Check out the video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hEK9xnlltSU Group 1B DBQ: Pre-WWII Foreign Policy
Prompt:How and for what reasons did United States foreign policy change between 1920-1941? In the 1796 Farewell Address of George Washington he warned of the dangers of entangling alliances. His warning remained at the forefront of Americans’ minds as they debated entering the war with Britain in 1812 and later WWI in 1914. After WWI, Americans no longer wanted to be involved with any future world wars. The 1920’s were a time of great economic prosperity, but were followed by the depression of the 1930’s. The combination of this post-war prosperity and depression provided strong reasons for the US to want to continue to focus on domestic issues instead of becoming involved with the war that was brewing in Europe by 1939. Because of the unwanted US involvement in WWI US policy centered around keeping war out of America, aiding the war monetarily instead of with troops, and whether or not to hold up isolationist principles during the time period of 1920-1941.
Although the US did not enter WWI until its closure, the loss of life combined with a booming post-war economy of the 1920’s caused a desire to actively follow the advice of Washington and return to isolationism. The Immigration Act of 1924 is one of the first examples of the US efforts to keep foreigners out because of its limitation on Southern and Eastern Europeans. Also a major conflict following WWI was the divide over Woodrow Wilson and his League of Nations. Congress refused to pass the Treaty of Versailles because it included the League of Nations and its idea of permanent alliances. Irreconcilable senators such as William Burah and Hiram Johnson also strongly opposed the League along with Harding who said it would interfere with US independence (Doc A). US attempts to remain separated from the war were further exemplified by the attempt to join with other nations in reducing arms at the Washington Conference in 1921 (Doc B). The agreement was to reduce naval ships and armaments among the US, Great Britain, and Japan and also upheld the idea of an “open door” China. They furthered the idea of stopping war by also signing the Kellogg-Briand Pact in 1929, which outlawed war. These attempts at peace were ways in which the US tried to stay out of any future wars, but when war did come neither of these agreements slowed its progression.
When Germany invaded Poland in 1939 the reaction of other nations was non-existent. They tried to avoid another war with the policy of appeasement towards Germany, which was exemplified at the Munich Conference (Doc G). This time of uninhibited German conquest was described as the “phony war” because Germany continued to conquer other nations while other world leaders held out hope that he would eventually become satisfied instead of continuing. Europeans and the US both wanted to avoid another world war as much as possible.
After it became clear that Hitler was not going to end his conquest of Europe, Britain and France quickly entered the war. The US stood strong on their desire to stay out of the war, but compromised by offering monetary support instead of military aid. Many Americans did not support the first form of help to Europe, which was the idea of “cash & carry” in 1939 (Doc F). It allowed for armaments to be bought from the US, but the buyer had to come on their own ship, pay in cash, and take the weapons away on their own ship. This way the US was still not actively participating, but helping through their war industry. Slowly US involvement increased as shown in the lend-lease act, which agreed to give the British supplies on a loan to be paid after the war. FDR was criticized for getting the US more involved in the war, especially since there were already so many problems domestically because of the Great Depression. There were also those who supported US aid and felt that the US dollar was the most powerful and should lead the International Bank and be involved in world affairs (Doc C). These two conflicting approaches to foreign policy, isolationism or internationalism, not only impacted US politics and economics, but also social aspects of the US.
Although Democrats and Republicans have always disagreed on many things, at the time of the war they agreed on one thing: the US should stay out of the war. In 1940 both the Republican and Democratic Party platforms did not support entering a war (Doc E). Both desired a build up in military defense, but also wanted to continue to uphold the Monroe Doctrine of 1823 by not allowing any colonization in the Western Hemisphere. Republicans also blamed FDR and his New Deal for drawing the US closer to WWII. While both parties disliked the idea of war, there was also the conflict of whether the US should intervene in foreign issues in other parts of the world that were also occurring at the time. The Good Neighbor Policy was an economic solution, which stated that the US would not intervene in affairs of Latin American nations, but would help the economy of those countries by increasing exports. This was yet another attempt to keep the US neutral while still offering aid. Another hands off solution was used in regards to Japan’s expansion in China and Manchuria. Japan moved into the city of Nanking and committed mass executions. Americans and others were evacuated aboard the Panay, but the Japanese then attacked the ship. The US did not take action and only asked for reparations and an apology. The lack of US action against the Japanese and other world powers illustrates the strong sentiment to focus on domestic affairs and stay out of foreign conflicts (Doc D).
