Assess the View America Followed a Deeply Isolationist Role in the Period 1920-41

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Last updated: April 15, 2019

Assess the view America followed a deeply isolationist role in the period 1920-41Passage A does not agree that America followed a deeply isolationist foreign policy in the period 1920-41. McCoy argues that whilst the US did return to ???isolationist??™ ways in the 1920s, it was only to a certain extent as the US still played a role in the world with the interests of the country in mind. This is a fairly accurate statement as the US was a prime mover in the Washington Disarmament conference in 1921. The US attempted to reduce armaments and control the forces that provoked and lead to war, so that the US could maintain peace around the world. This level of interest and concern strongly highlights the point McCoy is putting across, namely that America was not deeply isolated and was directly involved in world affairs since its interests demanded it. McCoy is also correct on the aggressive business approach America took throughout the 1920s.

This was enabled through the ???Good Neighbour??™ policy, especially in the Latin America countries. In the 1920s, most Latin America countries were subject to strong US economic influence, with the volume of trading totalling to $3.2 billion. Therefore, there is great accuracy and evidence supporting McCoy??™s view, primarily since America??™s economic interests and activities in global affairs do not correspond with the argument that it was isolated. However, whilst America still had a strong economic influence in Latin America, its political interference did decrease. This was shown in the Dominican Republic in 1924, as Coolidge began to withdraw American troops. This, therefore, does provide strong signs of isolationism in the 1920s, as America no longer believed it had a policing role in Latin America. Furthermore, McCoy only briefly mentions America avoiding ???entangled alliances??™.

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This is not emphasised enough from the historian as it was an important indication that America was isolated from the rest of the world, particularly since it refused to part sides with other countries. For example, in its original form, the Kellogg-Briand pact was a renunciation of war between only France and the US. However, the US was keen to retain American freedom of action and was concerned the pact would result in the US forming an indirect alliance with the French; it thus suggested the agreement should be extended to include other countries.

This illustrates that whilst the US maintained an interest in peace and unity, the fear in forming alliances emphasises their lack of commitment to foreign affairs, which revolved around a desire to stay out of conflicts and disputes if and when they ever occurred. McCoys position in this instance can hence be contested and especially since the US did not see itself as part of Europe and its issues and challenges. McCoy is very accurate on US economic interventions and efforts at seeking peace, as evidenced by America??™s trading with Latin America and its signing of treaties with Europe. Yet, at the same time, McCoy fails to highlight America??™s lack of political commitment to other countries. The decline in forming alliances and supporting forces in other countries showed that America was not yet fully integrated with other countries around the globe and a divide between them was still in existence.

The conclusion that can be drawn from this is that the US was indeed isolationist but only to the extent that this was in its interests. Passage B believes the 1930s was dominated by a mixture of isolationist and internationalists demands, with different views and opinions on the approach FDR should take. Feber claims it was the isolationists who dominated the 1930s. The historian is largely correct, as throughout the 1930s America took drastic changes and measures to position isolationism as a key component of American policy. This was achieved through the neutrality acts, which forbid America from selling arms to any belligerent nations and prevent any involvement whatsoever. This supports Febers point that the isolationists were winning the fight as the neutrality acts would continue and the attitude towards non-involvement would remain strong. The historian is also correct in specifically highlighting the embarrassment the acts caused FDR.

This was shown in the events surrounding 1935 neutrality act since FDR pushed for a more flexible measure, hoping to have the power to decide who was and was not a belligerent. However, congress rejected the idea, making it impossible for FDR to have any form of influential intervention. It also indicated the extreme length America took to ensure their isolation and avoid the prospect of war. Nevertheless, the passage does disagree with the claim that America was deeply isolated in the 1930s. Feber himself points out that the isolationists themselves did not want to be entirely isolated and wanted to support China in the battle against Japan. The US was unable to take action against Japan, however, due to the lack of strength in its army, limiting the isolationist policy and rendering it unable to pursue intervention in China. Nonetheless, this does show that America was willing to become involved in the pacific, rather than deeply isolate itself.Feber, on the other hand, fails to acknowledge the significant interventionism of FDR in Latin America.

