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Fdr Essay, Research Paper
In 1933, Franklin Delano Roosevelt faced a mountain of problems when he became the President of the United States, the least of which was foreign policy. Although the early threats posed by Germany and Japan were well recognized by FDR, the plague of the Great Depression overshadowed any foreign concerns. But while Roosevelt’s term as President may have started under a veil of isolationism, it would end with the United States standing at the top of the global power structure, largely due to FDR’s delicate balancing act between isolation and intervention that bought valuable time until the United States was finally provoked into war.
Historians have a difficult time interpreting Roosevelt’s duplicity in maintaining two seemingly separate foreign policies. There are those who accuse the President of having intentions of going to war from the beginning of his third term, and then tricking his country into a long planned war. Some have even accused FDR forced Japan to bomb Pearl Harbor so that the United States would have no choice but to enter the war. And then there are those who feel that FDR waited too long to get in the war in the first place. Even several of his own advisors, including Henry Stimson, Henry Morgenthau, and Admiral William Leahy were upset that FDR let public opinion dictate so much of his foreign policy. And it was that characteristic that marked much of his war time leadership.
In the early 1930’s, The Great War still remained fresh in the minds of the American public, and a general sentiment of isolationism existed, eventually leading to the Johnson Act in 1934 and the Neutrality Act of 1935. The Neutrality Act forbid the export of arms, ammunition, or implements of war to belligerent nations and forced the President to embargo munitions to all belligerents. In 1937, when the USS Panay was attacked by Japan while cruising the Yangtze River, US public opinion didn’t direct their anger towards Japan, but rather, they demanded to know what the gunboat was doing there in the first place, underscoring the reluctance of Americans to involve themselves in any actions that might provoke armed conflict with other countries.
But in 1939, this sentiment began to gradually change. A poll taken after the Germans invaded Poland had 37.5% of its respondents favoring American neutral trading on a “cash and carry” basis. On September 27, Roosevelt called Congress into special session to revise the Neutrality Act to allow the sale of arms to free European nations. Congress refused. But the isolationism that most Americans felt soon gave way to sympathy for Britain. And when Roosevelt spoke again on November 4, the Pittman Bill was approved, which allowed for the sale of arms to France and Britain on a cash and carry basis.
By November, 1940, out of a total of six and a half billion dollars in British assets, more than four and a half billion had already been spent. By December, orders were being placed that could not possibly be paid for. Churchill suggested that the United States could lend (i.e.; give) materials to Great Britain. Roosevelt went to Congress who agreed and in turn passed the Lend-Lease Act in March, 1941. The United States became the “arsenal for democracy,” all while keeping the war away from American soil. This act granted Roosevelt the authority to assist those nations whose actions against the Germans were believed to be vital to United States interests . Repayment of the loan was to be made “in kind or property, or any other direct or indirect benefit which the President deems satisfactory.” And as he had done in the past, Roosevelt kept his policies in tune with the opinion of the voting public; a survey of public opinion taken by the Gallup Poll in early May showed that an overwhelming majority (75%) of the American people favored helping Britain even if such a course was to lead the nation into war with Germany.
On August 14, 1941, Churchill and Roosevelt spent five days aboard a war ship to discuss their war aims. As a result of this meeting, they jointly issued the Atlantic Charter, a propaganda manifesto that spelled out their intentions towards the axis aggressors. Neither country sought any territorial gains, nor did they approve of the transfer of any land to any power without the consent of those people concerned. This was a part of Roosevelt’s chipping away at the British Empire in an attempt to decolonize it, a move he tried again at the Teheran Conference in November of 1943.
One of Roosevelt’s greatest strategic decisions was to peruse the “Germany First”policy at the informal ABC-1 Conference. In January 1941, British representatives met with Admiral Stark and others
Settled dispute between Marshall and British in Torch Landing in N. Africa.
Insistence on “unconditional surrender” at Morocco
Distanced himself from Churchill at the Yalta conference in February 1945 and dealt directly with Stalin over the future of Europe.
America issues a trade embargo against Japan, preventing them from buying vital natural resources from America. This severely hurt the Japanese effort to arm themselves and eventually led them to attack Pearl Harbor.
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