The interwar period
Cooperation between the great powers and commercial expansionism was the initial US policy in the interwar period. By refusing to forgive war debts to World War I allies, the US placed Europe under its economic hegemony. They also exerted heavy interference in Latin America and the Far East. With Roosevelt, the ‘good neighborhood’ policy took shape in which US interests, while clearly supported, had to take place in the context of world development. This also led to the recognition of the Soviet Union in 1933, although American public opinion, frightened by the international events of the 1930s, was pushed towards isolationism, which was matched by the Neutrality Acts between 1935 and 1937. Roosevelt nevertheless began to support a policy of opposition to the undemocratic powers, Germany, Italy and Japan, for which he proposed a ‘quarantine’ in 1937. ● Having won the elections in 1940, Roosevelt followed the path of ‘non-belligerence’, which nevertheless allowed US aid against Nazism (Lend-lease Act, 1941). Meanwhile, the US supported China against the Japanese invasion, then in the autumn of 1941 asking Tokyo to withdraw its troops.
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 caused the US to enter the world conflict on the two European and Asian scenarios. In Europe, the allied troops began the offensive from North Africa (November 1942) to Italy (July 1943), until the decisive landing in Normandy on 6 June 1944 led by DD Eisenhower and ended with the German surrender in May 1945. In the Pacific operations were slower, starting with the Battle of the Midway Islands which was followed by the slow advance led by Admiral CW Nimitz and General D. MacArthur. From 1942 Roosevelt set up the postwar order on the basis of an opposition between democracy and totalitarianism, according to a Neowilsonian internationalism (Bretton Woods accordsof 1944 which gave birth to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund; United Nations established in San Francisco on June 26, 1945). At the basis of this was to be the agreement with the other victor of the war, the Soviet Union, which accepted Roosevelt’s program, obtaining in return the principle of ‘spheres of influence’ which allowed it to create a strong core. of ‘friendly’ states (Yalta conference, February 1945). ● The alliance between the two superpowers was compromised by mutual distrust and also by the death of Roosevelt in April 1945. Thus, without planning, but inevitably, the Cold War developed, which arose from the opposition of ideologies and interests that neither state he wanted to solve with weapons. The use of the atomic weapon decided by President HS Truman in Hiroshima and Nagasaki (early August 1945) not only eliminated the nightmare of Japanese resistance, but established the policy of the atomic ‘balance of terror’.
The cold war
On March 12, 1947, Truman enunciated to Congress the ‘theory of containment’ that sanctioned the Cold War: the US would defend the countries threatened by Soviet expansionism. Meanwhile in Europe, after the Berlin crisis (Soviet blockade of the roads and railways of the western occupation zones), the Cold War stabilized. To contain further expansions of communism, the US promoted a policy of alliance with and among allied countries (NATO constitution, 1949) and of economic development of these in the post-war reconstruction with the Marshall Plan. While Pan-Americanism in Latin America kept governments in line with Washington’s positions, the Chinese Revolution overthrew Jiang Jieshi’s government in Asia., backed by the Americans, in 1949 bringing Mao Zedong’s Communists to power. In June 1950, the North Korean invasion of South Korea provoked US intervention under the flags of the United Nations. The invasion was stopped, but the counter-invasion of North Korea failed, which would have triggered a world war. ● In the internal field, the Cold War blocked all reform efforts and Truman, in order to reject the danger of a republican electoral victory, in 1948 proposed a defense of the welfare state combined with a rigid conservatism on the values of religion and the family. Truman’s second term was characterized by anti-communism, most notably Senator JR McCarthy’s initiative against a group of Hollywood filmmakers who were forced to undergo a show trial. The conservative turn did not, however, cancel the reforms of the New Deal as the middle class that benefited from it now constituted more than half of the population and the heart of the political system. Furthermore, the economy was flourishing both for supplies to countries destroyed by war, and for the development of internal consumption, especially of new products (plastic materials, synthetic fibers, household appliances). The ideal of the American way of life, founded on democracy, cooperation between social groups and concrete faith in the individual, permeated and defined American society. ● Eisenhower’s election in 1952 characterized this era on the basis of a modern republicanism, moderate and benevolent conservatism aimed at social peace, welfare policy and development. In international politics, together with Secretary of State JF Dulles, Eisenhower theorized the Cold War as a clash of civilizations between two opposing blocs, avoiding however the clash, but favoring a coexistence with the successors of Stalin (who died in 1953), even if the encounters with NS Khrushchev they failed at the final moment when, in the spring of 1960, a U2, an American spy plane, was shot down in the Russian skies.