Crossroads Of Decision

Crossroads Of Decision: The State Department and Foreign Policy, 1933-1937

Howard Jablon
Copyright Date: 1983
Edition: 1
Pages: 196
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  • Book Info
    Crossroads Of Decision
    Book Description:

    In this provocative interpretation of New Deal diplomacy, Howard Jablon challenges the view that the State Department was wiser and more expert at international maneuver than was President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the early years of his presidency. These were years of growing world tension, with the preliminary shots of World War II being fired as Japan took over Manchuria, Italy made Ethiopia an extension of its new Roman Empire, and all the European great powers tried out their new weaponry in Spain. The author argues that the department's advice in this period actually led to unfortunate decisions which later had a considerable impact on events leading to World War II.

    Former Secretary of State Cordell Hull wrote in his memoirs that the United States was at the "oriental crossroads of decision" in 1934. Hull and his colleagues in the State Department did not suggest blocking the Japanese. Instead, they recommended continuing the ineffective nonrecognition policy. Consequently, the roads taken by American diplomacy at this and other junctures were equally unfortunate.

    To date no one has criticized the influence of the State Department on New Deal diplomacy.Crossroads of Decisionrepresents a timely and important contribution to our understanding of both the State Department and foreign policy in this interwar period of rapid change, when diplomatic courses were set that allowed for no turning back.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4840-3
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. 1. The Economics of an Old Deal
    (pp. 1-19)

    Herbert Feis, the economic adviser of the State Department in both the Hoover and Roosevelt administrations, recalls how the presence of the Bonus Expeditionary Force in Washington in 1932 dramatized the sad economic plight of the country.¹ That summer World War I veterans went to Washington to lobby for a bill providing payment of war service bonuses. The veterans built a shantytown on Anacostia Flats. When they ran out of space, they squatted on land and in unused government buildings on Pennsylvania Avenue. The Senate refused to approve the bonus bill, and about half of the Bonus Force went home,...

  5. 2. Recognition of the Soviet Union
    (pp. 20-37)

    Hull was not alone in the search for a golden key to unlock the treasures of economic internationalism and thereby end the depression. The president and others saw an equally lucrative answer in the establishment of diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union as a way to increase trade. Senators William E. Borah of Idaho and Hiram W. Johnson of California believed that nonrecognition had unfortunate economic consequences in light of the depressed condition of the United States. Business leaders shared this view. James D. Mooney, vice-president of General Motors, told the American Automobile Club of Paris that diplomatic relations were...

  6. 3. Recognizing Others: Cuba and Liberia
    (pp. 38-51)

    Recognition of the Soviet government was a routine occurrence in that it had no immediate profound effect on the course of events. In other instances during the early New Deal period, the granting or withholding of recognition had immediate and sometimes devastating effects. Small and weak countries that were dependent upon American economic ties, especially countries in which the economy was based primarily upon a single extractive industry, could not afford action that might upset trade. The potent effects of a nonrecognition policy to promote American interests were clearly demonstrated in relations with Cuba and Liberia.

    American foreign policy with...

  7. 4. Open and Closed Doors: The Far East
    (pp. 52-65)

    Cordell Hull continued without substantial modification the Far Eastern policy of his predecessor, Henry L. Stimson. Hull’s inability to pursue a different course of action demonstrates the adverse effects of tradition and bureaucratic control on diplomacy. These influential forces went unnoticed at the time, and speculation about Hull’s range of authority was confined to his relationship with the new president. Hull maintained that before 1936 he enjoyed almost total control over foreign policy.¹ If Roosevelt’s “bombshell message” to the London economic conference and Raymond Moley’s in-subordination are regarded as indicative only of a period of adjustment in Hull’s association with...

  8. 5. Collective Security
    (pp. 66-79)

    The degree to which members of the State Department accepted the principle of collective security is open to question. Historian Robert A. Divine called attention to the issue in an investigation of the arms embargo debate of 1933. He noted that aside from their analyses of major events, historians have neglected Franklin D. Roosevelt’s foreign policy before 1937. Divine sought to fill the void by concentrating on Roosevelt’s attitude toward collective security as revealed by the president’s action during the arms embargo controversy in 1933. Before offering his own evaluation of Roosevelt’s position, Divine commented on two earlier, opposed accounts...

  9. 6. The Response to Neutrality Legislation
    (pp. 80-96)

    The State Department’s attitudes on the arms embargo issue and on neutrality legislation were closely related. In both, the department revealed its intention to promote European peace and prevent American involvement in another European war. Although disagreements persisted among department officials concerning the efficacy of neutrality legislation, they supported a discretionary neutrality bill. Their reservations centered on the rigid and automatic character of congressional proposals and not on the neutrality principle. In particular, the State Department wanted to maintain executive discretion in applying the provisions of such legislation. The department endorsed a neutrality bill, but this action did not represent,...

  10. 7. Neutrality and the Italian - Ethiopian War
    (pp. 97-112)

    State Department handling of the Italian-Ethiopian war demonstrated its view of neutrality policy as a means to avoid political involvement in European problems. Although several officials in the department objected to the government’s neutrality policy as applied to this war and believed the United States should help punish the aggressor, they remained silent out of fear of being proven wrong. The majority of department officers favored noninvolvement and denegated policies that might lead to a European war with American participation.¹

    As events developed, four closely related issues confronted the State Department: first, the timing of the neutrality proclamation; second, the...

  11. 8. Beyond Neutrality to Noninterference: The Spanish Civil War
    (pp. 113-130)

    The Spanish civil war occupies a unique place in the history of the interwar years. It symbolized the ideological conflicts between fascism, communism, and liberal democracy. It was thecause cèlèbreof the 1930s; it made dispassionate policy making difficult. One historian observed, “There was something pure about the Spanish war. The enthusiasm it engendered was a springtime that briefly loosened the wintry grip of a world grown old and weary and cynical.”¹ Disagreements within the State Department, by and large, resembled differences of opinion elsewhere. An influential group supported the rebel forces of General Francisco Franco while a less...

  12. 9. A Final Appraisal
    (pp. 131-138)

    During the early New Deal years, the Department of State participated in the design and conduct of foreign policy. At that time Roosevelt was not as involved in policy making as he was during World War II. He sought the advice of Secretary Hull and others, though he often ignored the department in his search for ideas, thus causing Hull difficult moments. But there was substantially less presidential control over policy than in later years. Hull’s claim that he was not a functionary who carried messages to and from foreign governments is correct, once his difficulties with Moley and other...

  13. Epilogue
    (pp. 139-140)

    On October 5, 1937, President Roosevelt proposed in a speech in Chicago that the peace-loving nations of the world quarantine the aggressor nations. Although there is controversy among historians as to what the statement meant, some evidence suggests that Roosevelt had in mind a longrange naval blockade of Japan.¹ Whatever his immediate intentions, it is clear that after 1937 Roosevelt became more active in foreign policy making than he had been earlier. From that point on, the State Department’s role in designing policy diminished.

    The “Quarantine” speech is a line of demarcation in New Deal diplomacy. Before 1937 world politics...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 141-162)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 163-172)
  16. Index
    (pp. 173-182)