Trump invoking the Monroe Doctrine showed he had no ‘useful strategic vision’ for Latin America – former CIA analyst

DONALD Trump’s inconsistent foreign policy squabblings ensured countries lost faith in any plan Washington had for Latin America, an expert has told Redaction Politics.

The outgoing president wanted to invade Venezuela, bizarrely blamed Cuba for ‘sonic attacks’ and overall, dipped in and out of the Monroe Doctrine whenever he felt like it.

This had a huge impact on the global view of American foreign policy, former CIA analyst Fulton Armstrong told Redaction Politics, and only really appealed to “Latin American elites”.

While John Kerry declared the Doctrine – which essentially asserts US protection over Latin America – “dead” in 2013, Trump resurrected the concept in September 2018 to warn Russia and China not to meddle (as Washington was doing) in the likes of Cuba and Venezuela.

“Obama, with Biden’s strong support, proclaimed (through Secretary Kerry) that the Monroe Doctrine was dead,” Mr Armstrong said. 

“Trump’s resurrection of it appealed to Latin American elites, but no serious person in Latin America thinks, especially after leaving them at the altar of TPP, that the U.S. has a useful strategic vision in the region.

He also predicted that, despite growing Chinese influence, incoming leader Joe Biden would handle the situation much more professionally.

Mr Armstrong said: “Insofar as the key U.S. concern under Trump was that these countries, along with Nicaragua, rejected our model and defeated our pressures — in other words, insofar as these are issues of nationalism and jealous defense of sovereignty — I think President Biden will stay cool and strategic. 

“The Chinese are gaining influence not through brilliance but rather because the U.S. has walked off the field.  I think Biden understand this underlying problems and isn’t going to let a little nationalism get in the way.”

While Trump was notoriously hawkish on Latin America – contrary to some signs of dovishness in parts of the Middle East – Biden will likely see a thawing of relations with the likes of Cuba in Washington’s best interest, he added.

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This would mean building on a flawed Obama policy who, while improving relations with Havana, didn’t take full advantage during his premiership.

“It’s true that President Obama’s messaging — or at least the messages put out by some of his staff and the State Department — was confusing,” Mr Armstrong said. 

“Was his policy a reorientation of U.S. objectives and means — that is, to let Cuba evolve toward universally held values according to its own formula and roadmap — or was it regime change by ‘another means’?

“His original statements suggested the former, but some officials — perhaps thinking they could curry favor with folks in Miami — pushed the latter.

“In my opinion, the confusion revealed a lack of discipline among Obama’s and Secretary Hillary Clinton’s staff.  Cuba’s inability or, at least, reluctance to move faster with possible trade opportunities didn’t help either. 

“Now that the deep damage of Trump’s policies is clear — especially the devastating consequences for the Cuban private sector and Cuban families — the need for discipline and clear messaging should be clearer.”

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Victories for socialist parties in Venezuela and Bolivia won’t have affected Biden’s thinking on Cuba too much, however.

He added: “Cuba is not Venezuela and not Bolivia, and its leaders are very different.”

Fulton Armstrong is a former CIA analyst and White House National Security Council expert on Latin AmericaHe has served at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana and is currently a senior fellow at American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies.

Featured Image: Gage Skidmore @Flickr

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