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Argues that much can be understood about American politics by studying the continuing confrontations between those who support and those who oppose the policies of Franklin Delano Roosevelt
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1The Crucible of World War IIMore than half the world is ruled by men who despise the American idea and have sworn to destroy it ... . It is not hysterical to think that democracy and liberty are threatened.--WILLIAM ALLEN WHITE, in support of America's entry into World War II
Foreign Politics demands scarcely any of those qualities which are peculiar to democracy; they require, on the contrary, the perfect use of almost all those in which it is deficient ... a democracy can only with great difficulty regulate the details of an important undertaking, persevere in a fixed design, and work out its execution in spite of serious obstacles. It cannot combine its measures with secrecy or await their consequence with patience.--ALEXIS DE TOCQUEVILLE
PUT ASIDE YOUR MOVIE MEMORIES of World War II--pictures of GIs (usually an Italian, an Irishman, and a Jew, with an occasional black)--united in a camaraderie born of a determination to stamp out fascism. Wartime surveys taken by the Army revealed that troop morale was dangerously low. Most soldiers had little idea of why they were fighting and few cared about the political meaning of the war. They were there because they had to be, and they fought for their own lives and those of their buddies, not for some higher principles.Morale at home wasn't much better. The public was uncertain about the war's objectives and it was hesitant about supporting a total war against Germany. Americans felt a great distaste for Hitler, but, according to an Office of War Information survey, nearly half the public had positive feelings toward Germany. Of those who had an opinion, about one in five thought Hitler's policies toward the Jews were probably justified and more than half thought that Jews had too much power in America. While New Deal writers, labor leaders, and intellectuals saw the war asa fight for democracy, the American people as a whole shared few convictions regarding Germany. Their strongest feelings were reserved for Japan and a desire to "pay back" the "dirty Japs" for their December 1941 sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. It was only after the fact that our blood sacrifice and subsequent knowledge of the Holocaust broadly sanctified the war.Among the public at large, feelings about the war ran strongest among those who had fervently opposed American involvement. The isolationist critics of President Roosevelt's policies who called themselves "America Firsters" were convinced that war was more likely to bring fascism to America than democracy to the rest of the world. Their opposition ran so deep that the "Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor brought war but not unity to the American people."Stunned by the Japanese attack, Roosevelt's Republican critics temporarily abandoned their public posture of isolationism. With the nation at war Republicans turned to criticism of how the President was directing the fight. Republican isolationists like Ohio's Senator Robert Taft called for an investigation of American unpreparedness at Pearl; privately many were convinced that the attack had been part of a plot by FDR to push the country into war.The 1942 congressional elections were a sharp setback for the President. Supporters of Roosevelt's policies had targeted 115 isolationists for defeat in the general election; 110 were reelected. The voting returns gave the Republicans 44 more seats in the House and 9 in the Senate. Surveying the election results, a writer for the party organ The Republican crowed, "It would be absurd to say that 'isolationism' was not a factor in the election." The Administration was left with a razor-thin margin of 7 votes in the House. Like Woodrow Wilson before him, FDR was threatened with an isolationist revolt.Isolationism was a deep and abiding tendency in American life. Temporarily forced below the surface by Pearl Harbor, it continued as a powerful current. Typically, America Firsters, or members of the "peace bloc" as some styled themselves, were fiercely hostile to Roosevelt's foreign as well as domestic policies. Fiercely anti-Communist, they were convinced that a devilishly clever Roosevelt had maneuvered the country into an unnecessarywar against the wrong foe just as he had used his wiles at home to foist the alien measures of the New Deal's "creeping socialism" on an unsuspecting nation. They were more likely than their fellow citizens to believe that we could "do business with Hitler" and they saw Japan and particularly Russia as America's real enemies. The isolationists were able to withstand the pressure to support the war wholeheartedly because they based their dissent on a time-honored American tradition of noninvolvement in European affairs. They felt themselves the "true" Americans; it was the rest of the country that had strayed.Isolationism reflected Protestant America's view that the United States was God's chosen nation, a land which had been divinely set apart from the wickedness of the Old World to serve as a beacon of righteousness unto all the nations. Seeded intellectually by Puritanism, the isolationist impulse