Disclaimer: This is an example of a student written essay.
Click here for sample essays written by our professional writers.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of UKEssays.com.

The Transition from Isolationism to Intervention in America

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: International Relations
Wordcount: 1824 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

Reference this

  Due to the gruesome experience & aftermath of WWI, approximately 90% of Americans supported isolationism regarding U.S. involvement in another war (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum).  The continued efforts to remain in a state of “neutrality” and maintain stability in the world by intervention were choices that kept Americans in opposition with one another. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and administration faced many challenges in striving to keep America “neutral”.
 By the mid-1930’s it seemed as though a new world war was taking shape in Asia and Europe. When Benito Mussolini, leader of Italy and the Fascist Party (rejected democratic forms of government and favored dictatorship), planned to invade Ethiopia, U.S. Congress acted to “protect neutral rights” and not become entrapped in the conflict (Brinkley 613-619). On August 31, 1935, the first Neutrality Act was established. It prohibited military weapons, ammunition, etc. against both sides in any military conflict and discouraged Americans to travel (or do so at their own risk) on any ships of the nations at war. On February 29, 1936, Congress revised the first Neutrality Act and prohibited America from advancing any loans to nations at war. The Spanish Civil War in 1936 and the widespread progression of fascism in Europe led to expanding the Neutrality Act of 1937, aka the “cash-and-carry” policy, that allowed nations at war to purchase only non-military goods and do so by only paying cash and shipping their goods themselves on non-American ships. Since raw materials like oil and food were not considered “weapons of war”, it would be a prosperous venture for the nation that acquired it. Unlike the rest of the Neutrality Act of 1937, which was permanent, this part of it had an expiration date of two years (Brinkley 613-619, Longley).
    WWII, already happening in Asia, began in Europe on September 3, 1939, when Britain and France declared war on Germany, two days after Hitler and the Nazi troops in Poland. Even though President Roosevelt stated, “this nation will remain a neutral nation”, he and most Americans favored Britain, France, and the Allied nations in the conflict after the invasion of Poland (Brinkley 613-619). Due to numerous defense of armies and weapons that Hitler had acquired for Germany, President Roosevelt began to weigh America’s “neutrality” against the burden to help democratic nations defend themselves against the progression of fascism like that of Germany and Italy. On November 4, 1939, Congress passed the final Neutrality Act. This act lifted the prohibition of military weapons, ammunition, etc., (ending the arms embargo) and trade with nations at war had to adhere to the “cash-and-carry” policy for the sale of non-military goods that the previous Neutrality Act of 1937 indicated. Nevertheless, the prohibition of advancing any loans and transporting goods on American ships to nations at war remained intact, which benefited Britain and France tremendously. Overall, the Neutrality Acts were a way in which America could pacify the opinions of those who supported isolationism, while still intervening and protecting America’s interests in a foreign war (Brinkley 613-619, Longley).
    Within the next year, President Roosevelt and his administration gained even more steps to oppose the progression of fascism and intervention in WWII. On May 15, 1940, a desperate Winston Churchill, who had only been Prime Minister of Britain for five days, contacted President Roosevelt requesting his assistance in supplying England with “weapons of war”. The British military was in serious trouble and more than likely without our help they would not survive. President Roosevelt did not hesitate to ask Congress for an additional $1 billion to aid England in the war and it was granted without delay. America supplied them with 50 American destroyers (WWI left-overs), new aircraft, etc., bypassing the stipulations of the Neutrality Acts. However, President Roosevelt wanted something in return for providing aid to them. He wanted the right to build American bases on British territory in the Caribbean and Canada. Thus, the “Destroyer for Bases Agreement” was reached in August that shifted from a loan to a “lease agreement” in exchange for our giving Britain “weapons of war”, America would obtain the British territory to build the American bases. This agreement had a major fluctuation in the American opinion of isolationism from foreign policy to intervention in the war against the Axis forces (Germany, Italy, Japan, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria). According to opinion polls, more than 66% of Americans believed that the Axis forces posed a threat to America and favored our assistance to the Allies (Brinkley 622). President Roosevelt firmly believed that America should be an “arsenal for democracy” to the Allied armies.
    At the end of 1940, Britain was “virtually bankrupt” and could not meet the requirements of the “cash-and-carry” provisions of the Neutrality Acts (Brinkley 622).  President Roosevelt knew some changes had to be made in how America was supplying defense aid to Britain. He proposed the “Lend-Lease Act” at the end of 1940 to Congress. The “Lend-Lease Act” authorized the American government to sell, lend, exchange, or lease arms and/or any defense “weapons of war” to any nation it “deemed vital to the defense of the United States” (Brinkley 623, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum). In other words, America could channel “weapons of war” to Britain with no more than a promise to return them when the war was over. The “Lend-Lease Act” was approved on March 11, 1941, by Congress (Brinkley 623, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum).