The president maintained Washingtons economic influence and was constantly negotiating trade agreements with Latin America. Moreover, whilst FDR did move away from armed intervention (as in the withdrawal of troops from Haiti) the United States had no intention of abandoning or weakening its position as the predominant power in Latin America. This therefore, shows interventionism on the part of the US in the 1930s, one that sought to, and did, protect American interests as well as emphasising the influence and power of the president in the region.Passage B is thus very accurate given that it highlights the great extent of American isolationism in the 1930s and the dominance of isolationism in American policy, especially in Europe. At the same time, however, Feber underestimates FDRs influence and fails to give recognition to the numerous examples of interventionism and changes in policy that resulted from FDRs tenure in power, in particular in Latin America (a strong indication that America was still protecting its interests global affairs). Passage C claims America??™s position on foreign policy changed over time and gradually grew into isolationism. Johnson focuses largely on Japan and believes it is symbolic of how America gradually became isolated.

Johnson rejects the idea America was isolationist in the 1920s, believing it would continue to play a role in the affairs of the world. This is correct, but only to an extent. In the 1920s, America did show signs of intervention in Japan, for instance, by calling for the Washington Conference amid concerns over the growing power of Japan. The conference aimed to limit their naval armaments and ease the tension in the Far East.

This therefore, provides a clear example of American interventionism revolving around a desire to counter the threat in the pacific.Johnson does, however, state conversely that America gradually grew into isolation, particularly when Japanese power was on the increase. There is strong support for this, particularly from the 1930s.

For example, the Japanese invaded Manchuria in 1931 and, despite the Chinese appeal, Hoover refused to intervene. This level of isolation was also illustrated in the World Economics, torpedoed by FDR and indicating America had no plans to involve itself further with Japan or any other nations. However, to suggest America was deeply isolated from Japan during this period of time is wrong. Whilst America was not directly intervening in Japanese affairs, it would nevertheless keep an eye on the country and the situation, in addition to assisting the Chinese through military support, especially in 1937. Further, America felt challenged by Japan in the 1930s. This is evidenced by the ???quarantine??™ speech in 1397, with FDR warning against fascist aggression. America was, therefore, still wary of Japan and by increasing its military budget; they showed they were willing to confront this. Having said this, Johnson is strongly accurate when he notes that American isolationism was mostly apparent in its relations with Europe, as exemplified by the neutrality acts.

For example, the 1937 neutrality act was specifically made to avoid American involvement in the Spanish Civil War. Significantly this shows that it was at this point American isolation from Europe had reached its peak. Moreover, the majority of the American population was strongly against any involvement with Europe, which further cemented American isolation.As a whole, this passage makes a convincing argument, namely that American isolationism was a gradual process.

At times, the historian does fail to elaborate and provide the background to American policy, like for example the arming of China in the conflict with Japan. The points on Europe and the isolation are accurate and reliable. However, whilst America did show isolationism towards Japan, Johnson fails to point out the background involvement in the pacific, as they armed China and showed signs of concern towards the fascist country.Passage D believes due to the domestic crisis and the constant pressure on FDR, America had to take an isolated role after 1933. Brogan begins by stating FDR influence was limited regarding foreign policy, as the Great Depression was seen as the main priority in the US.

This level of isolation was shown in the beginning of FDR regime, as he told the 1933 world economic conference, the US would go its own way and they had no intention in getting involved with European affairs. This therefore shows America were putting domestic issues ahead of foreign policies and also reinforces Brogan point, that America level of action was limited. Brogan is also correct to a great extent, of the commitment to peace at ???any price??™ from FDR. This remarkable restraint and dedication was shown when the US gunboat, the ???Panay??™, was sunk by the Japanese aircraft, as the US did not wish to enter conflict and accepted an apology.

This therefore, shows America were deeply isolated at this moment of time, as they were willing to do everything they can, to not become involved in foreign affairs, and especially enter another dispute. Brogan is also accurate on the impact congress had regarding foreign policy, as it consisted of a strong isolation view, making FDR position more difficult and more powerless. For instance, in relation to the neutrality acts, FDR attempted for a more flexible measure which would gain him more power in deciding who was and was not a belligerent. However, congress rejected the idea and because FDR needed their support for his domestic programmes, he was forced to accept the outcome and was unable to achieve a modification of the legislation. Therefore, Brogan point is strengthened, as FDR was forced to be cautious and could not risk the wrath of congress, which was dominated by isolationists.

Brogan strong argument continues when he suggests America was adopting the ???unilateralism??™ attitude. This was not only shown in Europe (neutrality acts), but also in the far east, as after the Japanese takeover in Manchuria America failed to recognise any impairment of American treaty rights in China. Therefore, arguably, this shows a deeply isolated America after 1933, as they would conduct their foreign affairs individualistically without the advice or involvement of other nations, making Brogan points more convincing. However, the tone of Brogan and the passage suggests America was isolated on a world scale, rather than just Europe after 1933.

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