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Title:No middle way: Franklin D. Roosevelt and limited war, 1940-1942
Author(s):Bunch, Stephen G.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Widenor, William C.
Department / Program:History, United States
History, Modern
Discipline:History, United States
History, Modern
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):History, United States
History, Modern
Abstract:From March, 1941, until the attack on Pearl Harbor, Franklin D. Roosevelt pursued a policy of de facto undeclared war on Germany--a policy clearly designed to contain German expansion by limited means--while fully expecting that this essentially defensive policy could persist indefinitely. But meanwhile his public discourse depicted the Nazi threat to America as overwhelming, and he demanded the total defeat of Hitler's regime. To continue with this limited/unlimited dual-track policy would in time likely have risked his political prestige both at home and abroad. Pearl Harbor and Hitler's subsequent declaration of war led the President to resolve his mounting predicament by discarding the policy of limited means and endorsing total war in Europe.
Several questions inform the body of this study: first, why did FDR pursue diverging rhetorical and policy paths? Second, why did the President, as it became clear to him and to others that the British and Soviets likely would continue to resist Hitler effectively with limited American aid, favor, and finally opt for an unlimited-war-aim/unlimited-means combination rather than for continuing his policy of limited means and then matching it with a limited war aim? Third, after Hitler's operation BARBAROSSA, were FDR's continuing assumptions about the scope and nature of the Nazi threat, coupled with his uncompromising rhetoric, conducive to prudent and flexible policymaking? Yet given the American self-image as moral citadel or moral redeemer, and given the not unrelated isolationist/interventionist political divide, did he truly have any policy alternatives? Lastly, what were the effects of FDR's assumptions, methods, and policies on the behavior of succeeding administrations?
This study examines these questions by tracing FDR and his administration's words and actions, especially for the critical months of 1941. Also considered is Roosevelt's personal background, along with political, ideological, and bureaucratic forces that may have influenced his decisions. The evidence suggests that, more than is true for many presidents, FDR's background and personal predilections shaped U.S. policy toward Germany in the years 1941 and 1942. In turn, FDR's record probably contributed to a Cold War containment doctrine that in practice occasionally suffered from similar dichotomies and excesses.
Issue Date:1994
Rights Information:Copyright 1994 Bunch, Stephen G.
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9522083
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9522083

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