The WALTHER REPORT
By Tony Walther
With the clamor among many for the U.S. to renew offshore drilling comes the repeated story that the Chinese are already drilling off the south Florida coast, 60 miles from our shores. Vice President Dick Cheney asserted as much recently to a U.S. Chamber of Commerce gathering.
Later, when challenged, his office allowed that the vice president was in error. But of course this story is now be repeated as fact, especially by those wanting to influence others to get on the bandwagon to drill for oil offshore. So true story or not, Cheney accomplished what he set out to do.
And, maybe, there is some element of fact in all of this. Checking the web, I see that Cuba has reportedly leased or has offered leases for some offshore sites to others, including China. But I see no confirmed reports of drilling at this time.
As I am writing this, I really don’t know who legally (and by what law) controls what, where.
Also, there is the story circulating, mentioned casually as fact, that not only are the Chinese drilling, but they are slanting their drill bits our way, kind of like they used to do in Texas, you know, stealing oil from under the neighbor’s property. If they are not drilling yet, I do not know how they are doing this. And don’t we have satellites, and the Navy, to check all of this out?
At any rate, if any of this is true or about to become true, perhaps we should be concerned. It just doesn’t seem right that we would permit foreign powers, especially ones foreign to this hemisphere, to tap our hemisphere’s resources. I have to admit, I am not a big fan of offshore drilling – my main concerns being ecological, along with concern for aesthetics along our coasts. But oil is presently one of the world’s most important resources, like it or not.
Maybe it’s time to get into the desk drawer and dust off the trusty Monroe Doctrine. Back in 1823, President James Monroe proclaimed the doctrine, which essentially warned foreign powers to not try to colonize or re-colonize the Americas, and to not try to influence our governments. It didn’t deal with oil drilling. But oil exploration and production it would seem requires the collaboration with hemispherical governments and surly results in some type of influence.
The Monroe Doctrine has been used over and over by U.S. presidents in the exercise of foreign policy. Some examples:
The doctrine backed up the U.S. in its fight against Spain in the Spanish-American War of 1898, which began in a dispute over Cuban independence and Spanish interference with trade and resulted in the U.S. taking over the former Spanish colonies of Puerto Rico, the Philippines (independent from the U.S. since 1946), and Guam.
In 1904, President Teddy Roosevelt augmented the Monroe Doctrine with what was called the Roosevelt Corollary. It was supposedly aimed at stabilizing economic affairs of Carribean nations if they were unable to pay foreign debts. With some gun boat diplomacy, Roosevelt was able to ward of a military action by Germany and Britain against Venezuela over debt collection.
Later, President Franklin Roosevelt used the Monroe Doctrine in his Good Neighbor policy with Latin America. He and presidents since supported dictators down there as long as they were friendly to us and not outside powers, most notably the Soviet Union or Communist China.
FDR supposedly said of propping up one dictator: “He may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch.”
Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy used the Monroe Doctrine to form their policies against Castro’s Cuba because Castro had aligned himself with the Soviet Union and declared Cuba a communist state (and that policy, outdated as it may be, holds today).
Now, to be sure, the Monroe Doctrine has not been popular with our neighbors to the south, with them seeing it as a tool we used to assert our own hegemony. But of course asserting power is what world powers do. You either assert power or someone else asserts it on you, and my don’t I sound like some kind of an imperialist and/or war hawk. No, I would prefer that we take the friendly, but firm approach (TR’s speak softly and carry a big stick). I would prefer the attitude that we want nothing more than to get along, but we also want to survive and control our own destiny without outside interference.
But before we could even think about a successful revival of the Monroe Doctrine, we will have to establish a renewed and sincere interest and friendship with our neighbors to the south, and it probably wouldn’t hurt if we didn’t treat Canada (yes, I know, it’s toward the north) like it wasn’t there or like it’s just an extension of the U.S.
And maybe the Monroe Doctrine is too much a relic from the past. We may need an updated version, the McCain or Obama Corollary, if you will.