U.S. Diplomacy During World War II Term Paper

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U.S. Diplomacy During World War II

World War II was a watershed event in the history of international relations, particularly in the relations between the United States and the rest of the world. Before the War, the U.S. foreign policy and public opinion were in favor of 'isolationism', although support for the 'internationalism' also existed in some pockets. As a result, in the initial years of the Second World War, U.S. diplomacy was focused on avoiding entanglement in a foreign war. Gradually, however, the internationalists managed to win the debate against the isolationists and the United States not only entered the War but also played a central role in its outcome. After the Second World War, the U.S. foreign policy became firmly 'internationalist'; symbolized in its key role in founding of the United Nations and its rivalry with the Soviet Union on the world stage. How this transformation in U.S. foreign policy came about is the story of U.S. diplomacy during the Second World War: the subject of this essay.

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Term Paper on U.S. Diplomacy During World War II World Assignment

The U.S. diplomacy during the Second World War had its roots in the aftermath of the First World War. Having taken his country into the First World War to "make the world safe for democracy," President Woodrow Wilson unveiled his vision for collective world security after the War and worked fervently for his country's entry into a "League of Nations." However, Wilson failed to get the backing of the Congress for his plan and America entered into an isolationist phase. Hence, when the Second World War started in 1939, the U.S. public opinion, preoccupied with its domestic fight against the economic depression, was in no mood to get entangled in the War. Franklin Roosevelt, who was in his second term as the U.S. President and firmly in charge of foreign policy when the Second World War started, was by no means an isolationist himself. Nevertheless, he was acutely aware of the public opinion against entering the War and, respecting the mood, initially followed a policy of neutrality despite his natural affinity with democratic Britain and his abhorrence for fascism.

US Policies of Neutrality, "Cash and Carry" and "Lend-Lease"

In response to the widespread support for "isolationism" in the United States in the 1930s, the U.S. Congress passed a series of Neutrality Acts in 1935 and 1936, aimed primarily to keep the U.S. out of European Wars. Paradoxically, Americans felt a natural affinity towards the European democracies that were under threat from fascism and President Roosevelt, in particular, wanted to help them while maintaining United States' official neutrality. Hence, as soon as full-fledged war broke out in September 1939 when Hitler invaded Poland, Roosevelt persuaded the Congress to revise the neutrality acts, and despite opposition from the isolationists, managed to get a his plan known as "cash-and-carry" -- a plan that permitted the U.S. To sell arms to nations able to pay for them in cash and able to carry them away in their own ships. Although, the plan was theoretically applicable to "all" nations, in practice it was meant to benefit Britain and France since only these countries had the capability of sending ships to the American shores for the purpose. ("Lend-Lease")

After the fall of France in June 1940 and retreat of its forces from Dunkirk, Britain largely stood alone against the might of Nazi Germany. At that point in time, Britain did not have the financial resources to buy arms, nor transport it safely to its destination. President Roosevelt, even without prior knowledge of the U.S. Congress, supplied 50 outdated U.S. destroyers to the British Navy in September 1940 in exchange for a number of long-term leases for U.S. naval and air bases in eight British colonies including British Guiana, Newfoundland, and Bermuda. The U.S. supplied ships helped Britain to transfer war material from the United States at a crucial time in the War.

Realizing the precarious financial state of the Allied forces and the need for a sustained aid-program, Roosevelt followed up with a "Lend-Lease" bill that further amended the neutrality acts and allowed the use of U.S. ships for transport of material and did not require payment of cash for the purchases. Again, despite opposition from the isolationists, Roosevelt managed to get the Lend-Lease bill passed from both the houses of the Congress. By the end of the war the United States had transferred a total of $50 billion worth of war material to the Allied countries under the program, with the bulk going to Britain and the Soviet Union. Lend-Lease was instrumental in keeping the Allied war effort running, particularly in the period before the U.S. entered the war. (Ibid.)

Getting Directly Involved in the War

After a series of conferences aboard a warship in the North Atlantic, President Roosevelt and the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill issued a joint declaration on August 14, 1941 called the "Atlantic Charter." It expressed the hope that after the defeat of the Nazis, all countries would be able to feel secure from aggression, and that the people of the world would be free to "live out their lives in freedom from fear and want." When Churchill returned to England, he reported to his cabinet, "Roosevelt had said that he would wage war, but not declare it, and that he would become more and more provocative." (Quoted by Kimball, 83) a few months later, after the attack December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese, the United States had entered the Second World War against the Axis powers of Japan, Germany, and Italy.

Roosevelt's Wartime Diplomacy: Deviousness or Statesmanship?

The timing of America's entry in the War and the U.S. diplomatic moves preceding it, have given rise to the question whether President Roosevelt had cynically provoked the Japanese into attacking the U.S. naval base at Pearl harbor in order to be able to enter the War? As it should probably be expected, there is more than one diametrically opposite viewpoint about Roosevelt's intentions. 'Revisionist' historians such as Charles a. Beard and Charles C. Tansill accuse FDR of lying to and treacherously deceiving the American nation by publicly supporting isolationism while secretly maneuvering to enter the war. On the other hand, 'interventionist' writers think that Roosevelt was unduly sensitive to isolationist criticism, and he should have intervened in the War at a much earlier stage in the best national interest. (Divine, 4-7) Historians who are sympathetic to Roosevelt believe that his wartime diplomacy was faultless and served the American national interest in the best way possible.

Let us look at the facts as revealed in some of the first hand accounts of Roosevelt's war diplomacy. Even before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, two American journalists published an "American White Paper" in 1940, which was based largely on conversations with a number of U.S. administrative officials and gives an account of American wartime policy at the outbreak of war. The white paper maintains that President Roosevelt had decided soon after Munich that a German victory in Europe "would endanger the United States, and that the administration should therefore do all it possibly could to aid the Allies." (Divine, 6) Subsequent actions by Roosevelt's administration consistently show that it did all it could possibly do to aid the Allies without America's direct intervention.

As mentioned earlier, Roosevelt initiated the 'cash and carry' and the 'lend-lease' programs followed by the supply of U.S. destroyers to a beleaguered Britain. In addition, when Hitler invaded Russia in June 1941, Roosevelt was quick to realize the potential of weakening the power of Nazi Germany through a prolonged fight with the Soviets. During the debate over passage of Lend-Lease in the Congress, FDR had shrewdly fought off attempts by the isolationists to exclude the U.S.S.R. from eligibility for such aid. He now ordered that the Lend-Lease concessions be extended to the Soviet Union as well. (Kimball, 87) the move bolstered Soviet Union's resolve to resist the German onslaught when the war was going against them and until its war machine could recover to stand on its own feet.

The conspiracy theorists also contend that Roosevelt deliberately provoked Japan into attacking the American Naval fleet at Pearl Harbor. It is true that some of the economic and military actions by the U.S. against Japan in the months preceding the Pearl Harbor attack had pushed Japan against the wall. The tightening of sanctions against Japan by the U.S. including freezing of Japanese assets and imposing a complete embargo on oil exports to Japan as well as sending of an ultimatum, which demanded a complete withdrawal of Japanese forces from China are often considered to have been deliberate provocations by some historians. However, no hard evidence has been uncovered that lends credence to the 'conspiracy theory' that Roosevelt deliberately invited the Pearl Harbor attacks in order to enter the European war. (Divine, 8) at best, it can be said that the U.S. misread the extent of Japanese reaction while exercising military and economic brinkmanship prior to… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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