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Contra Kissinger

Our eminence.

3:10 PM, Jan 14, 2011 • By THOMAS DONNELLY
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In 1823, British foreign secretary George Canning made a similar proposal of condominium in Latin America, ostensibly in response to attempts to suppress Bolivarian revolutions on the part of Spain, aided by other continental powers. The British offer had many attractions, both strategic and commercial, and elicited great interest from President James Monroe and his cabinet. However, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams wondered whether they met “a test of right and wrong.” Adams established, as Greg Russell has written, that “the methods devised to safeguard American security … had an intrinsic bearing upon the vitality of national purpose before the world.” The resulting Monroe Doctrine was an assertion that the American republic would not cut long-term deals with any monarchical regime – even with Britain, the most liberal of all great powers and even despite U.S. relative weakness.

Adopting a similarly standoffish attitude toward the current Chinese regime would be a timely reminder of the vitality of the American national purpose, not only before the world but here at home, where it is also in question, especially on the part of Kissingerian “realists.” Americans will naturally and profitably continue to trade with China, expand cultural exchanges and otherwise “engage.” But prospects for geopolitical “joint exercises” with Beijing are extremely limited – not only because of the nature of China’s rise but also because of the nature of American “eminence.”

Thomas Donnelly is the director of the Center for Defense Studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

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