took political form with George Washington's Farewell Address warning America to steer clear of decadent Europe. Bordered by militarily weak neighbors to the north and south, and shielded by vast oceans to the east and west, Americans enjoyed free security and a sense of invulnerability. This knowledge led young Abe Lincoln to boast that "all the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa, combined with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest, with a Buonaparte for commander, could not by force take a drink from the Ohio or make track on the Blue Ridge, in the trial of a thousand years." But Lincoln warned, in lines often quoted by isolationists, that "danger" could "spring up amongst us." If America were imperiled, the threat would come from within.American involvement in World War I inspired broad opposition and served to heighten isolationism. Wilson pushed for war because he feared the consequences of one power, in this case Imperial Germany, dominating the continent of Europe. It was in America's interest to see that a balance of power was maintained. But Wilson, moralist that he was, never discussed such considerations; instead he explained American participation almost exclusively in terms of German wickedness and American morality. It was to be a war to end all wars, a war for democracy. Wilson sincerely believed that if democracy and capitalism were brought to the world the different nations would be too busy creating wealth to bother fighting one another. When World War I ended, not in a triumphfor democracy, but in an orgy of squabbling over the remains of the German Empire, it seemed clear that a great deal of American blood had been shed for naught.In the 1930s the rise of Hitler and Mussolini forced Americans once again to look across the ocean. Isolationists, replaying America's entry into World War I, responded with a devil theory of war. Munitions makers and bankers, greedy cosmopolitan capitalists aided by the masterminds of British finance, they argued, had placed self-interest above patriotism and insidiously drawn the innocent American lamb into the European slaughter. By the late 1930s the collective devil of the cosmopolitan bankers and munitions makers were replaced by a single figure, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, at once the most loved and the most hated man in America. "The 1930s produced an enormous number of people with a special mission--a mission to warn America that the President had treason in his soul." FDR, they would insist, was a Communist who would betray America, a Judas who would ruin America with a kiss.The wellborn Roosevelt was hated both in the corporate boardrooms, where he was considered a traitor to his class, and in the heart of the country, in small-town Protestant America, where his support of labor unions, social welfare programs, and government regulation was seen as an expression of the social forces threatening to destroy the nineteenth-century world of a self-reliant people and a self-regulating economy. A popular nativist ditty of the period read:God Bless America The Jews Own It The Catholics Run It The Negroes Enjoy It The Protestants Founded It But The Communists Will Destroy It.For New Deal loyalists such doggerel was yet another example of the fascist forces that threatened America from within and without. If Republican diehards insisted that Roosevelt was "that Bolshevik in the White House," ideological New Dealers returnedthe favor by denouncing conservative Republicans as fascists. Henry Wallace, the point man for the New Dealers, fought the 1940 election with the slogan "Keep Hitler out of the White House." Wallace conceded that "every Republican is not an appeaser. But you can be sure that every Nazi, every Hitlerite, and every appeaser is a Republican." Wallace glossed over the isolationism of leading Democrats like Burton Wheeler who were left-leaning at home yet impassioned appeasers. Reflecting public sentiment, the Democratic Party's 1940 platform contained a tougher anti-war pledge than the Republicans'. At their harshest, fervent New Dealers dropped the qualifiers and pronounced Wendell Willkie, Roosevelt's middle-of-the-road Republican opponent, "the man Hitler wants elected President." Willkie, a devout internationalist, or "One Worlder" as they were then called, became a strong supporter of New Deal foreign policy after his defeat.The New Dealers' rhetoric was exaggerated; their fear of fascism was not. The twentieth century had brought democracy under unprecedented attack. In the wake of the senseless slaughter in World War I, many writers and social scientists emphasized the irrational nature of politics. The free choice necessary for democracy was, they said, a pleasant myth, out of place in a world where mass sentiment and public opinion could be manufactured like bicycles. The "masses," it was concluded, were incapable of managing their own affairs. The distinguished isolationist Harry Elmer Barnes announced that "differential psychology has proven the inferiority of the masses," by which he meant the new immigrants, thus confirming, he claimed, "the old Aristotelian dogma that some men are made to rule and others to serve."If anyone doubted that dictatorship was the wave of the future they had only to look around. In the years after World War I, first Portugal, then