Seeking spheres of influence, Russia, China imitate America

Russia seeks spheres of influence in the neighboring states of Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova or otherwise.

China claims spheres of influence in the South China Sea and the East China Sea, including disputes with Japan over the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands and with Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Brunei over the Paracels and Spratlys.

The United States should be flattered. Imitation is the greatest form of flattery. And Russia and China are imitating our claims to spheres of influence for two centuries in the name of national security.

Our War of 1812 with Great Britain was fought in part to annex Canada.

The 1823 Monroe Doctrine placed all of North and South America off limits for new European colonization. It asserted that the United States might resort to war against any European nation that interfered with the independence of newly formed states in Central and South America that had emerged from rebellions against Spanish or Portuguese colonization:

"But with the Governments who have declared their independence and maintain it, and whose independence we have, on great consideration and on just principles, acknowledged, we could not view any interposition for the purpose of oppressing them, or controlling in any other manner their destiny, by any European power in any other light than as the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward the United States."

In 1846, President James K. Polk justified the Mexican-American War to expand our borders by falsely asserting that an American soldier had been killed on American soil by the Mexican military. General Ulysses S. Grant condemned the war as "wicked" in his War Memoirs.

In 1893, the United States collaborated in the overthrow of Hawaii's monarchy. Annexation followed five years later.

The 1898 Spanish-American War was fought to expand our sphere of influence in the Caribbean and the Pacific. We acquired the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico. We occupied Cuba militarily until it enshrined the conditions of the Platt Amendment in the Cuban Constitution. Among other things, they required granting the United States a permanent naval base at Guantanamo Bay, and authorizing us to intervene in Cuban affairs for "the preservation of Cuban independence, [and] the maintenance of a government adequate for the protection of life, liberty, and individual freedom...." Acting under the Platt Amendment, the United States intervened militarily in Cuban affairs in 1906-1909, 1912, and 1917-1922.

The United States intervened militarily in Panama from 1903-1914 to secure its independence from Colombia, and to negotiate a treaty to construct and exercise sovereignty over the Panama Canal.

From 1914-1917, the United States intervened militarily in Mexico, including the capture of Vera Cruz and General John Pershing's northern expedition, in response to Pancho Villa's raids.

The United States occupied Haiti militarily from 1915-1934 in response to chronic political instability there.

We occupied the Dominican Republic militarily from 1916-1924 in response to threatened insurrections that threatened our interests.

The United States occupied Nicaragua militarily from 1926-1933, including fighting the rebel forces of Cesar Sandino against a Nicaraguan government we supported.

In 1954, the United States overthrew the Socialist government of Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz in favor of a genocidal military dictatorship.

In 1961, the United States launched the ill-starred Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba to overthrow the government of Fidel Castro.

In 1962, the United States quarantined the shipment of Soviet offensive missiles to Cuba to force the dismantling of Soviet missiles already there when the United States had Jupiter nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles aimed at the USSR along its border with Turkey.

In 1965, the United States dispatched troops to the Dominican Republic to prevent the restoration to power of a political leader we opposed, Juan Bosch.

In 1973, we collaborated in the overthrow and killing of Chilean President Salvador Allende because we opposed his Marxist-Socialist politics.

From 1981-1986, we supported the Contras militarily to fight the Sandinista government of Nicaragua because of its political hostility to the United States.

In 1983, we invaded Grenada to oppose a Marxist government.

From 1994-1996, the United States dispatched troops to Haiti in the name of restoring democracy. "Haitian democracy," however, has been an oxymoron for two centuries.

Contrary to conventional wisdom or intuition, spheres of influence claimed by great powers are superfluous to their national security. Its backbone is the willingness of peoples to fight and die for their country. The Vietnam War is exemplary.

Spheres of influence persist, nevertheless, for twofold reasons: they gratify tribal cravings for domination; and, their optical effect, like a placebo, is to make citizens of great powers feel safer.

In any event, we should not risk war with Russia or China over spheres of influence which we are unwilling to renounce for ourselves. Neither should we lecture them for following our instruction. The optimal solution is peaceful co-existence that acknowledges the inevitability of spheres of influence--an affirmation of Immanuel Kant's gospel that, "Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made."