America and the Origins of World War II, 1933-1941: New Perspectives in History

By Arnold A. Offner | Go to book overview
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II The Consensus on Appeasement, 1933-1938

Historians of the era of Franklin D. Roosevelt usually have focused first on the New Deal domestic reforms of 1933-1938 and then on foreign policy developments between the outbreak of war in Europe in 1939 and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. But as shown in Part II in the excerpts from Dorothy Borg's The United States and the Far Eastern Crisis of 1933-1938 ( 1964) and Arnold A. Offner's American Appeasement: United States Foreign Policy and Germany, 1933-1938 ( 1969), American diplomats were deeply involved in world affairs between 1933 and 1938. Borg explains in her summary chapter, "The Trend of American Foreign Policy," how the Roosevelt government tried to cope with Japan's increasing demands on China for political and economic concession, and how American policy shifted from supporting peace to avoiding conflict with Japan. The United States, Borg explains, would not consider any cooperative undertaking to end the Sino-Japanese war, limited itself to a policy of moral suasion (which it thought bold), and in the end was reduced to searching for an almost "magic solution" to the problems it faced. Offner discusses the American role in the quest for peace in Europe through the appeasement of Germany, focusing in this chapter, "To Munich and War," on the German-Czech crisis of 1938 which led to the Munich Conference, and then recapitulating American policy during the previous six years. Although Borg's and Offner's works were done independently of each other, they agree on the genuine efforts made at appeasement, the shortcomings and ultimate failure of American diplomacy, and the way in which problems in the Far East and Europe were gradually merged, and perceived to be merging by American diplomats, into a larger context which would lead to world war with the so-called Axis powers. The two works provide a complementary analysis of American foreign policy in this crucial period.

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