Should America Go to War? The Debate over Foreign Policy in Chicago, 1939-1941

Should America Go to War? The Debate over Foreign Policy in Chicago, 1939-1941

Should America Go to War? The Debate over Foreign Policy in Chicago, 1939-1941

Should America Go to War? The Debate over Foreign Policy in Chicago, 1939-1941

Synopsis

In examining public debate over foreign policy in the United States between the outbreak of World War II and America's entry into the war, Schneider focuses on Chicago, a major metropolitan area that encompasses virtually every major interest group found in the nation. Analyzing opinion and activity among these groups, he reveals how widely the controversy raged and how foreign policy considerations cut across other interests. The debate splintered public opinion at the very moment when unity was most needed.

Originally published in 1989.

Excerpt

This is an exploration of how Americans struggled to define their nation's role in international affairs at a particularly crucial point in world history. When the European half of World War II began with the German invasion of Poland in 1939, United States policy reflected a degree of isolationism extreme by the standards of twentieth-century America. As embodied in the Johnson and Neutrality Acts, the policy was designed to reduce the danger of American involvement in a European war by placing restrictions on the international operations of U. S. business and financial concerns. Public support for this policy was widespread. Opinion polls revealed that an overwhelming majority of Americans wished to avoid war and believed that our involvement in World War I had been a mistake.

The two years following the outbreak of World War II would display profound modifications in the policy of noninvolvement and in the public attitudes that undergirded it. By the autumn of 1941, the United States was engaged in economic and naval warfare against Nazi Germany and was moving toward a showdown with Imperial Japan. Public majorities supported all these more belligerent actions, but in fact the nation was bitterly divided over foreign affairs. The division was multifaceted. While most Americans endorsed the Roosevelt administration's package of economic aid to the Allies and limited U. S. military involvement, a substantial minority continued to denounce these steps as likely to result in full-scale war. Interventionists disagreed among themselves . . .

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