“America Re-enters the Arena: Franklin Delano Roosevelt”
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was determined to protect the national security of the United States. At first, Roosevelt felt that it was in the best interest of the United States to avoid involvement in the war. However, he knew “sooner or later, the threat to the European balance of power would have forced the United States to intervene in order to stop Germany’s drive for world domination” (Kissinger 369-370). But this was not Roosevelt’s main problem; Roosevelt had to prove to the American people that unlike World War I, US involvement was necessary. He had to “transform the nation’s concept of national interest and lead a staunchly isolationist people’ into yet another global war” (handout).
Initially, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s main goal was to protect US National Security by not intervening in the war. Roosevelt and the rest of United States government did not want to make the same mistakes of WWI. Thus, all of the situations that caused the United States to enter WWI were taken into consideration when the Neutrality Acts were passed. Prior to the outbreak of the war Franklin Roosevelt signed the Neutrality Acts, which “prohibited loans and any other financial assistance to belligerents (whatever the cause of war) and imposed an arms embargo on all parties (regardless of who the victim was). Purchases of nonmilitary goods for cash were allowed only if they were transported in non-American ships” (Kissinger 378). In fact, Roosevelt felt that he should instead focus his time and energy at the depression.
On the other hand, Franklin Roosevelt was always pro-democracy and had a history of rejecting these aggressive countries (mostly the dictatorships). As the war developed and the desperation of the Allies increased, Roosevelt realized the need to support the allies (the non-aggressive democracies that he was ideally tied to) or face a group of unreceptive countries in the postwar world. However, his American people had set up a barrier of isolationism between the US and any foreign involvement. Roosevelt understood their view but he said, “it would take time to make people realize that war will be a greater danger to us if we close all doors and windows then if we go out in the street and use our influence to curb the riot” (Kissinger 381).
As a result, Roosevelt decided to persuade his people slowly until they realized the evil strength of Hitler and his power. The first sign of this came during his Quarantine Speech; “it was the first warning to America of the approaching peril and Roosevelt’s first public statement that America might have to assume some responsibility with respect to it” (Kissinger 379).
From this time onward Roosevelt tried to justify outer involvement (helping the allies which was not direct involvement) in the war. Consequently, in April of 1939, when Hitler took Prague, Roosevelt declared, “the continued political, economic and social independence of every small nation in the world does have an effect on out nation safety and prosperity. Each once that disappears weakens our national safety and prosperity” (Kissinger 383). Also during this month, Roosevelt sent a message directly to Hitler and Mussolini that asked them not to “attack some thirty-one specific European and Asian nations for a period of ten years” (Kissinger 384). Hitler obviously inquired with all of these nations and they obviously denied any type of concern. However, “Roosevelt achieved his political objective. By asking only Hitler and Mussolini for assurance, he had stigmatized them as the aggressors before the only audience that, for the moment, matter to Roosevelt – the American people” (Kissinger 384).
However, this shift from neutrality to a gradual helping of the allies did not stop there. On November 4, 1939 Roosevelt added the Fourth Neutrality Act, which “permitted belligerents to purchase arms and ammunition from the United States, provided they paid in cash and transported their purchases in their own or neutral ships” (Kissinger 385). However, as France fell into the hands of Hitler, Roosevelt knew that the British could not defeat Hitler alone. As a result, Franklin Delano Roosevelt tried to rid the Fourth Neutrality Act of the cash requirement and instead suggested that the American people accept the Lend-Lease Act, which “allowed the President discretionary authority to lend, lease, sell, or barter under any terms he deemed proper any defense article to the government of any country whose defense the President deems vital to the defense of the Untied States'” (Kissinger 388). This clear favoritism led to the isolation of the aggressors and the view that the US would eventually be drawn into the war.
By this time Roosevelt had already taken strategic steps to be involved in the war – even though the United States were not directly involved in the war. By this time he had set up a project that allowed the British and French to assemble planes (of which the components would be supplied by the United States) in Canada. The Neutrality Acts technically allowed this project since the component parts were civilian built. Roosevelt also made an agreement with Great Britain. The agreement was that the British navy would protect the Atlantic while the United States protected Great Britain’s Asian interests in the Pacific. In a addition to all this, in April of 1941,
“Roosevelt took another step war by authorizing an agreement with the Danish representative in Washingtonto allow American forces to occupy GreenlandAt the same time, Roosevelt privately informed Churchill that, henceforth, American ships would patrol the North Atlantic west of Iceland – covering about two-thirds of the entire ocean – and publish the position of possible aggressor ships or planes when located in American patrol area'” (Kissinger 390)
All the way up until Pearl Harbor Roosevelt tried his hardest to support the allies without being drawn directly into the war (the US people didn’t want to be dragged into a war and so supported FDR’s policy). Even though Roosevelt did not want to get directly involved in the war, he knew it would happen sooner or later. Roosevelt also knew that the hardest group to convince was his own American people. Kissinger best describes this idea in the following excerpt from “America Re-enters the Arena: Franklin Delano Roosevelt,”
“In less than three years, Roosevelt has taken his staunchly isolationist people into a global war. As lat as May 1940, 64 percent of Americans has considered the preservation of peace more important then the defeat of the Nazis. Eighteen months later, in December 1941, just before the attack on Pearl Harbor, the proportions had been reversed – only 32 percent favored peace over preventing triumph” (Kissinger 392).
Therefore, when Pearl Harbor was bombed war was justified due to the aggressors. The United States then declared war on Japan and Germany declared war on the United States. Roosevelt’s job was done; “by initiating hostilities, the Axis powers had solved Roosevelt’s lingering dilemma about how to move the American peo