Fighting Dictators

United States diplomacy, led by Secretary of State Henry L. Stimson, attempted vigorously but unsuccessfully to lead an international effort against the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931. Wary of the rise of Fascist-style governments in Europe and Japan, President Roosevelt took steps, though limited at first, to oppose them, even while the United States remained neutral. Finally, after Pearl Harbor, he led the country in an all-out war effort to defeat them.

In the 1930s, the Good Neighbor Policy improved ties with Latin America, especially by eschewing military intervention in hemispheric affairs and by agreeing to lower trade barriers reciprocally. The new spirit helped Washington conclude defense arrangements with most Latin American countries, leading to the Rio Treaty in 1947, which provided that an armed attack “against an American State” was an attack against all, and to the Bogota Conference the following year, creating the Organization of American States.

Japanese envoys in Washington negotiate as their nation prepares to attack Pearl Harbor.

Japanese envoys in Washington negotiate as their nation prepares to attack Pearl Harbor.

Avoiding the U.S. neutrality laws by a technicality, President Roosevelt, beginning in 1937, provided loans and materiel to China, then at war with Japan, while Secretary of State Cordell Hull negotiated with the Japanese for several years in an attempt to end their aggression in Asia. Eventually Washington embargoed the export of oil, scrap, and other materials, which Japan had been importing from the United States. Negotiations continued, however, until the attack on Pearl Harbor.

A convoy of British and U.S. ships lies at anchor in the harbor at Hvalfjord, Iceland, May-June 1942

A convoy of British and U.S. ships lies at anchor in the harbor at Hvalfjord, Iceland, May-June 1942.

President Roosevelt, Harry Hopkins, and State Department negotiators undertook a series of agreements with the British to assist them after they had gone to war with the Axis in 1939. These included the cash-and-carry provision of war supplies, Lend-Lease, a swap of destroyers for the use of British bases in the Caribbean, U.S. Navy escorts for ships carrying British goods, agreement with Great Britain on a worldwide strategy if and when the United States entered the war, and pronouncement of the Atlantic Charter, in August 1941.

THE NORTH ATLANTIC TREATY WASHINGTON, D.C.
4TH APRIL 1949

ARTICLE 5

The parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all, and consequently they agree that each of them will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force…

During most of World War II, foreign policy was formulated largely by White House and military staffs, as presidential aides Harry Hopkins and Admiral William Leahy together with the military service chiefs became President Roosevelt’s principal advisers. The State Department’s more limited role was apparent at the great conferences of Teheran and Yalta and continued until President Truman returned it to the fore at the final wartime summit meeting at Potsdam. Much Allied diplomacy at these meetings related to the emerging confrontation between the western powers and the Soviet Union, focusing mainly on Eastern Europe and Germany.

Seen on the cruiser Quincy in Egypt after the Yalta Conference in February 1945, are (seated, left to right) U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom John G. Winant; President Franklin D. Roosevelt; Secretary of State Edward R. Stettinius, Jr.; Special Assistant to the President Harry L. Hopkins; (standing, from right)  Assistant to the Secretary of State Charles E. Bohien; State Department Director of European Affairs H. Freeman Matthews;  and others.

Seen on the cruiser Quincy in Egypt after the Yalta Conference in February 1945, are (seated, left to right) U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom John G. Winant; President Franklin D. Roosevelt; Secretary of State Edward R. Stettinius, Jr.; Special Assistant to the President Harry L. Hopkins; (standing, from right) Assistant to the Secretary of State Charles E. Bohien; State Department Director of European Affairs H. Freeman Matthews; and others.

State Department officials, along with those from the Treasury Department and other agencies, played a significant part in meetings that established major postwar economic and political institutions. They helped formulate and guide U.S. policy at the Bretton Woods, Dumbarton Oaks, and San Francisco conferences, where foundations were laid for the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank.

The United Nations was born at the San Francisco Opera House in June 1945, when delegates from 50 nations approved its charter.

The United Nations was born at the San Francisco Opera House in June 1945, when delegates from 50 nations approved its charter.

THE SOURCES OF SOVIET CONDUCT
By X

The political personality of Soviet power as we know it today is the product of ideology and circumstances: ideology inherited by the present Soviet leaders from the movement in which they had their political origin, and circumstances of the power which they now have exercised for nearly three decades in Russia. There can be few tasks of psychological analysis more difficult than to try to trace the interaction of these two forces and the relative role of each in the determination of official Soviet conduct. Yet the attempt must be made if that conduct is to be understood and effectively countered.

It is difficult to summarize the set of ideological concepts with which the Soviet leaders came into power. Marxian ideology, in its Russian-Communist projection, has always been in process of subtle evolution. The materials on which it bases itself are extensive and complex. But the outstanding features of Communist thought as it existed in 1916 may perhaps be summarized as follows: (a) that the central factor in the life of man, the factor which determines the character of public life and the “physiognomy of society,” is the system by which material goods are produced and exchanged; (b) that the capitalist system of production is a nefarious one which inevitably leads to the exploitation of the working class by the capital-owning class and is incapable of developing adequately the economic resources of society or of distributing fairly the material goods produced by human labor; (c) that capitalism contains the seeds of its own destruction and must, in view of the inability of the capital-owning class to adjust itself to economic change, result eventually and inescapably in a revolutionary transfer of power to the working class; and (d) that imperialism, the final phase of capitalism, leads directly to war and revolution.

The rest may be outlined in Lenin’s own words: “Unevenness of economic and political development is the inflexible law of capitalism. It follows from this that the victory of Socialism may come originally in a few capitalist countries or even in a single capitalist country. The victorious proletariat of that country, having expropriated the capitalists and having organized Socialist production at home, would rise against the remain-…

Shown above is the first page of “The Sources of Soviet Conduct,” written by George F. Kennan under the pseudonym “X,” as originally published in July 1947.
Reprinted by permission of Foreign Affairs.

Copyright 1947 by the Council on Foreign Relations Inc.

Robert Bacon, 1909

Robert Bacon
Secretary of State
1909

Philander Chase Knox, 1909-1913

Philander C. Knox
Secretary of State
1909-1913

William Jennings Bryan, 1913-1915

William J. Bryan
Secretary of State
1913-1915

Robert Lansing, 1915-1920

Robert Lansing
Secretary of State
1915-1920

Bainbridge Colby, 1920-1921

Bainbridge Colby
Secretary of State
1920-1921

Charles Evans Hughes, 1921-1925

Charles E. Hughes
Secretary of State
1921-1925

Frank Billings Kellogg, 1925-1929

Frank B. Kellogg
Secretary of State
1925-1929

Henry Lewis Stimson, 1929-1933

Henry L. Stimson
Secretary of State
1929-1933

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