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From the Publisher

PublisherFrom the Publisher

I thought you readers would be interested in a couple bits of information about the dispute between Great Britain and the United States involving Guiana, a British possession, and Venezuela between 1895 and 1896. The U.S., unlike what the situation is today, would have been supporting Venezuela back then, in line with what the Americans had declared in 1823 in the Monroe Doctrine: the Western Hemisphere, they felt, was their territory, their backyard. 

The following quotes are from Destined for War, a 2017 work by Graham Allison:

”In 1895, when a territorial dispute arose between Venezuela and British Guiana, U.S. Secretary of State Richard Olney demanded that Britain accept arbitration under the Monroe Doctrine, arguing that ‘the United States is practically sovereign on this continent.’ London rejected Washington’s demands, with British colonial secretary Joseph Chamberlain insisting that ‘Great Britain is an American Power with a territorial area greater than the United States themselves.’ But when U.S. President Grover Cleveland responded with a thinly veiled  threat of war, the British agreed to arbitration.

“Not long after Cleveland’s message, British prime minister Lord Salisbury advised his finance minister that war with the US ‘in the not distant future has become something more than a possibility.’”

(pg. 195, Destined for War)

“Sensing what the definitive Roosevelt biographer Edmund Morris described as ‘the circlings of a distant predator’ and suspecting that Germany sought a permanent naval outpost in Venezuela, U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt seized the occasion to send Europe an unmistakable message. He warned Berlin that the United States would ‘be obliged to interfere by force if necessary’ if Germany did not withdraw its ships within ten days. He then demanded that the Europeans settle their differences with Venezuela through arbitration, which he would arrange. He instructed the German ambassador Theodor von Holleben to ‘tell the Emperor that it is not safe to try to bluff me, because poker is the American national game and I am prepared to call his bluff.’ And to ensure that the kaiser could not miss the point, he continued: ‘If he does not instantly withdraw his warships from Venezuelan waters, I shall not hesitate to use the forces at my command to crush them.’ Indeed, Roosevelt warned the kaiser that ‘there was no spot in the world where Germany in the event of a conflict with the United States would be at a greater disadvantage than in the Caribbean Sea.’

“Roosevelt’s demand that Germany defer to the US invoked a doctrine set forth by James Monroe in 1823: the Western Hemisphere was no longer open for European colonization or foreign interference. While sweeping in scope, the Monroe Doctrine was originally aspirational rather than operational and remained so for the remainder of the nineteenth century. Since the US lacked the means to enforce it, it posed no barrier to the British when they took the Falkland Islands from Argentina in 1833, nor did it prevent them from maintaining a sizable naval presence along Nicaragua’s coastlines or from temporarily seizing the Nicaraguan port in Corinto in 1895. The Germans also spoke dismissively of the doctrine, and sent warships from time to time to settle commercial disputes in small countries like Haiti.”

(pg. 97, Destined for War)

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