    On December 7, 1941, a surprise attack from Japanese bombers at our naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, which was a correlated effort to destroy and/or damage American and British holdings in Asia. America lost 8 battleships, 3 cruisers, 4 other vessels, 188 airplanes, etc. and more than 2,400 soldiers/sailors died, another 1,000 were injured, within 2 hours (Brinkley 625). The American military was now compromised and reduced to a minimum in the Pacific. The only positive note about the attack was that no American aircraft carriers (the heart of the fleet) had been at Pearl Harbor that horrific day. With that being said, this tragedy brought unity with the American people to disregard isolationism views and agreed that intervention was inevitable. On December 8, 1941, Congress voted (unanimous vote for the Senate and 388 to 1 for the House) to approve a declaration of war against Japan. On December 11, 1941, Germany and Italy (allies of Japan) declared war on America and Congress retaliated without a hesitation (Brinkley 625-626). America played a crucial role in the war against Germany and Italy. Nevertheless, the price that the Allies paid was far beyond the contributions America made to it. The numerous loss of lives, socialism, and infrastructure was disheartening compared to our tragic losses. Ultimately, it was not American forces that brought the war against Japan to a close, it was the unleashing of the atomic bomb on its’ people that finally convinced the nation to surrender (Brinkley 651). When WWII ended, America was economically better than any other country in the world. America had prospered tremendously-more than anyone could have imagined-before or during the war.

Get Help With Your Essay

If you need assistance with writing your essay, our professional essay writing service is here to help!

Essay Writing Service

    After the death of President Roosevelt on April 12, 1945, the new president, Harry S. Truman agreed with the “inside” people of government and many Americans regarding the Soviet Union and the leadership of Josef Stalin that it was not to be trusted. They were viewed as “fundamentally untrustworthy” and “suspicious and even loathing” (Brinkley 658).  By the end of 1945, a new American foreign policy was slowly developing known as containment. This was policy was designed to prevent Soviet expansion and transpired into what is known as the Truman Doctrine. Ultimately, it decreased Soviet pressure on Turkey and help their government defeat communism and containment that survived for over 40 years. Another essential part of the containment policy was the Marshall Plan. In April 1947, Congress approved the Economic Cooperation Administration that executed the Marshall Plan. In three years, it provided aid to the economic reconstruction of the European nations (including the Soviet Union) and generated over $12 billion into the economic rebuilding of Western Europe. By the end of 1950, industrial production had grown to 64%, communism had declined, and opportunities for America to resume trading with them had increased dramatically (Brinkley 661).

   Although many Americans changed their opinions about isolationism to intervention regarding foreign policies, it remains a controversial topic. It has proven to have both negative and positive impacts on America and its citizens. Unfortunately, the attack on Pearl Harbor angered Americans to the point where they wanted immediate retaliation on Japan, which permanently erased isolationism from their minds. It is sad that it took such a horrific tragedy as this to sway the views/opinions from isolationism to intervention. In contrast, it is also a matter of whether it is beneficial or not favorable for America to remain “neutral”. 

Works Cited

  • Brinkley, Alan. “Chapter 25.” The Unfinished Nation, A Concise History of the American People. 8th ed. Vol. 2. N.p.: McGraw Hill Education, n.d. 613-619, 622-623, 625-626. Print. Ser. 2016.
  • Brinkley, Alan. “Chapter 26.” The Unfinished Nation, A Concise History of the American People. 8th ed. Vol. 2. N.p.: McGraw Hill Education, n.d. 643-651. Print. Ser. 2016.
  • Brinkley, Alan. “Chapter 27.” The Unfinished Nation, A Concise History of the American People. 8th ed. Vol. 2. N.p.: McGraw Hill Education, n.d. 658-665. Print. Ser. 2016.
  • Longley, Robert. “US Neutrality Acts of the 1930s and the Lend-Lease Act.” ThoughtCo, Sep. 26, 2018, thoughtco.com/us-neutrality-acts-of-the-1930s-and-the-lend-lease-act-4126414.
  • United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, “The United States: Isolation-Intervention”, Holocaust Encyclopedia, https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/the-united-states-isolation-intervention, 03 December 2018.



Cite This Work

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing stye below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.

Related Services

View all

DMCA / Removal Request

If you are the original writer of this essay and no longer wish to have your work published on UKEssays.com then please: