The Latest Battlefield of the Monroe Doctrine

Chirol was highly critical of the US and international response in providing aid for the Haiti earthquake victims, which set off a comment thread with overwhelming criticism of Chirol’s premise that realistically, Haiti has always always been a disaster and we should not commit resources into black hole because of media and popular excitement. Although I didn’t comment, I basically agreed with most readers who spoke out that Chirol’s stated position was isolationist, especially considering that the country was so close and the problems so manageable with basics not available in Haiti. (Other criticisms — that he was being cruel or callous — didn’t really register with me because appearing cruel is part of the very nature of stone cold realism.) But there are careful realist calculations behind the motives of the three most active participants in Haiti — the US, China and Taiwan.

As it happens, today the Japanese Mainichi Shinbun has an article (Japanese only, sorry) with this title: “Haiti Earthquake: Aid to Victims Displays ‘Diplomatic War’; US, China, Others” summarizes the key player’s (realist) goals. Taking that article and some other articles, the interests of the major countries providing aid are:

* The US, by dispatching one nuclear aircraft carrier and two former presidents, has created the most obvious presence in Haiti and is looking to flex its muscle in the region and show off its power, yet in a peaceful way that is aimed at bettering relations with Central and South American countries. The primary diplomatic targets are Cuba and Venezuela, who could easily win friends and show off their influence if they were seen as being active in the region. I think this also gets to the Monroe Doctrine, where the US long held, from the turn of the 19th century until the end of the Cold War, that no other power could interfere in the Western Hemisphere. That policy was basically abandoned under Bill Clinton during the first Haiti intervention, but I believe it should be vigorously maintained to make sure that all foreign policy fronts are

* China has been ramping up its activity in Central and South America and has tried to become an alternative to US-sourced credit and business, and in cutting off Taiwan from its global friends in the region. China has long been active in Haiti and had 148 peacekeepers in Haiti, of whom 8 were killed in the earthquake — read one of the very first ever ComingAnarchy posts on that topic here. It has dispatched an additional 50 aid workers and donated about a million dollars in aid.

* Taiwan initially offered $500,000 in aid, but when China announced that it would double that, it quickly announced it would provide $5 million in aid, most likely to preserve and protect its status as the legitimate Chinese government as recognized by the Haiti government. Of the 23 countries that have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, 12 are in Central and South America. This is despite the fact that, under the current Taiwanese government, Beijing and Taipei have called a “ceasefire” in their war for recognition, but the events in Haiti show that this war is still being waged, albeit more quietly.

Even with that, the position of Australia on the list of countries providing aid surprised me — but keep in mind this list incorporates donations by regional governments, but not those by individuals and NGOs.
* US: $100 million (disaster teams, aircraft carrier, hospital ships, soldiers)
* Australia: $9 million (including donations by regional governments)
* China: $5.4 million (including aid workers)
* Taiwan: $5 million
* Japan: $5.3 million
* Norway: $5 million
* England: $1.4 million
* World Bank: $1 million

About Curzon

Lord George Nathaniel Curzon (1859 - 1925) entered the British House of Commons as a Conservative MP in 1886, where he served as undersecretary of India and Foreign Affairs. He was appointed Viceroy of India at the turn of the 20th century where he delineated the North West Frontier Province, ordered a military expedition to Tibet, and unsuccessfully tried to partition the province of Bengal during his six-year tenure. Curzon served as Leader of the House of Lords in Prime Minister Lloyd George's War Cabinet and became Foreign Secretary in January 1919, where his most famous act was the drawing of the Curzon Line between a new Polish state and Russia. His publications include Russia in Central Asia (1889) and Persia and the Persian Question (1892). In real life, "Curzon" is a US citizen from the East Coast who has been a financial analyst, freelance translator, and university professor; he is currently on assignment in Tokyo.
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19 Responses to The Latest Battlefield of the Monroe Doctrine

  1. Joe Jones says:

    Australia and China were similarly generous in donating to the Katrina response according to this summary (previously posted by Roy in response to Chirol).

  2. Roy Berman says:

    I believe Taiwan’s figure above is cash aid only, and doesn’t include the actual rescue teams and shipments of food. It also seems unclear whether the $5 million figure is the updated total from the initial $500k, or in addition to it, for a total of $5.5 million.

