Roosevelt, from Munich to Pearl Harbor: A Study in the Creation of a Foreign Policy

By Basil Rauch | Go to book overview

11.
Lend Lease

THE LEND LEASE ACT TRANSFORMED SMALL BEGINNINGS into a stupendous counter-drive which promised victory in the war against the Axis. It pitted against the Axis the greatest single military potential in the world-the industrial power of the United States. It invited all governments attacked by the Axis to join a new united front for collective security. Resistance to aggression was the sole requirement for admission. Lend Lease held out assurance to humanity for the first time since the rise of the Axis powers that resistance would not be in vain, that the overwhelming superiority in power of the peaceful nations might yet be organized and thrown into the scales in time for victory.

Lend Lease was the Roosevelt administration's invention. It seemed even more original than it was because Roosevelt did not place it in the framework of theoretical debates on collective security. Rather, he placed it in a setting of practical necessity, pointing to an ad hoc solution, and in this he satisfied a profound American suspicion of theory. Nevertheless, he answered the isolationist charge that Lend Lease meant war with the reasoning of a believer in collective security--that aid to the victims of aggression was a duty which gave no legal justification for reprisals, and that helping to defeat aggressors offered a better chance of avoiding war than standing idly by while they conquered peaceful nations one by one.

Ad hoc considerations, however, were uppermost in Roosevelt's mind when he conceived Lend Lease. Robert Sherwood has written a revealing description of the process whereby the President addressed himself after the election to the immediate problem of

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