Ryan Martínez Mitchell ~ Monroe’s Shadow: League of Nations Covenant Article 21 and the Space of Asia in International Legal Order

(2021) 2 TWAIL Review 200-231
ISSN 2563-6693
Published under a Creative Commons licence

The League of Nations Covenant included norms intended to formalize and protect the geopolitical interests of its Great Power architects. One such norm was the contentious Article 21, which provided legal recognition for ‘regional understandings like the Monroe Doctrine.’ Though originally included in the Covenant as a concession to the United States, Article 21 also raised the general possibility of a world divided into ‘great spaces’ with distinct internal orders. In doing so, it transposed the ambiguities of the Monroe Doctrine itself—norm against ‘external’ intrusions, or license for regional hegemony?—onto the global level. In Asia as elsewhere, this proved to be significant for the experience of the League by states and subjects that sought improvement of their international status. In particular, Japan’s ongoing aspirations for a ‘Monroe-ist’ regional sphere shaped that country’s, China’s, and broader Asian experiences of the League. Meanwhile, frictions over Article 21 and regionalism also impacted rival visions of global legal organization, racial-civilizational space, and sovereignty in the post-League era.