodore was the genocidal maniac who presided over the Philippines genocide]. On the Delano side it came from illegally running opium into China [See Warren Delano]. When China tried to stop the opium trade the result was the Opium Wars. Did the U.S. side with China against Britain in those wars? No. Britain grabbed Hong Kong and both the U.S. and Britain rewarded themselves with the de facto commercial overlordship of China. The U.S. even invaded China during the Boxer Uprising. U.S. gunboats ran up and down Chinese rivers bossing Chinamen around during the early 20th century, and were still there in 1933.
Hull was doing the classic "do as I say, not as I do" dance. He did not object to American, British, Dutch, or French colonies in East Asia. They already existed, and the horrendous treatment of the native peoples by those powers were of no concern to Hull.
It seems long ago now, but in 1933 two incidents in particular were fresh in Japanese memory. One was the U.S. conquest of the Philippines. Not the cowardly surrender of the Spanish garrison during the Spanish-American war, but the genocidal war against Philippine independence. The lesson some Japanese took from the Philippines was that Americans would kill hundreds of thousands of Asians to prevent democracy and self-determination of nations.
The other lesson was in treaty breaking. Hull says the Japanese don't honor their treaties. Putting aside the stretch of broken treaties made with Native Americans, there was the annexation of Hawaii. The U.S., France, Great Britain, and Japan had all signed a treaty saying that none of them would grab Hawaii, so that it would remain an independent nation. The U.S. annexed Hawaii in 1898. At the time the Japanese were the largest ethnic group living in the islands.
So it was the United States government that taught Japan that treaties are a convenience, to be scrapped when inconvenient.
Getting back to the Monroe Doctrine, a close look shows that the U.S. promises not to meddle in the affairs of nations outside of the Western hemisphere. It says we will recognize de facto governments. That means we won't try to overthrow governments, even if we don't like them.
Americans like to think that ours is an exceptional nation. If that means excepting ourselves from the ordinary rules of ethics and international law, we are correct.
Note that today's news that the U.S. attacked a Pakistan border outpost shows that my analysis in U.S. Close to War with Pakistan [April 23, 2011] was and is, sadly, correct.
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