United States Economic Policy and International Relations

By Raymond F. Mikesell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7
America's International Economic Policies to the End of World War II

FROM NEUTRALITY TO LEND-LEASE

THE PERIOD from 1933 to 1937 has been described1 by James P. Warburg as the era of "New Deal Nationalism." It was a period in which the American government accepted the responsibility for the economic welfare of its people (as opposed to the essentially laissez-faire policy of the Republican administration before 1932), but accepted little responsibility in world affairs except in matters immediately related to domestic objectives. While today it is all too clear that the momentous events of this period--the rearmament of Germany, the fascist revolt in Spain, the invasion of Ethiopia, and the China "incident"--were steps which led to a world war in which we must inevitably have become involved, these events merely hardened our determination to insulate America politically and economically from foreign wars.

The Neutrality acts of 1935 and 1937 clearly expressed the intention of the United States to keep out of the next war, the clouds of which were already discernible on the international horizon. As a nation we were convinced that the Western Hemisphere could be insulated from another world war. While deploring the aggressive policies of Germany and Japan, we believed that we could avoid being drawn into war if our ships and our citizens were kept out of the war zones. Moreover, the investigations of the Nye Committee had convinced many Americans that the munition makers were in considerable measure responsible for the generation of past wars.2 The Neutrality Act of 1937, therefore, required the President to declare an embargo upon the exportation of arms, ammunition, and implements of war whenever there exists a state of war between two nations or a civil conflict within a foreign country. The 1937 Act also prohibited American vessels from transporting any articles whatsoever

____________________
1
James P. Warburg, Foreign Policy Begins at Home, Harcourt, Brace, New York, 1944, p. 103.
2
Report of the Special Committee on Investigation of the Munitions Industry, Senate Report 944, 74th Congress, 1st Session, Parts 1-7.

-81-

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