United States Isolationism to War WWII

United States Isolationism to War WWII
How did the costs of WWI and the Great Depression influence US
foreign Policy?
Why did the U.S. change foreign policy and enter WWII?
What is isolationism?
Definition of Isolationism
Neutral with no trade
No permanent, entangling alliances
Keep U.S. sovereign, free, at peace
Emphasis on legalism, not force - a "law-bound" world
of Great Powers keeping order
Why did the US take a policy of isolationism after WWI?
• U.S casualties: 125,000 troops wounded and 53,000 killed
• Why a factor?
• $10 million was lent to the Allies at high rates of interest.
• European nations cannot pay back – Why?
• Nye Committee – belief US fought in WWI to gain profits for munitions industry
Influences support for American Neutrality
• Dislike of ‘Old World’
• Dangerous Ideas – fascism & communism
Consequences of Isolationism
U.S. does not join the League of Nations – organisation set up by
the Treaty of Versailles to keep peace in the future.
Restrictions on immigration set in 1921:
• Quota systems and set number of immigrants allowed
High tariffs (taxes) on products from other countries.
Why does U.S. take neutral stance in foreign policy?
 Neutrality – Neutral with trade
 Nation’s foreign policy calls for not taking sides in any international argument,
controversy, dispute, or war
 International trade is okay, so long as it does not involve picking sides in a dispute
 Neutrality Acts (1935, 1936, 1937) permitted only “cash and carry” sales, with no
loans or weapons sales, to nations at war
 Wants no more entangling alliances
Neutrality Acts: 1935, 1936, 1937
When the President proclaimed the existence of a foreign war, certain restrictions would
automatically go into effect:
Prohibited sales of arms to belligerent nations.
Prohibited loans and credits to belligerent nations.
Forbade Americans to travel on vessels of nations at war [in contrast to WW I].
Non-military goods must be purchased on a “cash-and-carry” basis  pay when goods
are picked up.
1939 Neutrality Act
• In response to Germany’s invasion of Poland.
• FDR persuades Congress in special session to allow the
US to aid European democracies in a limited way:
 The US could sell weapons to the European
democracies on a “cash-and-carry” basis.
 FDR was authorized to proclaim danger zones
which US ships and citizens could not enter.
• Results of the 1939 Neutrality Act:
 Aggressors could not send ships to buy US
 The US economy improved as European
demands for war goods helped bring the
country out of the
1937-38 recession.
• America becomes the “Arsenal of Democracy.”
End of US Neutrality – Lend Lease Act March, 1941
• Lend-Lease Act: “An Act to Promote the
Defense of the United States”
• allowed U.S. to sell, lend or give war materials
to nations the U.S. wanted to support
• U.S. gave $50 billion ($650 billion today)
to Allied nations during war
U.S. Embargos on Japan
• 1937 – 1941 escalating conflict between China and Japan influences US relations
• Two events sway US public opinion:
• Japanese actions in capital of Nanjing
• Japanese bomb U.S.S. Panay as it was evacuating American citizens from Nanjing
• U.S. will continue to increase aid via Lend Lease to China
• Japan takes territory in French Indo-China
• U.S. halts negotiations, increases extent embargo cutting off war supplies and freezes
Japanese assets in U.S. banks
Why does U.S. change policy and enter WWII
• German and Italian aggression in Europe
• Germans start attacking U.S. merchant ships
• Growth of fascism – belief in everything exists for the state and government controlled by a
• Japanese aggression in Asia plus:
• Threaten Philippines a U.S. protectorate
• Joins Italy and Germany to create the Axis
• U.S. places embargo on Japan leading them to attack
U.S Enters WWII
• Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941
• Japanese attack on U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor
• FDR (Franklin Delano Roosevelt) “A date that will live in infamy!”