Remaking the World: Personal Diplomacy of Franklin D. Roosevelt with the Allies during the Second World War

By Huxen, Keith | Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table, Summer 2008 | Go to article overview

Remaking the World: Personal Diplomacy of Franklin D. Roosevelt with the Allies during the Second World War


Huxen, Keith, Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table


This investigation examines visions, goals and realities facing the Great Powers in rebuilding the states of Europe at the end of the Second World War. The paper proposes to focus on the victorious Allied leaders, in particular Franklin Roosevelt's interaction with Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin, but may also bring in other perspectives (both winners and losers) as appropriate.

This exploration proposes to focus upon Roosevelt's personal efforts to shape 1) the political and economic models which were considered by Allied leaders; 2) how the military situation upon the ground affected the shifting and overall political settlement; 3) what role the historical context played amongst the thinking of Allied leaders; 4) how important the development of international organizations were in Roosevelt's diplomacy; 5) the differing viewpoints of the Allies towards traditional European diplomacy, especially regarding Eastern Europe; 6) how technology, particularly the development of the atomic bomb, affected conceptions of state-building; 7) how Roosevelt's early death affected the course of history regarding the settlement of the war and the rise of the Cold War.

Lastly, the paper will attempt to apply or comment upon the lessons of state-building and charismatic personal political leadership from the time period to the challenges of our modern world.

"... I must continue to assume that you have the same high confidence in my truthfulness and reliability that I have always had in yours."

Franklin D. Roosevelt to Joseph Stalin, April 4, 1945 (1)

Introduction

The Grand Alliance of the United States, Great Britain and Soviet Union which emerged victorious in the Second World War is notable for the extreme power concentrated in the hands of the Allied executive leaders, Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin. These three reached a pinnacle of control of world affairs rarely seen in diplomatic history, and their dealings with each other on a personal level assume a greater magnification within their political relationships.

In the wake of the Cold War which emerged from the completion of the Second World War, President Roosevelt was criticized for his vanity and reliance upon personal diplomacy with his allies, in particular regarding his relations with Stalin. It should be noted that Roosevelt's personal diplomacy was not limited to Stalin, but that he also practiced it upon Winston Churchill; defenders of the President (and Prime Minister) can legitimately claim with concrete and great results.

President Roosevelt's correspondence with both Allied leaders has recently been comprehensively published and is widely accessible to the public. What does a reading of Roosevelt's correspondence tell us of the success or failure of his personal diplomacy in the realm of international affairs and the course of the war? Can personal relations make a difference between leaders, and if so, how and where? Or does the national interest regarding security and economics always trump any personal glosses between individual politicians?

The Course of History: the Second World War

It must be kept in mind at all times when attempting to evaluate Roosevelt's efforts that he made his decisions within the framework of war. The war was paramount: all three leaders recognized that before there could be any real postwar plans to be realized, the defeat of the Axis powers, in particular Hitlerite Germany, had to be accomplished in a complete and comprehensive manner. The trend of events which ranged from political decisions made by the Axis leaders to results on the battlefields, and hence beyond the immediate control of the Allied leadership, were the parameters within which they operated. Succinctly put, the general strategy of the Allies was to defeat Germany first, Japan second.

History as Actor: the Influence of the Past on the Allied Statesmen and their Postwar Visions

History, or the presence of the past, can be seen to have two main angles of influence upon the Allied statesmen. …

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