America’s imperialism after Monroe’s doctrine. Discuss

The “Monroe doctrine” was a foreign policy initiative by President James Monroe of United States in 1823. Since then, for a century, US’s foreign policy more or less followed the path set by the Monroe doctrine.

The prevailing context:

  • Latin America was experiencing a number of independence movements and many got independence from their colonial masters- Spain and Portugal.
  • US wanted to take advantage of this situation. UK was excited about their rivals losing power in Latin America
  • The United States, working in agreement with Great Britain, wanted to guarantee that no European power would move in

Basic Idea: 

  • The Monroe Doctrine states that the United States has a rightful sphere of influence in the western hemisphere, or the Americas. And so, any further efforts by European nations to colonize land or interfere with states in North or South America would be viewed as acts of aggression, requiring U.S. intervention
  • This basically meant that US marked its territory and warned European countries to stay away from it’s “sphere of influence”


  • US right from the beginning followed an isolationist policy, that is non-interference in the affairs of other powers. But here, it was obviously warning European powers.
  • US justified it with two principles: American Exceptionalism and Manifest Destiny, the two ideas that refer to the right of United States to exert its influence over the rest of the world.
  • Manifest Destiny: The term manifest destiny originated in the 1840s. It expressed the belief that it was Anglo-Saxon Americans’ providential mission to expand their civilization and institutions across the breadth of North America. This expansion would involve not merely territorial aggrandizement but the progress of liberty and individual economic opportunity as well. This is still cited as one reason for the ‘imposing of democracy’ in other countries like Iraq.
  • American Exceptionalism: American exceptionalism is the theory that the United States is inherently different from other nations. A belief, central to American political culture since the Revolution(for independence), that Americans have a unique mission among nations to spread freedom and democracy. This is still cited as one reason for the ‘imposing of democracy’ in other countries like Iraq.

Use of the doctrine:

  • With this, US had effectively stopped any European interference in its sphere of influence(except for the colonies which already been colonized)
  • US forced Latin American countries to open their markets for its traders
  • Allowed US to follow its ‘isolatinist’ policies towards European powers
  • At the end of 1800’s, American imperialism began. US occupied many pacific and Atlantic islands and turned them in to its colonies. It was again justified on the principle of ‘American exceptionalism’ along with ‘Social Darwinism’.  During this ‘Age of Imperialism,’ the United States exerted political, social, and economic control over countries such as the Philippines, Cuba, Germany, Austria, Korea, and Japan. In 1898 US won the Spanish American War and gained Spanish colonies of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines, as well as the formerly independent nation of Hawaii.

Later additions to the Monroe doctrine:

  • The Open Door Policy was established in 1899 and stated that all European nations and the United States could trade with China. No competition there.
  • The “Roosevelt Corollary”: In 1904, following the Venezuela Crisis of 1895, Theodore Roosevelt added the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine. The most significant amendment to the original doctrine, this corollary asserted the right of the United States to intervene in Latin America in cases of “flagrant and chronic wrongdoing by a Latin American Nation. ” This meant that US assumed the role of policeman of the region(Western Hemisphere). While the Monroe Doctrine had sought to prevent European intervention, the Roosevelt Corollary was used to justify US intervention throughout the hemisphere

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