DOI link for 12Concluding thoughts
12Concluding thoughts book
It is not possible to pinpoint the exact date in the twentieth century when the USA began to fear for its survival. The challenge posed by Germany during the First World War, notwithstanding the Zimmerman telegram and the scare about the possibility of a hostile German-Mexican alliance, was not of an order of magnitude to warrant fears of mortal danger.1 It was only when ideological, economic and military power were welded together, successively by Japan and Germany, and then by the Soviet Union, that American leaders perceived immediate threats to the survival of the state. Such perceptions regarding Japan and Germany took shape in the minds of some US leaders in the mid-1930s, but domestic politics and the inheritance of America’s foreign-policy traditions made it difficult to craft an effective peacetime response. Neutrality, isolationism and disarray among the liberal democracies only allowed piecemeal, inconsistent and, from the perspective of the totalitarian aggressors, irresolute responses. Even when the danger became clear and present, and when some semblance of a coherent economic defence policy began to take shape, Roosevelt was constrained by the Congress, public opinion, the law and lack of allies. Moreover, calculating how best to deal with Japan was fraught with dangers and difficulties. Economic sanctions did not restrain, they provoked Japan. Messages sent were ambiguous and weak, partly because the liberal democracies could not establish a common ground upon which to stand. More than anything else, the Americans learnt from this failure of economic statecraft in the 1930s that they must never again supply material to strengthen an aggressor, that they must craft the instruments of economic statecraft and apply them skilfully to convey the right messages, and they must be prepared both to defend themselves and to lead their democratic allies purposefully.