The Second World War generally refers to the military conflict which involved countries in the whole world and more so the supper powers. The war which lasted for six years as it started from the year 1939 to 1949 involved two groups of countries namely; the axis the allies. It was an outstanding war seeing that it involved over one hundred million military personnel. The consequences of the war were worse than the aftermath of any other conflict that has ever taken place in the history of the world involving many countries. During the war period, all countries used all types of resources to see to it that they achieve their main aim of wining the battle. Therefore, as expected, countries suffered greatly economically, scientifically an also in any other way. Worse still, the war involved a lot of causalities in view of the fact that it caused the death of around fifty million to seventy million people. By the end of it, many issues in the world had changed in the social, economic and political arena.
The war was caused by many factors which were inclusive but not limited to the effects of the World War I, the aftermath of the great depression, war in Europe as well as many unresolved issues. Although United States joined the war latter, its foreign policy especially on isolation played a great role in the outbreak of the war. With that background in mind, this paper shall discus how the Foreign policy of United States contributed to the outbreak of the World War II. Additionally, the paper shall also discus factors that explain the involvement of United States in the war.
Americans Foreign Policy
American Foreign Policy refers to a document which explains the interaction between United States and other foreign nations. In addition, the document illustrates set standard that define interaction not only between citizens, but also between organizations and corporations. Despite the fact that the president bears the absolute authority concerning the foreign policy, it is the Secretary of State also known as the Foreign minister who is in charge of maters of diplomacy. The foreign policy in United States has been changing from time to time. For example, the country was marked by isolationism before and even after the 1st world war. However, the president by then Franklin Roosevelt shifted from the Isolation policy and started to support the allies when they when they were fighting with Germany and Japan. Although the president did not send his soldiers directly, he used to support the allied forces by sending war equipments as well as with financial support.
After the First World War, United States developed a foreign policy that was meant to prevent Japan from attacking China as well as the Soviet Union. The policy illustrated that globally, people were supposed to have the freedom of religion and speech as well as they should not be in want or in fear. Nevertheless, instead of being threatened by the policy, studies indicate that as a means of reacting, Japan attacked the Pear Harbour and that marked the beginning of United States involvement in the world war II not only against Japan but also against Italy and Germany. The president joined hands with Winston Churchill who was from Britain and also with Joseph Stalin. During that particular time, United States was majoring in production of war equipment like ships, munitions, airplanes and also the atomic bombs. Consequently, United States ended up becoming an economic power due to sale of the war equipments and other goods.
American’s Policy of Isolationism
History records that during the nineteenth and part of the twentieth century, America was isolated from other countries in the world as its foreign policy demanded it to be so. In the battles that were fought in the nineteenth century like in the Mexican war or even the war between Spanish and America, America fought alone and did not join other countries from Europe. However, since change is inevitable, there were a lot of issues that took place in the twentieth century that were forcing American to abandon its policy. During the world war one, America could not have afforded to remain neutral especially after German declared a submarine war against it. The policy of isolation was applied in other sectors like trade since taxes were imposed on imports to protect manufactures from United States. In addition, the same policy was applied in limiting immigrants especially from Europe. The policy was till in place until 1940 when the situations present by then prompted America to review its earlier decisions. Some Americans were for the ending of the isolation policy while others were against it. However, immediately after Japan attacked the Pear Harbour, American had no choice other than to do away with the policy, though temporarily. On the same note, it is important to mention that although the policy was not eliminated immediately, it was not dominant in the domestic and international affairs of America. Having discussed the history of the policy, it is important to discuss how the foreign policy contributed to the outbreak of the Second World War.
The Emergence of the War
The signs of the war were first visible in the continents of Europe and Asia but United States was unwilling to b e involved as it was still experiencing the effects of the great depression. However, in the year 1935, America signed the Neutrality Act during the leadership of President Roosevelt following the hearings concerning the causes of the World War I. Latter, United States continued sign many neutrality acts to signify that it was not willing to assist any country or take part in the war. Even after the onset of the Spanish war, United States’ Neutrality Act did not allow it even to assists the nations which it was relating with even on friendly basis. As the tensions in the world continued to increase, United States was forced to pass acts which were not as restrictive but even by doping so; the country was still unwilling to get involved in the war.
