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A Focus on the United State's Isolationism

Updated on June 9, 2020
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Nyamweya is a Kenyan scholar who has done many years of research on a diversity of topics

The United States Isolationism refers to an American policy of non-involvement in Asian and European conflicts as well as non-engagement in international affairs. This policy was largely aimed at helping the country avoid military and political conflicts across the oceans while also protecting its interests in the region. However, the country continued to expand socially and economically in Latin America. Those who had advocated for this measure drew upon history in bolstering their positions. One of the cases that triggered this move is the farewell address by President George Washington. In this address, President Washington had advocated for non-engagement of the United States in the European Politics and wars. For most of the period in the nineteenth century, the expanse of the Pacific and Atlantic had made the US to remain detached from the world conflicts while also enjoying “free security”. Simply stated, the conservatives were more of interested in their own peace, economic growth at home than relations with other nations.

After the World War 1 (between 1914 and 1918), the U.S could no longer be a bystander in world conflicts. This owed to the ramifications this war had caused not only to the nations that were involved but also other parties that did not participate, the U.S included. Towards the 1920s, the U.S attitude towards foreign worlds changed. For instance, despite the nation not having joined the League of Nations by that time, it opted to cooperate with the international agencies throughout the 1920s as well as in the 1930s. However, this cooperation was particularly on matters to do with drug trafficking, and trade. Additionally, the U.S spearheaded efforts of advancing diplomatic discussions regarding limited disarmament which could enable resolving of queries related to war reparations, debts as well as in generally maintaining world peace. This is the time when America disentangled itself from isolationism policies to involvement of European affairs.

The Second World War experienced between 1939 to 1945 created a reason why the United States could no longer be a lone ranger in the Western world. When France fell to Germans by 1940, Britain remained to be the only stronghold between the U.S and German. The United States became afraid of the word after the war and worked out strategies on how they can coexist with Europe’s fascist power. In a speech delivered by the then president Roosevelt in 1940, he argued that continuing to live under isolation was an obvious delusion that the U.S could no longer afford to maintain. He then commissioned a survey which found that a majority of Americans supported obligatory military training to all young men to prepare for any eventualities. The fascist powers had different ideals with the United States and this had created a rift between the two powers. In this respect, the interventionists lead by President Franklin Roosevelt claimed that it was no longer possible to remain spectators in a war against themselves. In 1941, the administration of president Roosevelt made decided that the U.S will engage itself in war. The policy shift spearheaded by the president came into levels. The first level was in 1939 through passing of the Fourth Neutrality Act. This Act made it possible for the nation to trade arms with warring nations as long as these nations were willing to get the arms from America and pay for them in cash. The second level was the Lend-Lease Act of early 1941. The passage of this Act made it possible for the president to sell, lend, lease or barter arms, food, defense equipments or ammunition to any country whose defense seemed valuable to the security of the U.S. These programs were used to side economically with the French and British in their wars against the Nazis.

The United States particularly played two major contributions to the victory of the British and the Soviet Union. The first contribution was supplies; whereby; American supported the Soviet Union with food, strategic resources, 2,000 locomotives, billions of dollars worth of planes, clothing, tanks and railcars. Britain was also supplied with arms, ammunitions, and other war artillery. These suppliers were very critical at that time since it is the U.S that had the capacity to make them considering that the other states were fully engaged in the war. The United States for instance, was able to produce more and powerful airplanes and war tanks than the major powers that existed at that time. Italy, German, or Japan were not in a position to build four engine heavy bomber. Contrastingly, America produced 34,000 perfect B-29s, B-24s, B-17s. This support ensured that the countries fully concentrate on the war without fear of depleting the core resources. These gave the U.S allies a competitive edge against their enemies who have to find ways of making the resources/tools and at the same engaging in the war.

The second contribution of the United States is the direct engagement in the war. When the Pearl Harbor the U.S (Naval base) was attacked, the U.S mobilized 12 million soldiers. It should be remembered that during the 1920s, America had embarked on training its citizen on military affairs. This is the reason it was able to marshal a large number of its troops to its military. These troops were sent throughout Western Europe, Italy, North Africa and Pacific islands. Further, two simultaneous bombing campaigns were staged against Japan and German as well as submarine and surface campaigns against the Axis powers at that time (Encyclopædia Britannica, 2019). America’s war capabilities proved to be astonishing. At the giant Michigan bomb plant run by Willow Run, B-24 heavy bombers would be produced every hour. However, it was considered that the United States was the only major power which did enter the war until it was directly attacked. In essence, the U.S direct entry into war largely doomed and neutralized the Axis cause and powers.

Although all the other allies made a significant contribution to the victory of World War 2, the U.S role in material and military support was profound in reducing the time it could take in neutralizing the enemies. Apart from direct engagement and its superb military manpower and wares, the U.S had to mobile and employs its large resources in an effective manner not only in the battlefield but also in the air. These efforts and their contribution to the outcome could not be taken for granted. In fact, an analysis by Overy (2017) for BBC states that before America’s entrance in this war, British forces were about to be defeated. On the other hand, the Soviet system had become literary shattered in 1941. This is because its vast tank and air armies had been captured and destroyed. This was a war which German could have won had the U.S not entered the arena.


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