Isolationism and Franklin Delano Roosevelt

The great depression and isolationism demanded new international policies and relations that would help America to overcome the economic crisis and played an active role in international affairs. Always a consummate politician, Franklin Roosevelt saw an isolationism welling up among the population and veered away from confronting this trend. For several years Franklin Roosevelt had tiptoed around the American’s growing policy of isolationism by keeping silent.

Franklin Roosevelt saw grave political dangers in Wilson’s politics, and he did not want to see the convention vote divided between the factions. Thus, new economic conditions and World War I demanded new social order. During this period o time, Franklin Roosevelt was faced with growing international tensions and deepening problems at home, domestic and foreign policies were more intertwined than ever before. For both state international order and economic stability and the appeasement of the political dictators offered national benefits in the economic, financial, social, and political spheres; equally the national policies adopted in the search for national cohesion, economic revival, and social peace all had direct consequences for foreign policy1.

The main changes in international politics were the rise of Germany and European powers and the economic recovery of the European nations. Franklin Roosevelt supposed that the American state needed new effective international politics to protect the nation and integrate into a new social and political system. Roosevelt’s foreign policies emerged in the 1930s because of new waves of military aggression and militarization of the European nations, Britain, and Germany. The implications were directly felt in foreign and security strategies where spending restrictions served to heighten the sense of inadequacy. The American government attached great importance to the military power available and to the opinions of their advisers. Although both continued to dispose of military forces, the feelings of a shortfall in the levels needed to tackle productively international problems, or to continue to meet their worldwide commitments, ran deep in military alliances and among their political chiefs2.

The economic depression of the 1930s, falling standards of living, the unparalleled number of unemployed in America, the resulting social unrest, and the emotional environment this engendered all played a role in foreign policy. To the socially and politically stable European nations, the possibility of a spillover of the international ideological battles into national politics was a constant terror mainly in 1935 and 1936 which saw a deepening of these political conflicts and of the linkages between them on the national and international planes. Also, growing numbers of isolationists feared international alliances as threats to national autonomy and some even went so far as to blame proponents of treason. In the economic environment of the mid-1930s, Britain and France chose to reduce their rearmament in the interest of overriding fiscal and budgetary aims3. For America, the strength of isolationist opposition and momentum for a policy of appeasement and made any alternative strategy more difficult than ever. In this, the attempts to achieve peace at home and abroad were linked. These shared national desires and challenges go some way to explaining the society of interest that existed between the USA and European countries and their responses to the new fascist challenge. The end result was to reinforce the case for an international policy of conciliation and to underline the need for international solidarity.


Black, K. Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom. PublicAffairs; export ed edition, 2005.


  1. Black, K. Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom. (PublicAffairs; export ed edition, 2005), 43.
  2. Black, K. Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom. (PublicAffairs; export ed edition, 2005), 43.
  3. Ibid., 54.

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