Although the US planned on not entering another war after WWI, they were gradually drawn into WWII by first lending economic aid and then expanding the military, and finally entering the war after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. It became evident that being an isolationist nation was not possible. The Selective Service Act of 1940 was the first peacetime draft, which shows the move towards taking military actions towards the war. Ultimately the isolationist policies of America during the period 1920-1941 could not be upheld as the US was drawn into another war with Europe and eventually the Cold War. America’s position as a world power caused the need for foreign intervention to be realized among the American people as the US later became the source for rebuilding Europe with the Marshall Plan and a major proponent of the containment of communism. The change in policy of isolationism to internationalism would serve as a guide for many future decisions to come from 1940 to present day.
In the 1920s, the United States had recently returned from WWI, the economy was booming and there was a focus on domestic issues. As the 1930s approached, the US struggled through the Great Depression and worked towards international peace. However, as the threats of European war moved towards the US, foreign policy was meant to prevent western intervention, but eventually the US was drawn into WWII.
Warren Harding’s viewpoint that the US should not join the League of Nations because it goes against the US Constitution and take away from US independence.
B- Charles Evan Hughes
Charles Evan Hughes saying that the Washington Conference should continue without delay in order to slow the arms race.
C-Edwin L. James New York Times
The US is very influential in World Affairs and the strongest in regards to an International Bank and we should not be uninvolved in foreign affairs.
D- New York Times
Criticism of the US government for not intervening in the Japanese attacks on other nations. Japanese move into Nanking and commit mass executions, civilian murders, and other crimes, losing the respect and confidence of China.
E- Republican Party
Blames the New Deal for possibly drawing the US into war and calls for a buildup of national defense, while also keeping other nations out of the Western Hemisphere and the US out of war.
Also want to uphold the Monroe Doctrine and build up the Navy and keep the war out of America.
F- newspaper advertisement
Talks about the Lend-lease act and the dislike of FDR’s involvement of the US in war and his alliance with GB.
Cartoon depicting the Phony War and idea of appeasement after Hitler took over Poland and Czechoslovakia and other nations did not get involved because they figured he would become satisfied and stop his conquest.
Question: How and for what reasons did United States foreign policy change between 1920-1941?
Thesis statement: Because of unwanted US involvement in WWI US politics centered around keeping war out of America, aiding the war monetarily instead of with troops, and whether or not to hold up isolationist principles during the period of 1920-1941.
Washington’s Farewell Address in 1796 warned of entangling alliances with other nations.
Although the US did not enter WWI until its closure, the loss of life combined with a booming post-war economy of the 1920’s caused majority of Americans to want to focus on domestic affairs and to stay out of any future foreign conflicts.
Return to isolationism
Immigration Quota 1924- nativism
Because of the strong movement towards isolationism when Wilson proposed his fourteen points and the idea of a League of Nations as a part of the Treaty of Versailles, Congress refused to allow the US to join and the plan was not supported by his successor, Harding. (Doc A)
Irreconcilables- William Burah, Hiram Johnson
US attempts to remain separated from the war were further exemplified by the attempt to join with other nations in reducing arms at the Washington Conference (Doc B) and attempts at keeping peace with the policy of appeasement towards Germany when they began taking over other nations (Doc G).
After it became clear that Hitler was not going to end his conquest of Europe, Britain and France quickly entered the war. The US stood strong on their desire to stay out of the war, but compromised by offering monetary support (Doc F).
The US was just leaving from the depression of the 1930’s when WWII began. Although America was still recovering, many still saw it as a dominant world power that should not stay out of foreign affairs (Doc C).
Although Democrats and Republicans have always disagreed on many things, at the time of the war they agreed on one thing: the US should stay out of it (Doc E).
Monroe Doctrine 1828
Republicans blamed New Deal
Build up military defense
The lack of US action against the Japanese and other world powers illustrates the strong sentiment to focus on domestic affairs (Doc D).
Panay Incident 1937
Japan invades Manchuria and East China
Good Neighbor Policy
Although the US planned on not entering another war after WWI, they were gradually drawn into WWII by first lending economic aid and then expanding the military, and ultimately entering the war after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. It became evident that being an isolationist nation was not possible.
Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941
Selective Service Act 1940
The isolationist policies of America during the period 1920-1941 ultimately could not be upheld as the US was drawn into another war with Europe and eventually the Cold War. America’s position as a world power caused the need for foreign intervention to be realized among the American people as the US later became the source for rebuilding Europe.