Chapter 29

Chapter 29: From Isolation To Global War

Chapter Outline

Postwar isolationism

  1. America seemed to favor isolationism after World War I
    1. No League of Nations membership
    2. Red Scare
    3. Restrictive Immigration laws
    4. High tariff rates
  2. America could not stay isolated with expanding global interests
  3. U.S. relationship with the League of Nations underscored tensions between isolationism and expanding global interests.

War debts, reparations, and trade

  1. Difficulties of European powers paying their debts
  2. High tariffs and international trade
  3. Precarious international system collapses with Great Depression


  1. Concern for growth of Japanese power
  2. Strains in Japanese-American relations
    1. Japan's growth in China
    2. Japan's growth in the Pacific
  3. Washington Armaments Conference (1921)
    1. Five-Power Naval Treaty
      1. America, Britain, Japan, France, and Italy
      2. Tonnage limits, moratorium on capital shipbuilding, no further fortification of Pacific possessions
    2. Four-Power Treaty
      1. America, France, Britain, and Japan
      2. Each would respect others' Pacific possessions
    3. Nine-Power Treaty
      1. Five Powers plus China, Belgium, Portugal, and the Netherlands
      2. Agreed to support the Open-Door Policy and the territorial integrity of China
    4. Significance of the treaties
      1. Politically popular in the U.S., but without obligations or teeth
      2. Naval treaty only placed limits on capital ships (battleships and aircraft carriers)
      3. triggered a naval arms race in smaller ships that were not limited

Attempts to outlaw war

  1. Growth of peace societies and programs
    1. American Committee for the Outlawry of War (founded in 1921)
  2. Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928 (Pact of Paris)

The "Good Neighbor" Policy of 1920s and 1930s

  1. Policy of peace and noninvolvement in Latin America
  2. Examples
    1. U.S. paid Colombia $25 million for canal in 1921
    2. American forces withdrew from the Dominican Republic in 1924 and Nicaragua in 1925
      1. returned to Nicaragua in 1926, leaving again in 1933
    3. Peacefully solved problem with Mexico of expropriation of American oil properties
      1. 1928 treaty protected American rights
      2. Mexican government reimbursed American owners after expropriation in 1938
    4. Pan American Conferences of 1928 and 1933
    5. Clark memorandum of 1928: restricted reasons for intervention in Latin America
    6. Platt Amendment, with its provisions allowing intervention in Cuba, abrogated in 1934

War clouds

  1. In East Asia
    1. Japanese seizure of Manchuria, 1931 - 1932
    2. American and League of Nations opposed Japan's actions without taking any effective actions to restrain Japan
  2. In Europe
    1. Italy
      1. Mussolini had wide appeal as the leader of Italy's post World War I fascist movement
      2. Mussolini seized power in 1922 and wielded full dictatorial power by 1925
    2. Germany
      1. Hitler and National Socialist (Nazi) Party led Germany's fascist movement
      2. Hitler came to power in 1933 and assumed the title of Führer by 1934
  3. America's reaction
    1. Isolationism
      1. Americans concerned with troubles of the Great Depression
      2. Franklin Roosevelt renounced his earlier support of the League of Nations during the 1932 Presidential Campaign
    2. Internationalism
      1. Trade Agreements Act of 1934
      2. Diplomatic recognition of Soviet Russia in 1933
  4. The Expanding Axis
    1. Turmoil of 1934 - 1936
      1. Japan renounced Five Power Treaty in 1934
      2. German occupation of Rhineland in 1935 violates Versailles Treaty
      3. Italy conquers Ethiopia in 1935
      4. Spanish Civil War erupts in 1936
    2. Spreading War Clouds of 1936 - 1939
      1. Japan goes to war against China in 1937
      2. Italy, Germany, and Japan united with "Anti-Comintern Pact, creating the "Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis" by 1937.
      3. Germany united with Austria in 1938
      4. Germany took Czechoslovakian "Sudetan" territory in 1938 after signing Munich Agreement protecting rest of Czechoslovakia
      5. Germany broke Munich pledge and conquered the rest of Czechoslovakia in 1939
      6. Italy conquered Albania in 1939
      7. Germany (in coordination with the Soviet Union) invaded Poland in September 1939
      8. Britain and France declared war on Germany after invasion of Poland.

