Franklin D. Roosevelt and American Foreign Policy, 1932-1945

Franklin D. Roosevelt and American Foreign Policy, 1932-1945

Franklin D. Roosevelt and American Foreign Policy, 1932-1945

Franklin D. Roosevelt and American Foreign Policy, 1932-1945


Since the original publication of this classic book in 1979, Roosevelt's foreign policy has come under attack on three main points: Was Roosevelt responsible for the confrontation with Japan that led to the attack at Pearl Harbor? Did Roosevelt "give away" Eastern Europe to Stalin and the U.S.S.R. at Yalta? And, most significantly, did Roosevelt abandon Europe's Jews to the Holocaust, making no direct effort to aid them?

In a new Afterword to his definitive history, Dallek vigorously and brilliantly defends Roosevelt's policy. He emphasizes how Roosevelt operated as a master politician in maintaining a national consensus for his foreign policy throughout his presidency and how he brilliantly achieved his policy and military goals.


This book has two general purposes: to meet the need for a comprehensive one-volume study of Franklin Roosevelt’s foreign policy, and to wrestle anew with the many intriguing questions about that subject.

The nineteen seventies have been a good time to reconsider FDR’s direction of foreign affairs. The appearance of a large and generally excellent specialized literature and the availability of almost the entire American and British record on foreign relations in the thirties and the forties allowed me to reappraise and revise significant parts of the Roosevelt story, particularly on the war years. The London Economic Conference of 1933, the Spanish Civil War, the Quarantine Address, Munich, the Welles Mission of 1940, the Atlantic Conference of 1941, American participation in the war, wartime policy toward Russia and China, the origins of the Unconditional Surrender doctrine, Trusteeships, the Morgenthau Plan, and the Atomic Bomb are some of the principal subjects on which I think Roosevelt’s intentions have not been fully understood.

Roosevelt’s actions, as many others have observed, are not easy to explain, Rexford G. Tugwell, one of his advisers and biographers, has written, “[He] deliberately concealed the processes of his mind. He would rather have posterity believe that for him everything was always plain and easy… than ever to admit to any agony of indecision… any misgiving about mistakes.” “… You are one of the most difficult men to work with that I have ever known,” Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes once told FDR. “Because I get too hard at times?” the President asked. “No,” Ickes answered, because “… you won’t talk frankly even with people who are loyal to you.… You keep your cards close up against your belly. You never put them on the table.”

I make no claim to some special technique for deciphering Roosevelt’s motives. My method has been to reconstruct as fully as possible the context in which he acted. Following Roosevelt in this way gives one the feeling of peering into a kaleidoscope in which a shifting array of pressures moved him from one position to another: his own ideas, domestic considerations, and foreign events, either individually or in various combinations, determined Roosevelt’s behavior in foreign affairs. The challenge . . .

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