The Spectacle Blog

Daniel Larison’s Make Believe History

By on 12.7.11 | 4:11PM

Over at the American Conservative, Daniel Larison seems to have developed an interesting definition of "intervention" in the affairs of other nations when it comes to the Founding Fathers.

Aside from giving the erroneous impression that I am endorsing endless foreign interventions (Uganda anyone?), he appears to be redefining "intervention" so that it applies only to Europe and Asia. Notably not counted by Larison is perhaps one of the biggest interventions in all of American history -- the Monroe Doctrine.

Ron Paul and other "non-interventionists" love to quote John Quincy Adams to the effect that America does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy. This sounds lovely… but for the fact that it was Adams himself as Secretary of State who wrote the Monroe Doctrine for Founding Father President James Monroe. The Monroe Doctrine, of course, roped off basically half the earth (!!!) in the form of the Western hemisphere, specifically intervening in the affairs not only of every nation in the hemisphere that is not the United States but not coincidentally also intervening in the affairs of European nations that wished to involve themselves further in Latin American affairs. In fact, the U.S. was working with Britain on this quite specifically to keep various European powers out of the Hemisphere as various Latin American countries gained their independence from, for example, Spain or Portugal, effectively intervening in European affairs on a massive scale. This Founding Father intervention invention was so potent John F. Kennedy would cite the Monroe Doctrine well over a century later as grounds for potential nuclear war with the Soviets in the Cuban Missile Crisis, and Ronald Reagan would cite it in confrontations with the Communists in Nicaragua.

One can argue over whether intervention is or is not a good policy and when or where if it is. But to try and say as Larison and Paul do that the Founding Fathers just didn't do this is just flatly not so. They did -- quite specifically Presidents Washington, John Adams, Jefferson, Madison and Monroe, plus John Quincy Adams as Secretary of State for Monroe (although technically speaking JQA was not a Founder).

There is nothing "hawkish" about this. It is simply historical fact. And Mr. Larison for some reason wishes to make believe history is other than it is.

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