The Vichy Policy
ALL-OUT AID TO BRITAIN WAS THE MOST IMPORTANT specific mandate of the 1940 election. Invention and enactment of the Lend Lease Act consumed the winter months of 1940-1. In the meantime, the President developed his administration's internationalist foreign policy in another area, where no specific mandate helped him and, indeed, misunderstanding and criticism came chiefly from his most ardent internationalist supporters. His Vichy policy was fixed shortly after the election and prior to the formulation of Lend Lease.
The most striking features of the Vichy policy were obscured at the time by loud and mistaken cries of "appeasement." The chief objects of Roosevelt and Hull in their French policy were to withhold the French navy from Hitler, to re-establish the united front between France and Britain against the Axis, and to organize centers of resistance to Hitler in France and in her possessions--centers which were used, when the moment arrived, to expel Hitler from Africa and France and defeat him in Germany. All three objectives were extremely bold. The first--to withhold the French fleet from Hitler--required constant diplomatic pressure. In pursuing the second, Roosevelt and Hull became the chief political architects of the coalition of nations which ultimately defeated the Axis and established the United Nations. Britain lost leadership in such an undertaking for the first time in modern history. In pursuing the third, the United States assumed leadership in the formulation of the military strategy which achieved victory for the coalition.