From Neutrality to Engagement— His Role in Achieving Victory and Similarity to Obama
By Mr. Razzaq K. Mansoor Al-Seedi, First Secretary, Embassy of Iraq in The Netherlands.
In spring 1940, as the War spread throughout Western Europe, driving the British and French armies out of the continent, slowly the public opinion moved toward supporting a more effective American role in the conflict. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was no exception. Subsequently, he managed to convince the Congress to repeal the Neutrality Acts that was passed in the 1930s. This made it possible for the US to sell weapons to Britain.
On 8 December 1941, FDR asked the Congress for approval to declare the war against Japan that attacked Pearl Harbor, and the Congress approved within hours. In turn, Germany and Italy declared war on the US and the Congress as well reciprocated.
This prompt coordination between the Democrat and the Republican was not a coincidence. A year before the attack, In FDR’s efforts to bring more support to his policy, he appointed two Republicans for important positions, former Secretary of State Henry Stimson was Secretary of War and Frank Knox was Secretary of the Navy.[i] Moreover, according to Robert Dallek, an American historian specializing in American Presidents, “Historians generally give Roosevelt high marks for his direction of wartime strategy. As this and other recent studies conclude, Roosevelt was the principal architect of the basic strategic decisions that contributed so heavily to the early defeat of Germany and Japan”[ii] (p. 532).
When the War ended, FDR was extremely keen on creating the UN. However, he did not want to repeat the mistake of League of Nations. One conditionality for the new democratic body was that world peace to be maintained by few countries that he trusted, namely China, Russia, the UK, and the US. In his Christmas Eve speech in December 1943 he captured that image; Britain, Russia, China, the United States and their Allies represent more than three-quarters of the total population of the earth. As long as these four nations with great military power stick together in determination to keep the peace there will be no possibility of an aggressor nation arising to start another war.[iii] (p.609)
This indicates his vision of these four countries as “four policemen” who would maintain the world peace, and eliminating the possibility of rising new “aggressor nations” who would threat the world peace.
Similarity between Roosevelt and Obama
Some scholars have pointed out that the former President, Barack Obama and Roosevelt have several in common. Both are democrats; both show a jaunty sense in the middle of despair, as E.J Dionne, American journalist and political commentator, wrote:
(I)t would seem that Obama has been studying the 1932 campaign of Franklin D. Roosevelt. The key to Roosevelt’s victory was not a big program but a jaunty sense of optimism in the midst of despair…(Obama) seemed to be channeling FDR when he told a crowd in Indianapolis on Wednesday: “This isn’t a time for fear.’ ” McCain, however, was attempting to freighting voters about Obama, exactly what Herbert Hoover trying to do with Roosevelt.[iv] (p.300)
This shows the long lasting influence of FDR for later Presidents and leaders. Although FDR’s terms were faced with extremely unique circumstances, American Presidents have a lot to learn from their esteemed predecessor, especially in the midst of tremendous difficulties. And Obama is an example of many such Presidents.
[ii] Dallek, Robert. Franklin D. Roosevelt and American Foreign Policy: 1932-1945. Oxford University Press, (1995).
[iii] Frost, Bryan-Paul & Sikkenga, Jeffrey, (2003) History of American Political Thought, Lexington Books. MD-USA.
[iv] Leuchtenburg, William Edward, In the Shadow of FDR: From Harry Truman to Barack Obama, (2009), retrieved on November11, 2012. Available at < http://books.google.com/books?id=TIW1gw4VIT0C&printsec=frontcover&dq=Franklin+D.+Roosevelt+and+the+New+Deal+1932+1940+by+William+E.+Leuchtenburg&hl=en&sa=X&ei=FagULnWKcew0AHouIHwBg&ved=0CDMQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=Franklin%20D.%20Roosevelt%20and%20the%20New%20Deal%201932%201940%20by%20William%20E.%20Leuchtenburg&f=false>