A Brief History
On July 25, 1969, President Nixon declared the “Nixon Doctrine,” stating that from this point on Asian countries were expected to defend themselves rather than rely on the US to defend them. This policy began the pathetic process of “Vietnamization” of the Viet Nam War, turning over responsibility for the war to South Viet Nam. Presidents have been declaring “doctrines” all the way back to James Monroe. Here we list 10 of those presidential doctrines. Whether or not they were/are a good idea is for you to decide.
The original policy labeled a “doctrine,” Monroe laid claim to all of North and South America as a sphere of interest of the US, not to be interfered with by European countries. This policy was somewhat presumptuous at the time, as the US did not really have the muscle to back up the tough talk.
9. Teddy Roosevelt.
Roosevelt made a corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, that Latin America was vital to US economic interests and the US would intervene if necessary to protect American economic well being, not just against European interference.
Truman decided on a policy of containment of communism, that countries that were not already communist would not be allowed to be taken over by communists. After World War II the Soviets went on a spree trying to turn as many countries communist as possible and in the Soviet sphere if possible, and Truman said “enough.”
Ike’s doctrine was to provide assistance to any country that needed it and requested our help. This doctrine was used to keep Egypt out of Soviet control and then Lebanon.
In one of Kennedy’s grand moments of oratory he laid out his “pay any price, bear any burden” speech about helping friends and opposing foes, largely referring to Latin America. He included poverty and disease in his list of enemies. Johnson continued the defense of the Western Hemisphere against communism theme.
JC declared the right and intent of the US to protect our interests regarding the flow of oil from the Middle East as a special warning to the Soviets who had invaded Afghanistan.
Reagan’s contribution to the doctrine parade was to declare the US would not only oppose communist takeovers in the Western Hemisphere, but would actively support the overthrow of communist regimes that were already in place as well whether in the West or elsewhere in the world (such as Afghanistan).
Bubba gave a sort of generalized, muddled doctrine of the US will do what is necessary and right if it is in our interests without being too specific. He did say that genocide is by definition against the interest of the US and would be opposed by us. This doctrine allowed for intervention in Bosnia to prevent “ethnic cleansing.”
2. George W. Bush.
Bush jumped on the 9/11 terror attacks to make it clear that the US would consider any country that harbored terrorists the same as terrorists themselves. He also provided for the use of preemptive strikes against any person or country to prevent any attack against the US or its people.
Obama has expressed a certain amount of distaste for doctrines, not wanting to be tied into any particular set of reflexive reactions. He has said that the interests of the US have to be considered in conjunction to the interests of other countries as well, with a goal of common safety and prosperity. His supporters call it refreshing realism, his critics want to see his birth certificate.
Question for students (and subscribers): If you were president of the US, what would your doctrine be? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Gleek, Charles, Robert P. Watson, et al. Presidential Doctrines: National Security from Woodrow Wilson to George W. Bush. Nova Science Pub Inc, 2003.