American neutrality

  1. Increasing global turmoil initially strengthened U.S. isolationist sentiment
  2. Nye Committee's "merchants of death" reflects the isolationist mood
  3. Neutrality Act of 1935
    1. Forbade sale of arms or munitions to belligerents
    2. Weakness of act became apparent when Italy still conquered Ethiopia
    3. Provisions added to forbid loans to warring nations in 1936
  4. America and the Spanish Civil War
    1. Roosevelt refused to intervene
    2. Germany and Italy help Franco's fascist forces to victory by 1939
    3. Neutrality laws subsequently extended to cover civil wars
  5. Neutrality Act of 1937
    1. Maintained restraints on arms sales and loans
    2. Added a "cash and carry" provision that allowed nations at war to carry U.S. goods from U.S. ports on their own ships.
    3. In Chinese-Japanese confrontation, Roosevelt did not invoke act to ensure China had access to the American munitions trade
      1. a step away from isolationism
  6. Panay incident
    1. Japan bombed and sunk an American gunboat in China in 1937
    2. American animosity toward Japan increased
    3. Isolationist sentiment still strong, but starting to weaken
  7. U.S. moves away from neutrality against Germany after the occupation of Czechoslovakia
    1. Roosevelt lobbied for public support to oppose the fascist menace
    2. Neutrality Act of 1939 favors Britain and France
    3. Americans increasingly supportive of all measures short of war to stop Germany.

The storm in Europe

  1. Blitzkrieg (spring 1940)
    1. Germany invades Denmark, Belgium, Norway, and the Netherlands
    2. France falls to Germany by June
  2. American defense
    1. Military build-up
    2. Increased defense budget
    3. National Defense Research Committee established to coordinate military research
  3. Battle of Britain in 1940
    1. Britain's survival ended threat of German invasion
  4. Increasing American involvement
    1. United States gave fifty "overage" destroyers to Britain in return for leases on naval and air bases
    2. First peacetime conscription enacted in September 1940
    3. Continued debate in America between internationalists who supported aiding Britain and isolationists who opposed risking war to help Britain

The election of 1940

  1. The candidates
    1. Republicans chose Wendell Willkie
    2. Democrats chose Roosevelt to run for an unprecedented third term.
  2. The campaigns
    1. Roosevelt presented himself as occupied with urgent defense and diplomatic matters, too busy to campaign
    2. Willkie ultimately attacked FDR's foreign policy as risking war, despite having supported Roosevelt's foreign policies earlier.
  3. Roosevelt won an unprecedented third term

The Lend-Lease Act, March 1941

  1. Countries deemed essential to American defense - such as Britain - allowed to receive arms and other equipment, even if they could not pay
  2. Act bypassed the legal restrictions against extending loans to countries that defaulted on earlier U.S. loans
  3. Weakening isolationist opposition failed to prevent its passage

The war's spread in Europe

  1. Italy entered the war in June 1940, but struggled in campaigns against Greece and British-controlled Egypt
  2. German forces joined the Italians and by 1941 secure victories in Egypt, Greece, as well as Yugoslavia
  3. Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria also forced into the Axis fold
  4. Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941.

Increased American support for Britain

  1. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill sign the Atlantic Charter in August 1941
    1. Called for self-determination and freedom of the seas, among other things
  2. Shooting incidents, some with fatalities, between American and German ships in the North Atlantic increased after September 1941
  3. U.S. Navy began convoying merchant vessels to Iceland
  4. Congress repeals key restrictions of Neutrality Acts in November 1941

The storm in the Pacific

  1. Japanese expansion and policies after 1940
    1. Movement into French Indochina in 1940
    2. Signed Tripartite Pact with Germany and Italy in 1940
    3. Nonaggression pact with Russia signed in 1941
  2. America's reaction
    1. Froze Japanese assets and restricted oil exports to Japan in summer of 1941
    2. Organized the armed forces of the Philippines into the U.S. Army in summer 1941
  3. The Japanese position
    1. Japan was dependent on the U.S. for important supplies including 80 percent of its fuel
    2. Japanese-American negotiations to lift the oil restrictions and asset freeze stalled over U.S. insistence that Japan withdraw from Indochina and China first
    3. The American oil embargo triggered plans to invade British and Dutch possessions in Southeast Asia and the Pacific to secure new oil supplies
    4. Attacks on U.S. possessions were included in the plans to ensure U.S. Navy could not threaten Japan's access to its new supplies
  4. The United States enters World War 2
    1. On December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked on Pearl Harbor
    2. The same day, Japan attacked the Philippines, Guam, Midway, Hong Kong, and the Malay Peninsula
    3. The U.S. declared war on Japan
    4. On December 11, 1941 Germany and Italy declared war on the U.S.
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