FDR’s foreign policy

Apparently, he gets an “A” for foreign policy.

FDR’s foreign policy is basically synonymous with US WWII aims. What were his policies with respect to ending WWII?

As best I can determine, FDR went into the war with basically no war aims. After a while, he seems to have settled on two:

1) Totally destroying Germany and Japan (he was the first to public state the demand for unconditional surrender). I’ve read that he seems to have even considered breaking Germany back up into principalities.

2) Ending European colonialism as quickly as possible.

Both of these aims were, retrospectively, terrible.

The first served to make the Soviets the (by far) most dominant power in Europe and Asia. It left the US alone to provide any meaningful resistance in both theaters.

The second enticed the Soviets to further expand into the third world and has led to disastrous results which continue into modern times (Egypt, for example, is still struggling for stability and has rarely if ever been a better place to live following the end of colonialism – the list of course is much longer – think of all the subsequent bloodshed in the Middle East or India and Pakistan).

Is this really the best we got?

Or maybe he just gets an A since he was so effective in implementing the policies that his advisors (many of whom were Soviet agents or suspected Soviet agents) developed.

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23 Responses to FDR’s foreign policy

  1. Chevalier de Johnstone says:

    It never ceases to amaze me how many Americans think FDR is the greatest President ever, or at least of the 20th century, and when pressed as to why it comes down to “He got use out of the Great Depression” and “WW2”. Then when it is explained to them that the Depression ended after the war and Truman was President when WW2 ended, it turns out that what they really credit FDR with is being President during the Depression and during Pearl Harbor, the single most horrible surprise attack on American servicemen in history, which the FDR administration claimed they didn’t see coming. So, basically he is lauded for being an abject failure. This leaves me no doubt that Obama will get monuments galore.

  2. Callowman says:

    In God and Gold, Mead makes a big point of how Roosevelt emptied Britain’s treasury through lend-lease and armaments sales. He sees it (half-jokingly?) as belated Dutch revenge for Britain’s earlier swallowing of Dutch resources after the Glorious Revolution. Bumping the British out of the way and assuming clear global hegemony makes a certain amount of sense, though it ends up being a clear win for the Soviets, too.

  3. See my previous comments about how remarkably well this all worked out for the Anglophone commercial elite. Just because Mao didn’t know he was prepping China to be a capitalist hellhole, doesn’t mean it wasn’t what he was doing.

  4. dearieme says:

    “Ending European colonialism as quickly as possible.” Only ship-borne colonialism: French, Dutch, British. Americans never seemed to mind the horse-borne colonialism of the Russians, for obvious reasons.

  5. dearieme says:

    “FDR went into the war with basically no war aims.’ That’s scarcely surprising, since Japan attacked the US and Germany declared war on her. It’s perfectly understandable that the US’s starting point is little more than “all right, we’ll fight back”.

    • Matthew says:

      Have you even read Hitler’s declaration of war on the U.S.?

    • Red says:

      Or the fact that the admiral in charge of the pacific resigned his commission over moving fleet headquarters to Hawaii? He rightly thought the only outcome would be a Japanese sneak attack. FDR set us up.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_O._Richardson

    • crock says:

      FDR cut off all of Japan’s oil supplies and access to vital raw materials; FDR was also waging an undeclared war against the German navy in the North Atlantic, USN ships attacking u-boats, US-manned and/or supplied aircraft tracking German ships and reporting them to the British, etc., all while supplying Britain and the USSR with guns, aircraft, ships, tanks, etc. that were killing Germans. FDR was already at war with Germany and was deliberately provoking a war with Japan. Given that, shouldn’t he have had some coherent war aims prior to Dec. 7th, 1941, given that the Japanese attack was not a surprise but the result of deliberate FDR policy? At the very least he should have been able to do better than “all right, we’ll fight back”.

    • Tarl says:

      FDR most certainly did have war aims in December 1941.

      They were elaborated in the Atlantic Charter.

      • Foseti says:

        “The participants would work for a world free of want and fear.”

        Gay.

        Seriously, gayest “war aim” ever. Come on. That’s not a war aim. When considering they allied with the soviets, the Atlantic charter was null before the ink dried.

      • Tarl says:

        Nah. Like I said elsewhere, the hidden subtext of the Atlantic Charter is “this only applies to the Germans and Japanese, and to some degree the British, but never to the Soviets.”

        Freedom from Fear actually meant “unconditional surrender of Germany and Japan, and their postwar disarmament.” When we do that, we’ll be free from fear, yaaay!

  6. Handle says:

    I don’t know about “no war aims’. I’ve read more about the pre-war History in the Pacific theater than European – but the desire – shared among the countries who would eventually be the Allies – to completely neutralize the Japanese empire and push them back to their main islands is clear at least since Muken.

    Almost no one I know – even History buffs – knows anything about 20th century American foreign policy in the Asia-Pacific region prior to Pearl Harbor – it’s kind of the black hole for some reason, and that’s why I find it more interesting in a way. It’s like having two very different histories coincidentally collide at the same time in the same war – especially when one realizes how much of a non-organization the Axis really was.

    There was a lot of sympathy in American circles for the Chinese position, though definite ambiguity towards the Kuomintang regime, who nevertheless were thought to be expert manipulative diplomats. There seems to have been some sort of unofficial back-channel to the Communists too, but that’s a different story.

    At any rate, I think the situation in Japan post-war lined up very close to everything the US wanted pre-war. And Japan has continued to be the Japan the US has wanted it to be for nearly 70 years.

    • Foseti says:

      How far Pre-war?

      It’s be even worse if the rise of the Soviets didn’t change Pacific policy at all.

      • Tarl says:

        It is worse than that. We are not ignoring the rise of the Soviets. We are facilitating it.

        Crush the Japanese to help the Soviets IS the Pacific policy.

        Consistently.

        From 1933 to 1945.

    • josh says:

      Edward C. Carter, a communist, ran the IPR in the 1930s. The IPR was a thoroughly communist organization with “progressive” upper class roots going back to the inquiry. Its especially closely connected with the Rockefeller-aligned wing of the establishment. Given that this was the same group that made up the new dealers, I assume this was FDR principle source of information on the region.

  7. VXXC says:

    Let’s jump to the assumption FDR wanted War. Then why did he not begin to rearm until 1940? The 1930s remain famous in the American Military as the leanest years ever. MacArthur warned FDR in 1934 that his cuts would lead to war. While everyone else armed America DID NOT. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say FDR accepted war once it began in 1939. It was certainly in Americas interest not to let the British Empire collapse into the Arms of a Fascist enemy and he kept it afloat.

    He didn’t however see the wisdom of providing the raw materials to fuel Japan’s drive over Asia. As far as Pearl Harbor – that’s American Territory. It probably looked good to move the fleet there when your looking at a map in Washington. As far as not listening to his Admirals warning him about Pearl not being quite the prime location to put your fleet…well..FDR was elite, wasn’t he? Why should he and his brain trust listen to a bunch of jumped up prole tradesmen in armed livery – the military?

    • Foseti says:

      “Then why did he not begin to rearm until 1940? . . . MacArthur warned FDR in 1934 that his cuts would lead to war.”

      Didn’t you answer your own question?

      Wanting war and being able to overtly prepare for it are different.

      • josh says:

        They were building war worker housing under a different name in the 1930s. 50,000 units in 1939 alone.

    • Tarl says:

      Why would the assumption be that FDR wanted war in the 1930s? He didn’t want war until it was necessary and advantageous for the USA, which was not true until late 1941.

      World War II did not start because the US cut its defense budget in 1934, that’s for sure.

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