President Bush and John Quincy Adams: Soulmates of History
Posted by majutsu on March 16, 2008
The Monroe Doctrine begins and ends with a president’s son:
As has been noted before, there is a lot of similarity between George W. Bush and John Quincy Adams. Both men were presidents as well as sons of presidents. Both fathers were perceived as rather ineffectual or undistinguished. Both sons got involved in controversial wars in other lands, and both wars were ethically questionable. Most importantly, it is my contention that both men are terminal points in the life-span of the philosophy of the Monroe Doctrine. John Quincy Adams is the beginning of a string of presidencies that assume the validity of the Monroe Doctrine; George Bush’s presidency is the last.
John Quincy Adams was Secretary of State under President Monroe from 1817-1825. As such he was involved in the formulation and first use of the philosophy of the Monroe Doctrine. The Monroe Doctrine officially dates to the state of the union address of President Monroe on December 2, 1823. Officially, the Monroe Doctrine promulgates the philosophy “that the American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers.” Hence, it officially is a clarion call for independence of the Western Hemisphere from European colonization. However, there are more than a few holes in the official statement. First among these is that the original speech only references the Russian influence in the Oregon territories and the Spanish influence in Florida. Oddly enough, this stern warning that we will protect North and South America from any colonization (being the true lovers of freedom we are) seems not to affect Canada, which was a thoroughly British colonial area, securely controlled by our most probable enemy as proved by the then-recent War of 1812. John Quincy Adams, as Secretary of State, helped formulate the Monroe Doctrine, the causes of which may be found in the first conflict with the Seminoles. There were three Seminole wars in Florida, 1817-1818, 1835-1842, and 1855-1858. So John Quincy Adams helped formulate the Monroe Doctrine while Secretary of State during the first conflict. It was mainly needed to justify the actions of Andrew Jackson, who in official response to the Scott Massacre, set about to attack the Spanish, villages of freed slaves, to exterminate towns of Indians and execute British citizens who were nuzzling in on our trade profits. There was no question we wanted Florida, as Adams was engaged in purchase negotiations with Spain for Florida prior to the first war. Adams used double-speak, finger-pointing, and Orwellian word re-definition to make grossly offensive and atrocious actions justifiable, in short, supplying, as does Condoleeza Rice today, the mental gymnastics to justify a war, about which even General Ethan Allen Hitchcock had admitted, “The government is in the wrong, and this is the chief cause of the persevering opposition of the Indians, who have nobly defended their country against our attempt to enforce a fraudulent treaty. The natives used every means to avoid a war, but were forced into it by the tyranny of our government.”
“So Adams let the Spanish protest, then issued a letter (with 72 supporting documents) blaming the war on the British, Spanish and Indians. In the letter he also apologized for the seizure of West Florida, said that it had not been American policy to seize Spanish territory, and offered to give St. Marks and Pensacola back to Spain. Spain accepted and eventually resumed negotiations for the sale of Florida. [Suddenly turning face, Adams began] defending Jackson’s actions as necessary, and sensing that they strengthened his diplomatic standing, Adams demanded Spain either control the inhabitants of East Florida or cede it to the United States! An agreement was then reached whereby Spain ceded East Florida to the United States and renounced all claim to West Florida.”
So the financial boon that had been sought all along had finally been obtained by public misrepresentation of the conflict and justification of the genocidal means to the American and international community as twisted self-defense. This conflict was enshrined in American policy as the Monroe Doctrine. While the overt reason for the Monroe Doctrine was self-defense and freedom from European colonization, the true subtext was desire for profit, economic monopoly, justification of immoral violence, and a blank check for future southern expansion of the young American empire.
And what about our glorious freedom from European colonization? Isn’t that the real point of the Monroe Doctrine, that America believes in free, self-determinate nations, and will stand like a beacon protecting the Western Hemisphere from being used by European, Soviet, or any other imperial power? Would it surprise you to know that the Monroe Doctrine was crafted with the British, mainly to limit French and Spanish profits in exploiting the New World at the expense of any loss to British or American wealth?
“British Foreign Minister George Canning proposed that the United States and the United Kingdom join to warn off France and Spain from intervention [in any of the recently freed colonies: Argentina, Chile, Columbia, or Mexico]. Both Thomas Jefferson and James Madison urged Monroe to accept the offer, but . . . Adams also was quite concerned about the efforts of Russia and Mexico to extend their influence over the Oregon Country, which had already been jointly claimed by the Americans and British. At the Cabinet meeting of November 7, 1823, Adams argued against Canning’s offer, and declared, ‘It would be more candid, as well as more dignified, to avow our principles explicitly to Russia and France, than to come in as a cockboat in the wake of the British man-of-war.'”
