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CHAPTER XXI

INTERNATIONAL LEADERSHIP IN THE CARIBBEAN

The political developments in American international affairs in recent years have brought a great increase in the importance of the Caribbean to the United States. From the purchase of Louisiana to the end of the nineteenth century the Caribbean, like all other portions of the world, played only an unimportant part among our national interests. We had a long-drawn-out disagreement with Great Britain as to the proper commercial policy in the West Indies; the early struggles of the Spanish colonies to gain their independence drew our sympathy; and during the Civil War the operations of the Navy took our attention southward, but taken as a whole, except for a gradually increasing commercial connection, we held toward Caribbean affairs the position of onlookers without that feeling of concern born of solidarity of interest.

The developments following the Spanish-American War have brought a revolution in our national position. The rapid expansion of foreign trade has made us aware that we are no longer untouched by the changes in international relations. Step by step the political interests left us by the treaty of peace have broadened to include a larger number of the Latin communities. The Platt Amendment, followed by the reciprocity treaty, expanded our responsibilities and rights in Cuba, the Venezuelan debt-collecting incidents indicated another new phase of American foreign policy, the Panama revolution and the resulting activity in building the canal brought strained relations with one of the republics on the mainland, made us the protector of another and greatly broadened our commercial outlook and military responsibilities. The fiscal protectorate over the Dominican Republic gave us another sort of responsibility toward a weak neighboring republic. Still later the negotiations of the Taft and Wilson Administrations with Central American republic and Haiti have shown that our Government, irrespective of party, has no disposition to abandon the policy of assuming added political responsibilities in the international affairs of our southern neighbors. This succession of events, peaceful but far reaching in influence, has greatly changed our outlook on American affairs. The negative or passive policy which we formerly followed, one which involved intervention only after a wrong was done, is giving way to a positive policy preventive rather than remedial. We are assuming responsibilities of complex character intended to stabilize the conditions of Caribbean life, to foster the development of local resources and industries, to promote foreign trade, and to avoid the possibility of incidents which might induce interference by non-American powers.

The logic of events forces us into a place of increasing importance. The more intensive exploitation of natural resources characteristic of the commercial development of the world, brings with it the demand of foreign investors for protection of their property, a condition which will necessitate an increasing supervision of unstable governments in order to insure that the Monroe Doctrine be not questioned. Our possession of the Panama Canal also will draw with it greater responsibility because it will bring the trade of the world, passing through the waterway, into closer touch with Caribbean affairs.

Partly as cause of these developments, partly as their result, our trade interests in the Caribbean have expanded and will continue to expand. Our markets are the natural outlet for Caribbean products; we already take much more from that region than does the rest of the world, and lying close to our shores, it is a natural field for the expansion of our export trade. It is a natural field in which we will seek raw materials. The degree to which already the trade of the United States dominates this region is shown in the following table: COMMERCIAL EXCHANGES OF THE UNITED STATES AND CARIBBEAN COUNTRIES 1 (Compiled from Statistical Abstract of the United States, 1914,

[graphic]

Washington, 1915, p. 688)

Country

Imports
Year Total Imports from the

U.S.

Per
Cent.
from Total Exports

the
U.S.

Exports
to the
U.S.

Per
Cent.

to the U.S.

Costa Rica.

1918 8,685,000 4,468,000 Guatemala

1913 10,062,000 5,053,000 Honduras.

1913 5,133,000 3,464,000 Nicaragua..

1919 5,768,000 3,244,000 Panama

1912 9,872,000 5,413,000 Salvador

1918 6,167,000 2,490,000 Colombia.

1913 26,987,000 7,630,000 Cuba..

1914 193,975,000 71,380,000 Haiti

1913 10,935,000 6,499,000 Dutch Colonies.

1912 4,576,000 1,826,000 The Dominican Republic 1918 9,272,000 5,769,000 Venezuela

1914 17,005,000 6,158,000 British West Indies 2... 1911 57,585,000 20,317,000 Total.

300,041,000 143,711,000

51.4 50.2 67.5 56.2 54.8 40.4 28.9 53.3 59.4 39.9 62.2 96.2 35.2

10,322,000 5,241,000 14,450,000 3,923,000 3,300,000 2,869,000 7,712,000 2,722,000 2,065,000 1,780,000 7,666,000 1,310,000 34,816,000 18,862,000 170,776,000 136,936,000 17,273,000 842,000

3,636,000 1,646,000 10,470,000 5,601,000 26,324,000 10,540,000 61,604,000 19,868,000

50.8 27.1 86.9 35.3 86.2 17.1 55.0 80.2

4.9 45.3 53.5 40.0 38.1

359,914,000 212,140,000

1 This table does not include the colonies of France and Denmark.

* Compiled from Statistical Tables Relating to British Self-Governing Dominions, Crown Colonies, Possessions and Protectorates, Part XXXVI, 1911 (Cd. 7024), 1913.

The new conditions, commercial and political, which now confront us bring a new phase of the Monroe Doctrine and a new phase of imperialism. We act for the betterment of Caribbean conditions in order that European powers may not feel called upon to act, and we thus prevent interference in American affairs by rendering it unnecessary. At the same time, the supervision which we undertake has as its object the helping of the weaker peoples to help themselves. In contrast to annexation, destroying the local sovereignty, our policy has been to assume the minimum of control necessary to assure public order and the observance of sound financial policy, leaving the people to manage their own governments and acquire by experience the ability to rule themselves.

This policy has led us to assume certain obligations by treaty arrangements, and others rest on no formal written documents but are being carried out by coöperation of the Executive Department of our Government and the authorities of the governments affected. In still other cases no supervision of a definite character is established as yet. The actual incidents which may call for action by the United States may arise, therefore, under a variety of conditions. We may intervene under formal treaty provisions, as was the case in the second intervention in Cuba; the naval and military forces may be used for upholding the Government against a revolution as in Nicaragua in 1912, or the Executive may exercise pressure by sending officers to "observe the elections” as in a recent election in the Dominican Republic. We may, at the request of both parties, supervise the elections, as has occurred in Panama, or the Executive may merely acknowledge its cognizance of the existence of certain arrangements by private parties, as in the later developments in Nicaragua. Of course, where none of these means is used it is still possible for the Government to act, after the wrong has been done, to prevent any action violative of the Monroe Doctrine.

Where reliance must be on remedial action after the event delicate situations may arise. The property interests affected may touch subjects of European countries as well as our own citizens and the state in which the wrong is said to have occurred may resent any intervention by the United States. Situations of this sort put us in an unwelcome position. If we take the ground that all states are equal in international law and that we must respect the local sovereignty, we have no right to intervene. We must then rely upon our ability to lay down the limitations which we believe should be observed in the punitive measures inflicted by the European government. If, on the other hand, we intervene to right the wrong ourselves, we offend the local government. To refuse to take measures of redress and deny the right to do so to others would be an indefensible position.

The disposition to act under an assumed police power which has seemed to be evidenced by the United States in handling Caribbean affairs has not passed without criticism, especially in Latin America. It has been assumed by some that our Government aims at arbitrary dictation of American foreign policy in general, involving ultimate annexation of at least a number of our neighbors and the brusque disregard of the feelings

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