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Hal Brands

Tillerson Was Sorta Right About the Monroe Doctrine

The policy may be almost 200 years old, but it remains as relevant as it is impolitic.
With love, from Uncle Sam.

With love, from Uncle Sam.

Photographer: Bettmann via Getty Images

Last week, Rex Tillerson once again made headlines in a way secretaries of state try to avoid. During remarks kicking off a trip to Latin America, Tillerson argued that the Monroe Doctrine -- the 19th-century declaration of U.S. primacy in the Western Hemisphere -- “clearly has been a success” and remains “as relevant today as it was the day it was written.”

Predictably, these comments spurred international criticism, particularly in Latin America, where the Monroe Doctrine is often seen as an outdated, neo-colonial imposition. In fact, Tillerson wasn’t necessarily wrong -- although he should have known that some truths are better left unsaid.