This clearly is a chronology of an economic arrangement with the British regarding the exploitation of the indigenous peoples and Spanish Americas, with the inspiration by Adams that America was mature enough to administer these economic prizes. Adams, in formulating the Monroe Doctrine, is writing future presidents a blank check to attack the other peoples of the earth for the sake of American profit. He also has set the course of crying self-defense and security while clutching slaves and dollars to a bullying chest.
The parallels between this conflict and the Iraq war are many. Apparently the war was decided ahead of time for economic reasons. The American public was lied to about the origins and true goals of the war. Such similarities illustrate how the doctrine of America’s right to use violence for material gain was now enshrined in American political philosophy. The actions of Andrew Jackson, seen by many of his time as a frightening enemy of freedom, the American Napoleon, had now been given the veneer of philosophy and acceptable expression in international affairs.
Theodore Roosevelt extended the Monroe Doctrine to Latin America. “In 1928, the Clark Memorandum was released, concluding that the Doctrine gave the United States the right to intervene in Latin American affairs when it perceived a threat to its interests or internal dangers, even without European interference. Internal dangers included events such as elections as acceptable justification for intervention.” It is not surprising that the reach of the Doctrine keeps growing, as it was in origin a blank check to commit violence for economic gain. Kennedy extended the Monroe Doctrine to justify the Cold War. “The Monroe Doctrine means what it has meant since President Monroe and John Quincy Adams enunciated it, and that is that we would oppose a foreign power extending its power to the Western Hemisphere, and that is why we oppose what is happening in Cuba today. That is why we have cut off our trade. That is why we worked in the Organization of American States and in other ways to isolate the Communist menace in Cuba. That is why we will continue to give a good deal of our effort and attention to it.” The same logic is next extended to Nicaragua by Reagan. It is apparent in the judgment against the US by the world court that the Monroe Doctrine had always placed us philosophically as aggressors against other nations in disdain for morality or international opinion.
The true legacy of the Monroe Doctrine is the inherent belief that the best government is the one that maximizes power and wealth. This is why governments like Bush’s seem so fascist. It is the close relationship between government and the economically and socially powerful in these governments, and the way their decisions only benefit the wealthy and powerful (like Chevron or Haliburton), not the common man (who sends his son to die in Iraq). I suppose Bush is not consciously fascist, or he would show less disdain for friends like Saddam Hussein, but he shares the characteristics of proto-fascism. “Semiotician Umberto Eco attempts to identify the characteristics of proto-fascism as the cult of tradition, rejection of modernism, cult of action for action’s sake, life is lived for struggle, fear of difference, rejection of disagreement, contempt for the weak, cult of masculinity and machismo, qualitative populism, appeal to a frustrated majority, obsession with a plot, illicitly wealthy enemies, education to become a hero, and speaking Newspeak, in his popular essay Eternal Fascism: Fourteen Ways of Looking at a Blackshirt. More recently, an emphasis has been placed upon the aspect of populist fascist rhetoric that argues for a “re-birth” of a conflated nation.” But I believe our presidents have simply been guilty of the viewpoint that since they are rich and powerful, as are all who are not marginalized in our society, that benefiting such individuals by continuous acquisition of power and wealth would necessarily be the best course. Now, ideas in public discourse emerge such as how Americans are less secure thanks to Mr. Bush’s unilateral actions in Iraq which have galvanized terrorists, how we Americans are not having our needs met in education or health care, or how we fought a war for oil, but pay over $3.50 a gallon for gas after obtaining a monopoly on Iraqi oil reserves and production, since our gas trophy is being used to control the oil markets of Europe and Asia for the profit of the same few. So how could I have fought a war for oil and money, which I and most Americans find morally objectionable, while at the same time have no money to show for the selling of my soul? Only by following the Monroe Doctrine, which has implicitly guided America in every choice to seek to maximize wealth and power at the quality and expense of human life and happiness. In this respect, Bush is an excellent president, for he has fulfilled the Monroe Doctrine in fullness. As Madeline Albright says, “every president has a position much like the Bush doctrine in his back pocket, but it is simply foolish to smash people in the face with it and to implement it in a manner that will infuriate even allies.” In his interview with Jeremy Paxon, Noam Chomsky relays that “Henry Kissinger for example described [the Bush doctrine] as a revolutionary new doctrine which tears to shreds the Westphalian System, the 17th-century system of International Order and of course the UN Charter. But nevertheless, [this interpretation of Kissinger’s] has been very widely criticized within the foreign policy elite. . . on the narrow ground the doctrine is not really new, it’s [only more] extreme.” Bush is merely the logical culmination of the Monroe Doctrine, it’s fullest expression. We can now see it for the justification of horror and non-responsibility to the needs of the everyday American people that it truly is. Bush may someday be remembered not as the worst president, but rather as the very best at expressing a very bad and very dead idea, that government’s job is only to accumulate wealth and power to its very limit. Instead the president of the future will be judged by how he or she has met the needs of the American people.