Foreign Policy of the Roosevelt Administration

August 29, 1940

Report Outline
Foreign Policy in the Presidential Campaign
Good Neighbor Policy and Latin America
Administration's Policy in the Far East
The Administration and Europe's Crises

Foreign Policy in the Presidential Campaign

Continuance of the war in Europe may be expected to project the foreign policy of the Roosevelt administration into a place of prominence in the presidential campaign, although opportunities for political debate in that field may be limited by the absence of sharp differences between the Democratic and Republican positions. Prevalence of disturbed conditions throughout a large part of the world ever since President Roosevelt took office has made conduct of the foreign relations of the United States a primary activity of his administration. A positive record thus exists as a basis for campaign discussion by the candidates and for consideration by the public.

Chief Characteristics of Roosevelt's Foreign Policy

From the outset, the President has emphasized good neighborliness as a guiding principle of American foreign policy. The “good neighbor policy,” however, has come to be associated chiefly with relations of the United States with the countries of Latin America. The outstanding characteristic of administration policy toward Europe and Asia has been an outspoken opposition to the acts and methods of totalitarian aggressors and a corresponding sympathy for “peace-loving” democracies. Until the outbreak of the European war, the administration was restrained in implementation of the latter policy by the influence of strong isolationist blocs in Congress. Last autumn it succeeded in obtaining passage of legislation to lift the arms embargo of the Neutrality Act, so as to permit extension of material aid to the Allies. At the Democratic national convention in Chicago, however, the isolationists reasserted sufficient strength to win adoption of a platform plank on foreign policy which met their demands more explicitly than administration forces had apparently desired.

The administration has had full support in application of the good neighbor policy in Latin America. Its handling of European and Far Eastern relations, on the other hand, has been subjected from time to time to varying degrees of criticism, resulting for the most part from the persisting division between isolationists and those who would have the United States take an active part in collective efforts for the maintenance of peace or the punishment of aggression outside the Western Hemisphere. The administration's predilection for collective security was manifested repeatedly, from 1935 to 1939, during the successive struggles over enactment and revision of neutrality legislation, which Congress insisted upon fashioning along mandatory and isolationist lines. While the government's active promotion of aid to the Allies has had the support of a majority of public opinion, underlying isolationist sentiment has nevertheless made it necessary for the administration more than once to explain and justify its course and to insist that it would not lead the country into war.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
World War II
Jul. 20, 1944  Foreign Relief
Feb. 09, 1944  Diplomatic Recognition
May 07, 1943  Colonies After the War
Feb. 08, 1943  War Experience of British Newspapers
May 28, 1942  North Pacific Fronts
May 07, 1942  Invasion of Europe
Apr. 06, 1942  Governments in Exile
Sep. 13, 1941  Britain's Dominions and the European War
Aug. 29, 1940  Foreign Policy of the Roosevelt Administration
Jun. 17, 1940  Gateways to the Mediterranean
Campaigns and Elections
U.S. at War: World War II