Through the use of the neutrality act, America managed to isolate itself from the main affairs which were taking place in the world. However, in the year 1939, Americans were not aware of how they could have stayed uninvolved especially when the secretary of state was declaring that the only way that they would have managed to maintain their stand was only by preventing the war. However, the neutrality act which had being signed prohibited selling of weapons and other war equipments. In addition, it also stated that any civilians who may decide to enter the war zone would have done it under their own risk. Although it was necessary for United States to be involved, they decided to go on isolation because they believed that the great depression which had serious impacts on their economy and social life was caused by the First World War. In addition, United States had adopted pacifism and was not willing to engage in any activity that would have affected their stand. Lastly, apart from believing that they were not entitled to provide any support, they also believed that the World War I was as a result of their mistake. At this point, it is important to trace major events that contributed to the Second World War.
The Neutrality Act of the year 1936 was extended up to the year 1937 and continued to prevent lending of any credit or loan to any nation which was involved in the war. Although United States was continuously criticized for being detached, other great powers were also not doing much. Moreover, United States was sure that Europe was for the idea since they were also declaring that they hate war. Nonetheless, although the Neutrality Act was still effective, it was still not used against Japan as by then, there was no war in China. Consequently, United States greatly helped China although Japan was also very helpful as it had merchant marine. Through out the world, goods from Japan continued to be boycotted and the amendment on constitution stated that war can only be declared following an invasion after conducting a referendum. The war started in Europe after Germany attacked Poland in the year 1939. The events of the war that took place in the year 1940 created a situation which required United States to help in the battle and more so help the Britain which has been left alone. Therefore, although United States was still reluctant to fight, it had no option other to help Britain hoping that the war would come to an end. It is important to note that that United States was not actively involved until the year 1942 as it only used to provide war equipments and any other kind of help without invading directly.
Involvement of United States in the World War 11
According to the studies of McCormick, United States was involved in the war in several ways. To begin with, even before United States became actively involved in the war, further studies have indicated that it had already come up with a neutrality act in the year 1939 after which it started supplying weapons and other war equipment to countries such as France who were its allies. A year latter, United States passed another act known as the Lend Lease Act which enabled it to provide more help to the deserving nations. Therefore, it is explicit that even before the country became actively involved in the war; it used to concern itself with providing war equipments to its allies. In addition, even after becoming actively involved, America continued to supply war equipments and other weapons like the atomic bombs which were very significant. Therefore, under which ever circumstances, the involvement of United States contributed greatly to the outcome of the war. The war came to an end after victory was realized in Europe and also after the surrender of Japan in the year 1945.
United States became actively involved in the war for the first time in the year 1941 after the Japanese attack at a place known as the Pearl Harbour in Hawaii. Following the attack of the American Naval base, war was declared on United States by Hitler and consequently, the president of United States by then started to implement measures that were meant to expand the marine forces. Latter the army as divided by the War Department General Staff. Major groups were inclusive of the Service, Ground, and Air Forces. Military changes in America had to be effected because there was great need for the personnel; not only for the sake of America, but also for its allies. For example, Britain required different war equipments like trucks, vehicles and other vessels that are useful during the war. Although the troops of United States arrived in Britain in the year 1942, they only started to fight against the axis an year latter. However, before then, the air force was acting as allies during the German strike. On July the year 1942, American air troops were able to take part in air raids. Therefore, as much as United States wanted to keep off in the Second World War, they ended up being actively involved not only in providing ammunitions, but also in direct combat.
US Foreign Policy led to the Outbreak of World War II
Although there are studies that illustrated that there were many causes of the World War II, United States’ Foreign policy played a great role in the same. The conflict between United States and Japan contributed greatly to the World War II. Japan was mainly interested in raw materials from China and since the market was being occupied by United States and other countries from Europe, Japan had to struggle to achieve its main goal. Japan started by invading China in the year 1973 to expel the western powers from the region. However, since Japan was not responding to the talks that were being conducted, America decided to freeze all the assets from Japan with an aim preventing Japan from importing oil. Worse still, other countries like United Kingdom and Netherlands also did the same. Since Japan refused to comply, it ended up attacking United States and the same contributed to the world war. Therefore, were it not for the fact that United States believed that it was supposed to control other countries in the world like China economically, a conflict would not have erupted.
