The Myth of Isolationism

The Monroe Doctrine and “Isolationism”




mexico-latin-america-13-728 Intervention
Chart detailing Military interventions in Latin America through the first two decades of the 20th century.



Smedley butler
US General Smedley Butler who famously said of his involvement in Latin American military interventions “I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers.”

Even while the US was actively trying to scale back its military commitments around the world, its military retrenchment in the Western Hemisphere was not quite so successful.  These military interventions, most of them in the name of protecting US property or US interests, were simply an extension of the Monroe Doctrine that decreed the US was paramount in the Western Hemisphere.  Undersecretary of State J. Reuben Clark wrote a memo in the late 1920s that argued that these kinds of interventions were counter-productive.  His memo became the basis for FDR’s Good Neighbor Policy that ultimately curtailed frequent US military interventions in Latin America.  As these interventions demonstrate, Unilateralism, or the US prerogative to act without the backing of other nations or international bodies, was perhaps a more apt description of US foreign relations than Isolationism during this period.


Isolationism and Empire Copyright © by James McKay. All Rights Reserved.

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