American Foreign Policy 1921-1941 and The Coming of WWII


Washington Disarmament Conference

1921 - 1922

What: Military conference held by President Warren Harding with the major powers in Europe and Asia regarding interests in arms limitation, as well as East Asian lands and waters.
Why: Passed the Five-Power Treaty. Successfully maintained peace throughout the 20s, but credited with enabling the rise of Japan as a naval power.

Five Power Treaty


What: Established a 5:5:3 ratio of arms allowed by Britain, America, and Japan.
Why: Prevented an arms race by putting a brake on the upward trend of battleship size and halting new construction entirely for more than a decade.

Dawes Plan


What: President Hoover and Chicago banker Dawes worked out a plan to aid the recovery of the German economy crippled by Versailles' war reparations. Reduced Germany's debt, stretched out the repayment period, and arranged for American bankers to lend funds to Germany.
Why: Helped stabilize Germany's currency and allowed it to make reparations payments to France and Britain. In turn, the Allies were better abel to pay their war debts to the US.

Kellogg-Briand Pact


What: Sponsored by the US. Signatories promised not to use war to resolve conflicts or disputes, instead settle them peacefully.
Why: Stepping-stone to a more activist American foreign policy. Served as legal basis for "crimes against peace" used to persecute German and Japanese WWII leaders. Failed to end war or stop the rise of militarism.

Hoover-Stimson Doctrine


What: Followed Japan's unilateral seizure of Manchuria in 1931. Declared US policy of non-recognition of international territorial changes that were executed by force.
Why: Attempted to protect US treaty interests and the "open door" in China. Alienated the Japanese.

Good Neighbor Policy

1933 - 1945

What: Foreign policy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's administration towards Latin America. Promised non-intervention and non-interference in Latin America's domestic affairs in the hopes of receiving reciprocal trade agreements. Ended occupation of Nicaragua and repealed the Platt Amendment. Enlisted popular media to help change the perception of Latin America and its people.
Why: Represented divergence from TR, Taft, and Wilson's approaches. Ended during the ramp up to the Cold War, when the US felt the need to defend the hemisphere against Soviet encroachment.

Nye Committee Investigations

1934 - 1936

What: Series of special committee hearings that aimed to determine the influence of financial and banking special interests on US entry to WWI. Investigated the munitions industry, government ship building contracts, and war profits. Found that arms factories had profited immensely from the war and that bankers had pressured Wilson to enter the war to protect their foreign loans.
Why: Concluded that the US had entered the war for profit, rather than as a defense of good versus evil. Gave momentum to the non-interventionist movement and sparked the passage of the Neutrality Acts.

Neutrality Acts

1935 - 1939

1935 - Embargo on trading arms and war materials with any country engaged in a war
1936 - Renewed the 1935 provisions. Banned all loans or credits to belligerents.
1937 - Renewed the 1935/6 provisions without expiration date, now including civil wars. US ships banned from transporting any passengers or goods to belligerents. US citizens from travelling on ships of belligerent nations. Enabled the President to permit sales to warring countries if the country transported the goods and paid in cash.
1939 - Allowed for arms trade with belligerent nations on the cash-and-carry basis. 1935 and 37 Acts repealed
Why: Manifestation of popular isolationism and non-interventionism. Made no distinction between aggressor and victim. Limited the US' ability to aid Britain and France against Germany.

Lend-Lease Act


What: An arrangement for the transfer of war supplies, including food, machinery, weaponry, and services to nations whose solvency was considered vital to the defense of the US in WWII.
Why: Made Britain the first beneficiary of massive American aid. Broke away from non-interventionist tradition and marked the end of the US' pretense of neutrality.

Atlantic Charter


What: Churchill and Roosevelt's statement of common principles and war aims, such as freedom from fear, want, or tyranny; international free trade, disarmament, and end to territorial seizure.
Why: Defined the Allied goals for the post-war world. Inspired many future international agreements, such as the GATT and UN.