Bolton’s new Monroe Doctrine

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Bolton’s new Monroe Doctrine


The author is a Washington correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

With a failed two-day armed uprising in Venezuela, it seemed that the regime was about to collapse as the military seemed supportive of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó. If some military leaders join, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro can fly to Cuba anytime to seek asylum, as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed. Unlike the failed regime change efforts against Hugo Chavez 17 years ago, the United States is showing unusual will and is mentioning the possibility of taking military action.

Venezuela is the first step in White House national security adviser John Bolton’s long-term plan to end the “troika of tyranny” in the western hemisphere, which refers to Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela. On May 1, Bolton said, “This is our hemisphere — it’s not where the Russians ought to be interfering.” He was claiming the United States’ priority over Russia, which has supported the Maduro regime together with Cuba. That reminded me of the Monroe Doctrine from the 19th century.

The Monroe Doctrine was interpreted as isolationism later, but at the time, it was a declaration that denounced European powers’ colonial expansion over the Americas. Sending a message to Congress, U.S. President James Monroe stated, “We should consider any attempt on their part to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere as dangerous to our peace and safety. With the existing colonies or dependencies of any European power, we have not interfered and shall not interfere.”

Using the special interest relationship of the United States over the western hemisphere, Bolton reinterpreted the doctrine by combining it with his own socialist confrontation and regime change rhetoric. In an interview with CNN in March, he was asked why he opposed Maduro when Trump had close ties with other authoritarian regimes in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Bolton responded, “In this administration, we’re not afraid to use the phrase ‘Monroe Doctrine.’ This is a country in our hemisphere, it’s been the objective of presidents going back to Ronald Reagan to have a completely democratic hemisphere.”

Bolton is coordinating a visit to Seoul later this month to meet with his South Korean counterpart, Chung Eui-yong. It’s been 15 years since Bolton came to Korea as an undersecretary of state for arms control and international security in the Bush administration. While he denied the New Yorker report that he still believes in a pre-emptive strike on North Korea, it is certain that he has the most hard-line position on sanctions on North Korea. If South Korean President Moon Jae-in desires to provide food aid to North Korea, he must overcome Bolton’s hawkish stance first.

The author is a Washington correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 3, Page 29
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