A Changing of the Guard: Anglo-American Relations, 1941-1946

A Changing of the Guard: Anglo-American Relations, 1941-1946

A Changing of the Guard: Anglo-American Relations, 1941-1946

A Changing of the Guard: Anglo-American Relations, 1941-1946

Synopsis

This is a remarkable achievement. It is a comprehensive account of the transfer of power from Britain to the United States and the first study grounded in now available official records and private papers on both sides of the Atlantic. A Changing of the Guards is an exhaustive and compelling analysis.

Excerpt

World war II accelerated the decline of British power in every realm except perhaps the moral. Forced to bear the brunt of fighting against the Axis powers from 1939 to 1941, the United Kingdom liquidated overseas assets, abandoned traditional markets, and borrowed billions of pounds from the sterling area. The war, moreover, burst apart the old European nation-state system, momentarily destroying British power in the Far East and stimulating anticolonial sentiment throughout the Third World. Each of these factors contributed to the disintegration of the financial and colonial empire. In its weakened condition Great Britain turned for aid to the United States, first for the material and munitions with which to defeat the Axis and then for the resources that would guarantee Britain's economic and military security in the immediate postwar period.

In its efforts to use American power to shore up its postwar position, London pursued two primary objectives--a United States commitment to the military security of Western Europe, and a massive program of economic aid that would (1) forestall the necessity of imposing an unprecedented austerity program on the British people, (2) enable Britain to maintain its strategic outposts around the world, and (3) make it possible for the United Kingdom to participate in a system of multilateral trade.

The Roosevelt and Truman administrations recognized the importance to America of a stable, democratic, noncommunist, and nonfascist Europe. Moreover, both governments embraced multilateralism as a mechanism that would promote full employment in the United States, raise living standards in underdeveloped areas, and strengthen the British economy. The White House and the State Department were, moreover, willing to furnish the foreign aid necessary to maintain a balance of power in Europe and make multilateralism work. The creation of an integrated world economy through the reduction of trade barriers and economic specialization was, they believed, a prerequisite to lasting peace. Both presidents, however, were circumscribed in their policy and decision making by the forces of nationalism, fiscal conservatism, and isolationism within Congress and the federal bureaucracy, and among the American people as a whole. Despite the untiring efforts of the Churchill and Attlee governments and the cooperative attitude of the White House, the United States proved unwilling through 1945 to make a commitment to the military security of Western Europe or to an authentic system of multilateral trade.

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