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Foreign Affairs From The Anthology: The World at War
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Political Problems of a Coalition [Excerpt]

Turning Points of the War

 . . .  long before the outbreak of the war in Europe Mr. Roosevelt's ideas had taken definite form and had begun to crystallize into policy. He detested the dictatorships and all that they stood for and he regarded their aggressiveness as at least an ultimate threat to this hemisphere and this country. Although public opinion generally shared his aversion, it was for the most part skeptical about the implications of what was loosely called Fascism. There was a good deal of applause for the President's repeated and sometimes unmeasured castigation of Hitler and his ilk, yet there was almost universal opposition to any specific action by this Government, however mild. The President's advocacy of "methods short of war" received a cold reception and his urgent requests for repeal of the arms embargo were turned down despite his insistence that repeal would strengthen his influence for peace. For all its reprobation of Fascist aggression, the American public in 1939 was disgusted with the rest of the world and was determined not to jeopardize its domestic policies or its peace.

Through the American Foreign Service, the Washington Government was probably more fully and accurately informed about the world situation on the eve of the crisis than was any other government in the world. The President and his advisers were under no illusions about the ultimate objectives of Germany, Italy and Japan, nor did they have exaggerated notions about the ability of Britain and France to resist successfully. Envisaging, as they did, the possibility of a Nazi victory in Europe and an effective combination of the German and Japanese efforts, they appreciated to the full the ultimate danger to Latin America and the United States. Their policy, therefore, was to give all possible support to the democracies, within the limitations of the law and the bounds of public opinion. And so was born the first and most fundamental of American policies connected with the war -- the identification of our long-term interests with those of Britain and

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