Failure of United States to support the League of Nations also played a great role in the emergence of the World War II. The organizations was formed immediately after the World War I with an aim of preventing the emergence of any war in future by disarming other countries, use of diplomacy to settle disputes, improving the global welfare as well as enhancing security collectively. Most surprisingly, United States refused to join the League despite the fat that the president by then was the founding member of the organization. The organization was dependent on the member countries for financial as well as any other support necessary to achieve its main goals and obligation. Therefore, due to lack of support from significant nations like United States, the nation’s league was not able to solve major conflicts that led to the emergence of the Second World War. Although the organization lacked the military personnel, absence of United States was a major contributory factor to its failure.
Contribution of President Franklin Roosevelt
The president of the United States before and during the outbreak of the war contributed greatly in influencing the war. To begin with, history records that the president summoned members of the congress with an aim of cancelling the restriction of the sale of weapons and other war equipments. However, his aim was to prevent America from getting involved in the war. To confirm the stand, America did not enter in to war even after Britain had gotten involved, bearing in mind that it was increasingly difficult for Britain to succeed alone in the view of the fact that it was poorly equipped in terms of man power and also war equipments. Even at that particular point, President Roosevelt kept on emphasizing that he was not going to send his soldiers to fight in the foreign countries. During his campaigns, Franklin kept on emphasizing the importance of their foreign policy which was meant to keep the country out of the war at all costs. Nevertheless, in the year 1941, the same president started to illustrate that there was some intention by Nazi to attack some parts of America exemplifying that it was important to prepare for war. Since there is no evidence that has been found illustrating that Nazi was planning to attack America, the allegation was only meant to facilitate the re-election of the president and latter lead United States in to the war. Since initially the president was for peace in America, the same may have been the campaign strategy since after some time, America got in to war like the other foreign countries.
Implication of the Foreign Policy of United States
According to the studies of Mahr, the implications of the United States foreign policy are varied as illustrated earlier since it used to touch on each and every area of life. For instance, the same study record that the policy led to creation of conflict between countries such as Japan. Consequently, issues of unresolved conflicts ended up contributing to the Second World War. Additionally, since United States is very influential politically, socially and economically, its foreign policy ended up influencing international politics a great deal. In that case, it is easy to link the foreign policy with international politics and later the Second World War since the latter was a resultant factor of the rest.
The study has indicated that the World War II was caused by many factors but the United States Foreign Policy was a major contributory factor to the global conflict. For a long time even before the outbreak of the World War I, United States was operating under the policy of isolationism such that it did not involve itself with the affairs of other nations. Since the country was among great powers in the world, its exclusion from the world affairs was very consequential. For instance, as much as the outbreak of World War II can be blamed on a lot of factors; there were some issues that directly resulted from the United States’ foreign policy. For instance, failure of the United States to contribute to the Nation’s League is just an implication of the foreign policy. In addition, the study has indicated that United States was actively involved not only in the real battle but also in providing weapons and financial aid to its allies. Importantly, after the country declared war, it took part in it actively until the year 1945 when Japan was forced to surrender. However, it is important not to down play other causes of the war like the tensions that resulted from the World War I since they also played a significant role. Nevertheless, it cannot be an understatement to conclude that one implication of the United States foreign policy before the Second Word War and after the First World War was the outbreak of the global conflict referred to as the Second World War.
DeConde, Alexander. Encyclopaedia of American foreign policy: studies of the principal movements and ideas, Volume 3. New York: Scribner, 1978.
Kennan, George Frost. American diplomacy, 1900-1950, Volume 1951, Part 1. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1951.
McCormick, Thomas J. America’s half-century: United States foreign policy in the Cold War and after. Baltimore: JHU Press, 1995.
McCormick, James M. American Foreign Policy and Process. Stamford: Cengage Learning, 2009.
Keylor, William R. The twentieth-century world and beyond: an international history since 1900. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.
Mahr, Julia. How was the Behaviour of the US in Foreign Policy from 1917 Till the End of the Vietnam War and what are the Different Possibilities? Marienstr: GRIN Verlag, 2008.
Powaski, Ronald E. Toward an entangling alliance: American isolationism, internationalism, and Europe, 1901-1950. Westport: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1991.
Preston, Adrian W. General staffs and diplomacy before the Second World War. London: Taylor & Francis, 1978.