"More Than Just Musings" #14
The Monroe Doctrine, we all remember it - choice "b" on that 7th grade multiple choice history test. Or, the 1823, declaration by President Monroe that the Western Hemisphere was off limits to more European colonization. It worked - certainly not because we were capable of enforcing it, probably because many of the South American countries were already on their way to independence, but most probably because the Europeans saw easier picking in Asia - India, Burma, Macau, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines - and just about all of Africa. Nothing much happened until the Spanish/American War at the end of the Century and later when President Teddy Roosevelt (a President much admired for his protection of wildlands and his anti-trust success) began to see United States as a player on the world stage. We weren't ready and after WWI "isolationism" took favor. Along came WWII and South America's natural resources captured our interests. But, in the last seventy years our concerns in South America have been basically political manipulation to stem communism, (e.g. the Iran/Contra fiasco) and to wipe out Columbia's drug cartels. However, our responsibility as protector of our Hemisphere has now re-surfaced as self-interest.
Our Hemispheric obligations and responsibilities today might just be the security, governance, and economic conditions in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Since the flow of immigrants begins in these countries, maybe we should secure our borders by instituting a "Marshall Plan" for Central America. It might cost less than enforcing immigration at our southern border
The costs for enforced border security - additional personnel (border patrol, army, national guard, medical and administrative staff, ICE, etc.), food, shelter and care of the immigrants, and the maintenance and expansion of real and virtual barriers - might be an unwise and recurring expense. A "Marshall Plan" investment would certainly make us feel better about ourselves, gain some esteem in the world, and live up to the idea behind President Monroe's declaration. But, more importantly, it would define who we are.
Does it surprise you that these countries have oligarchs - large landholders who control agriculture, labor, and exports (That's just about everything in an agrarian society.) These same people have overwhelming political influence in these countries plagued by gangs and political/civil corruption?
Does it surprise you that a father with seven-year-old daughter believes that when she is twelve or thirteen, gangs will take her from him? Other than to head north even under the most dangerous circumstances, what are his choices?
Maybe we need a bit of "noblesse oblige."
Here's a crazy idea. What if three of our billionaires or groups of billionaires form three cabals and step up with their organizing, executive and creative skills, along with a little bit of their financial success. (You know. The guys who claim they "built their fortunes on their own," ignoring two hundred plus years of the hard work and sacrifice of others who dug the foundations and built the structures that encourage, support, and protect their entrepreneurship.
What would it cost to connect with the people within these individual countries who want to establish a secure and just government, rid the communities of the violent gangs and endemic corruption, and build their economies?
Why do big US companies build or buy from factories in Indonesia rather than El Salvador? What's wrong with buying tools and toys from Guatemala rather than China? Would any American object to wearing running shoes from Honduras rather than Malaysia? Unlike the Middle East with its religious and cultural conflictions, the Northern Triangle solution appears to be economic, but only after the gangs are corralled (probably need some RICO legislation) and just governance is established.
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