Cautious Crusade: Franklin D. Roosevelt, American Public Opinion, and the War against Nazi Germany

By Steven Casey | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION:
FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT,
AMERICAN PUBLIC OPINION,
AND FOREIGN POLICY

But if history teaches us anything, it is that we must resist aggres-
sion or it will destroy our freedoms. Appeasement does not work.
As was the case in the 1930s, we see in Saddam Hussein an ag-
gressive dictator threatening neighbors.

—President George Bush, August 8, 1990

What if someone had listened to Winston Churchill and stood up
to Adolf Hitler earlier? How many peoples' lives might have been
saved, and how many American lives might have been saved?

—President Bill Clinton, March 23, 1999

More than fifty years after the collapse of the Third Reich, America's crusade against nazism still exerts a powerful hold over the popular imagination. Not only do books, films, and TV documentaries on the subject continue to proliferate, but politicians, recognizing the resonance that this era still possesses, remain quick to compare every threat to U.S. security in terms of the danger posed by nazism in the 1930s and 1940s. So in their time, Stalin, Ho Chi Minh, Saddam Hussein, and Slobodan Milosevic have all been depicted as the new Adolf Hitler, no doubt in the hope that if the public equated them with this archetype of evil then they would both understand the nature of the enemy and rally behind the administration's calls for an energetic response.1

Implicit in this harking back to World War II is the notion that America's crusade against nazism was a uniquely popular war—that, unlike the subsequent conflicts in Korea and Vietnam, on this occasion the populace was united behind the government, doggedly determined to eradicate an undeniably expansionist and barbarous foe. Such a conception is endorsed by historians in numerous works, both scholarly and popular. According

-xvii-

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