Spain, Italy, Greece, Japan, Turkey, Russia, Poland, Czechoslovakia, followed by Austria, Germany, Hungary, Yugoslavia, and a host of Latin American countries, had turned to dictatorship. Americans, with their traditional faith in progress, had believed that they were the future, that democracy would spread around the globe. Now it seemed probable to many that democratic institutions had outlived their usefulness. With the onset of the Great Depression an optimist was a man who thought the future was uncertain.In a nation ravaged by depression and doubt, Roosevelt, through word and deed, made democracy a fighting faith again. By his vocal opposition to what he called the "economic royalists" and his insistence that Nazi Germany was more than just another great power, Roosevelt created a climate in which a broad range of immigrant, labor, liberal, and left-wing groups began to reconstitute a sense of national purpose. Some evoked Jefferson and the Founding Fathers to proclaim that Communism was twentieth-century Americanism, while a far larger group of liberals saw in the social engineering of the New Deal a middle way between Soviet authoritarianism and the tyranny of the market.The New Dealers saw foreign policy as a chance to extend the democratic revival worldwide. "There was a sense that once justice was achieved in America it would be necessary to spread it abroad" so that the tide of dictatorship might be pushed back forever. When the war came, Henry Wallace, who believed America was "the Chosen of the Lord," applauded as the young James Reston insisted that we could not win the war with Germany "until it ... became a national crusade for America and the American dream." Reston thought the war would be a failure if a single totalitarian state remained. Wallace's America, said a Wallaceite, had "accepted a divine mission to save the world, Roosevelt [was] to be its prophet," World War II was to be "a people's war for worldwide democracy."Roosevelt, the pragmatist, encouraged these views with his own grandiloquent statements of America's purpose in fighting. Like Wilson before him, he never publicly discussed his overwhelming concern with the balance of power, for fear that it would be divisive. Instead he cloaked his foreign policy in the rhetoric of the Four Freedoms and the Atlantic Charter. To match Hitler's "New Order" Roosevelt proposed a new "moral order." He declined territorial ambitions and projected a reeducation of the world along the lines of Christian morality. This Sermon on the Mount world of self-determination and democracy for all nations was so inspiring that one Catholic cleric was moved to describe democracy as "the nearest thing to God on earth."Roosevelt was neither a tribune of the new moral order nor a "Red dupe." Critics and admirers alike would have been better served if they had watched what he did rather than listened towhat he said. From December 1941 on, the President subordinated all his efforts at home and abroad to the goal of winning the war. He allowed New Deal programs to atrophy as businessmen brought to Washington to build up the arms industries elbowed aside the social reformers who had dominated Washington for a decade. Roosevelt stood back and watched as special interests lobbied ferociously for pork barrel bills to aid farmers or car dealers or some particularly deserving capitalist. In return Roosevelt expected support for the fragile consensus he had built for both winning the war and creating a permanent American international involvement to maintain peace.Roosevelt was willing to sacrifice some of what he had built at home because he was firmly convinced of the danger abroad. While the isolationists were replaying World War I, Roosevelt was trying to detail a forceful diplomatic response to Nazi imperialism. He understood that international affairs was a game of power subject to its own rules. His task was to play that game within the constraints of American power and domestic politics. To defeat Hitler he was willing to make a deal with the French fascist Admiral Jean Darlan. When he was castigated by liberals and leftists for negotiating with Darlan, he replied with more than a touch of disdain: "My children, you are permitted in time of great danger to walk with the devil until you have crossed the bridge." Later, unleashing his temper, he shouted: "Of course I'm dealing with Darlan, since Darlan is giving me Algiers!" The deal with Darlan was a reflection of the limitations of American power. But when it came to alliance with first Britain and then the Soviet Union, a good many thought that Roosevelt had indeed made a deal with the devil; Britain and Russia were cordially hated by many of his countrymen.Roosevelt saw Britain as America's first line of defense. But for many Irish- and German-Americans, the nation's two largest white ethnic groups, and particularly the Irish, a hatred for England came with their mother's milk. Both steadfastly denied that any moral distinction could be drawn between British and German imperialism. For the Irish, German sins in Czechoslovakia were not nearly so odious as Britain's ...
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Book Description Hill & Wang, 1984. Hardcover. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P110809094436
Book Description Hill & Wang. Hardcover. Condition: New. 0809094436 New Condition. Seller Inventory # NEW7.1323412