In 1823, President Monroe explained the so-called Monroe doctrine in a message to Congress.
The Monroe doctrine had a number of elements, but most striking was the statement that if any European power tried to suppress or control a nation in the Western Hemisphere, this action would be considered a hostile act by the United States. .
The Western Hemisphere had to be kept free of European intrigue or interference.
The doctrine went largely unnoticed until President Polk called it against Great Britain and Spain, and their attempts to gain influence over the west coast and Mexico.
Europe only took the doctrine seriously after the civil war. By then, it became clear that the United States had the capacity not only to proclaim the doctrine, but to take action.
The most interesting interpretation of the doctrine, however, came from President Theodore Roosevelt, who added the so-called Roosevelt Corollary.
He stated, in essence, that when there was a flagrant or chaotic or despotic leadership of a Latin American country, the United States could intervene to restore the rule of law and democracy.
The United States would have a knock on the door and speak loudly when it comes to the countries to the south of us.
These related doctrines have been pursued by many presidents over the years.
President Franklin Roosevelt did not hesitate to quote the Roosevelt Corollarium. President Eisenhower and President Kennedy have authorized and continued the invasion of Cuba. President Reagan sent troops to Panama to eliminate a dictator and his regime, and to Grenada to avoid another Cuba-like regime. President Clinton sent American troops to Haiti.
US presidents have a comprehensive view of our role as the last arbitrator of what has become acceptable governance in our hemisphere.
This approach has, of course, caused us a lot of resentment at numerous sister governments and political groups in the region.
It has also been pursued with spotty results.
Cuba remains a communist, family-run dictatorship. Haiti remains an economic and social disaster. Panama and Grenada stand out as somewhat successful interventions, given that democracy has been restored and we have left.
Now we are faced with Venezuela.
There can be no doubt that Venezuela is led by a tyrannical group of people.
The government of Nicolas Maduro – to the extent that it can be called a government instead of a criminal enterprise – has won its way to power.
It claims to be the legitimate successor of one of the worst recent leaders in our hemisphere, Hugo Chavez. He bankrupted his nation and threw his people in a desperate time in the name of socialism. But to a certain extent he had a fair claim to an elected leader.
Maduro and his band of criminals have no such claim because they keep Venezuela and its people in poverty while allegedly replenishing their wealth with drug money and stolen government funds.
The United States and numerous South American countries have recognized the young leader of the national assembly, Juan Guaido, as the rightful democratic president of Venezuela.
But it is quite clear that Maduro and his staff do not leave. In fact, they seem to double on the oppression of the opposition.
They have arrested important leaders. They have frozen the bank accounts of Guaido and have made his journey through the country difficult. If the people who support change and democracy go out on the streets, as is likely, Maduro will use violence to break such groups and demonstrations.
It can not be clearer that if the Roosevelt Corollarium is used, the Maduro clique is eligible for American intervention.
But is this a good course to pursue?
This is the problem that President Trump hasDonald John TrumpTrump says that Warren is more interested in her heritage & # 39; should focus on researching its companies. Trump: people say that wall has not made a difference in El Paso's & messaged & # 39; GOP promotes Trump line mirroring Hillary Clinton campaign slogan 2016 MORE needs to decide. One suspects that he receives a variety of opinions from people such as national security adviser John Bolton and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
It is a difficult call.
Venezuela is not a third world country. It has historically had a strong economy and an extremely productive people and culture.
We have no significant strategic interest in Venezuela. It is not North Korea, Iran or Afghanistan, where the need to contain people who can threaten us is of the utmost importance. The Maduro gang is no threat to the United States.
It could be argued that because Venezuela is rich in oil, the type of government should be a concern of ours. But we are now essentially energy independent, so Venezuelan oil production is not a factor to decide whether we want to participate there.
It would be appropriate if there were other nations in the hemisphere who were able and willing to step in.
Large countries such as Brazil, Mexico or Argentina, which are capable of acting and would be able to coordinate through the Organization of American States (OAS), should do this. But they will not.
Neither these nations nor the OAS have the strength to sail such a course. For years they have left this kind of action to us, not wanting to agitate their domestic dissenters. They will also do this, you think, in this situation.
Moreover, the antipathy that Trump has shown to international organizations such as OAS makes it almost impossible for him to bring other countries together to deal with issues such as Venezuela.
One of the prizes of his "go it alone" doctrine with regard to alliances is that when you need help from other democratic countries, it is rare.
We have very few options.
The conditions in Venezuela will become even more dangerous for those seeking help from the dictatorial Maduro. There will be a lot of violence and possibly a civil war.
When things become really unbearable and the violence can no longer be ignored by responsible democracies in our hemisphere, we can feel compelled to commit ourselves to end the chaos and restore the democratic government. This action, if taken unilaterally, is being slandered by leaders throughout the region.
So, more than a century after his time, Theodore Roosevelt can be reminded of action.
It is not really a good course, but it may be the only way – unless we are willing to tolerate that Venezuela descends into a nightmarish and dangerous chaos.
Judd Gregg (R) is a former governor and threefold senator from New Hampshire who served as chairman and deputy member of the Senate Budget Committee, and as deputy member of the Subcommittee of the Subcommittee on Foreign Operations Operations of the Senate.