Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Drago Doctrine and Syria

When I teach U.S.-Latin American Relations, I discuss history a lot and use primary documents. I try to convey that although we have to be careful not to over-emphasize how much history impacts relations today, nonetheless it is essential to understanding even current Latin American reactions to U.S. policy.

Here is an example. The Argentine foreign ministry issued a statement about Syria, criticizing the use of military force and calling for humanitarian assistance.

Argentina, junto a toda América Latina, ha sido enfática en la defensa del principio de no intervención militar extranjera. Ante la negativa de los Estados Unidos para aplicar la doctrina Monroe en defensa de Venezuela, que sufría un bloqueo naval por potencias europeas en 1902, la Argentina impulsó una nueva doctrina en contra del intervencionismo militar. La doctrina Drago, en honor a su impulsor el Canciller Luis María Drago, que comenzó atacando la intervención por tema de deudas evolucionó como principio general, ello a partir de la experiencia que indica que las intervenciones militares libradas a decisiones unilaterales es uno de los elementos más disruptivos de la seguridad internacional.

The Drago Doctrine is one I discuss in class, and I have an excerpt of it in my textbook. Notice, though, that Drago was writing in response to the United States' failure to apply the Monroe Doctrine, namely the protection of Latin American countries from European intervention (as Britain, Italy, and Germany attacked Venezuela to force repayment of debt). Drago, in fact, explicitly notes how much Argentina supported the Monroe Doctrine.

So the Drago Doctrine is indeed about Argentine leadership in asserting non-intervention, but it's a tricky one for Argentina to use because it also has a strong component of accepting and even embracing U.S. hegemony.

Regardless, my students should take note that when I make you learn what seems to be ancient history, there's a reason!


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