    The following article reports that, in addition to government aid, about US$1.8 million in cash has been pledged by a Christian group called World Vision Taiwan, and about $400,000 in further cash aid, as well as food, clothing, etc. in donations from Buddhist, Christian, and secular groups. It also mentions that donation boxes have been (or will be) set up at the register in every 7-11 in Taiwan, which incidentally has the highest number of 7-11 outlets per-capita in the world. The Chinese government may be getting competitive with Taiwan in terms of financial disaster relief, but there is really no comparison in the response from civil society.

  3. Roy Berman says:

    BTW, I should add that World Vision Taiwan is specifically an international aid organization that is Christian, rather than just being a Church that also collects donations.

    Their English web site:

  4. I’ve been thinking lately that perhaps annexing Haiti might be a viable option, assuming they’d be willing (not bloody likely, I’ll admit). I think it would give them a chance to actually turn the place around and get it into some semblance of order. for the curious.

  5. M Brueschke says:

    The EU is in for about 435 million US, as for annexation, no way Congress would vote to ratify an annexation treaty.

  6. Roy Berman says:

    Hmm. Where is the longer comment I wrote? Stuck in moderation I guess. OK guys, feel free to erase this one once it gets posted.

  7. Roy Berman says:

    Annexation is definitely not on the table. I could sort of imagine a kind of protectorate status, along the lines of the compacts of free association, but even that is very unlikely.

  8. Carl says:

    I’d hardly say that the PRC is being ‘generous’. 5.4m and a SAR team is a good, day one, start. However for a country that is trying to show the world that it is peacefully rising as a great power and more importantly one that suffered a similar natural disaster not two years ago (with resulting offers of aid from every corner of the globe), I’d say if it doesn’t increase the amount at least ten-fold very quickly, then history will forget it’s rather meager contribution.

    More distressing, the media is already spinning this into an us-against-them exercise here. Two days ago the China Daily ran a front page article claiming that China’s SAR team was the only one working 24 hours (and only eating every 15 hours), all other nation’s teams apparently had the gall to take short breaks from time to time.

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  10. IJ says:

    So many political rule-sets. For example, the Munro doctrine and the Carter doctrine established spheres of influence.

    However the global economy came along and was meant to bring the end of the supremacy of national politics. Countries were to meekly accept their creative destruction [Schumpeter]. However national politics refused to lie down, as this article in 2008 shows. Times

    Time for a rethink. ‘Why America and China will clash’ is a column in today’s FT: US dogma has it that economic growth in China will lead to political liberalisation. So far, it has not – as the clash with Google has shown. Once this assumption is dropped, pressure will rise in the US to disengage.

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  12. Adam says:

    How about one of these in Haiti?

    This could be set up by any democracy, or even a group of them working in concert. A bit Like an annexation it would be a way to ensure some control of the territory but without as much chance of being called colonialism by the Left. Moreover, there is the added benefit that once set up this could be run almost fully by the private sector or Haitians, just in accordance to democratic principles.
    This would, if it could implemented properly, help stabilise and develop what is truly one of the most backwards and ruinous countries in the western world.

  13. Brent says:


    The French seem to think the US is interested in Haiti as well (since they said we are “occupying” Haiti – since smoothed over, but still). Of course, as Haiti is a former French colony, they seem to think they get special priority or something. But I digress…

    Why anyone thinks the US would be interested in acquiring another money pit is beyond me. Don’t we have enough of those already with Iraq, Afghanistan, and California? We tried this with the Philippines a long time ago and, no matter what people say, we aren’t very likely to try it again.

  14. hito says:

    Brazil pledged yesterday an official help of US$ 19.5 million.

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  16. Chirol says:

    What would the US gain by annexation? It’s only a losing situation for the US.

  17. von Kaufman-Turkestansky says:

    Canada pledgesd $5mil, plus Quebec $3mil plus deployment of military DART team – $?mil?

    Canada – in particular Quebec – has a large Haitian diaspora. Canada’s Governor-General is Haitian-born.

  18. I agree that annexation is entirely unlikely. What would we gain? In the long run, a young, motivated state/territory full of people who can contribute to making the USA a better country. In the short run? Lotsa crap. Still might be worth it, though. It is, however, unlikely as all get out.

  19. zxcvb says:

    United Kingdom, not England.