Collective Security and American Foreign Policy: From the League of Nations to NATO

By Roland N. Stromberg | Go to book overview

VII. American Entrance into the War

Undeclared War

THE CIRCUMSTANCES under which the United States entered the war in 1941 (or was it 1940?) have given rise to much controversy and some bitterness. It has been alleged that the country was tricked and deceived into war via the "back door," that the United States would have entered the war much earlier but for political cowardice on the part of her leaders or deep confusion of mind on the part of her citizens, that President Roosevelt promised publicly and solemnly that "your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars" and then reversed himself--etc., etc. The fact is that, in 1940 and 1941, the United States was in the odd and unsatisfactory position of non- belligerent unneutrality, or a state of "undeclared war." It was this strange posture that gave rise to most of the confusions. Involved in it was the idea of collective security.

"We want to defeat Hitler, but we do not want to go to war," William Bullitt reflected at this time. "These viewpoints are incompatible."1 For more than a year, the American people entertained the illusion that they could achieve both objectives. Refusal to face up to the grim either-or of war or national defeat began in the belief that the United States could somehow avoid or "prevent" war by giving economic and other nonmilitary assistance to the "victims of aggression." How certain organs of opinion developed the engaging theory that economic sanctions alone could "stop the aggressors in their tracks" has already been noted. There followed as the next step the belief that the United States could get by with giving "all aid short of war" to those who were providing the soldiers to halt aggression. Legislators voted for repeal of the arms embargo in 1939 and for the Lend-Lease bill in 1941 because they thought of it as war- prevention.2"Peace through war by proxy," Senator Arthur Vandenberg sarcastically described the idea.3

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Collective Security and American Foreign Policy: From the League of Nations to NATO
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents ix
  • I - Peace by Force? 3
  • II - Wilson and the League of Nations 22
  • III - America and World Peace in the 1920's 46
  • IV - The United States and the "Rape of Manchuria" 66
  • V - The Collapse of European Security: 1933-36 87
  • VI - Neutrality, Collective Security, and War: 1937-40 109
  • VII - American Entrance into the War 137
  • VIII - The Four Policemen 156
  • IX - The Second Failure 186
  • X - Collective Security in the Nuclear Age 213
  • XI - Concluding Analysis 230
  • Postscript 249
  • Notes 253
  • Bibliography 279
  • Index 293
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