The historical issue this paper will address is the role of the United States in the interwar period of the 1920s and 1930s. Some claim that the U.S. attempted to exert a positive influence on global affairs during this period, pointing out that Wilson's rhetoric included talk of disarmament and free trade, and that Roosevelt issued similar terms on the world stage.
Others argue that behind the rhetoric was an opposite tendency by the U.S. To increase its arms, destabilize regions that threatened noncompliance with U.S. interests, and to act contrarily to peace proposals.
The claims for the first point may be supported by the fact that Wilson and Roosevelt both employed rhetoric designed to give an impression of pacific aims and good will. Even in private, records exist showing that U.S. leaders did favor idealistic goals. However, the same records point to a contradictory spirit within the same leaders that evinces and explains the tendency by the U.S. To exercise a policy of imperialism during the interwar years, despite its official rhetoric.
The best answer to the question of what role the U.S. played in global politics during this time can be found not in the words spoken by U.S. leaders but rather in their actions and the actions of U.S. agencies at this time -- actions which show in no uncertain terms that the U.S. played an aggressive, imperialistic role that undermined any hope for world peace after WWI.
In The Great Interwar Crisis and the Collapse of Globalization, Robert Boyce states that in the first half of the 20th century America had "unrivalled financial and commercial strength" that it used to "establish an informal alliance with the international bankers and financiers of Wall Street, who shared their interest in the pacification and reconstruction of Europe and the liberalization of world trade."
The point that Boyce makes with this claim is that the U.S. was in an unparalleled position to intervene in global affairs during the interwar years. The question is: how true is this claim? While the U.S. was in an unparalleled position to intervene in global affairs during the interwar years, pacification and reconstruction were not exactly top priorities for U.S. leaders. On the contrary, researchers and historians have argued that despite the official rhetoric coming from the White House during these years, a much more aggressive, covert and imperialistic policy was pursued by the U.S. In order to affect a much larger control over the world's natural resources, so precious to a powerful country like the Industrialized United States.
In fact, if any country is to blame for the inevitability of World War 2, it is the United States. The Great War was supposed to be the war to end all wars, as Woodrow Wilson said in 1917.
Wilson had run for President on an isolationist platform with the promise that he would keep the U.S. out of the war. But the thought of becoming a player on the world's stage, of directing the post-war plans of the major nations of the world proved too tempting. Wilson reneged on his promise, entered the U.S. into the war in its final year, and attempted to influence, through the League of Nations, a degree of control over the spoils of war once the fighting ended. Stone and Kuznick write: "Though Wilson had won reelection in 1916 on the slogan 'He kept us out of the war,' he was increasingly coming to believe that if the United States didn't join the war, it would be denied a role in shaping the postwar world."
Whatever control Wilson wielded over the treaties and plans that were made following World War 1 may be debated, but what is clear is that the U.S. was no more a country led by isolationists. The new policy was globalistic. The Industrialized nations and the corporate powers that stood to profit from a global shake-up new exactly what two World Wars and "peace" presented: an opportunity for land-grabbing. Peace was not a top priority. Stockpiling weapons was.
The U.S. Chemical Warfare Service was established in 1918 in order to facilitate the U.S.'s position at the forefront of world powers. In order to appear pro-peace, Wilson issued his famous 14 points, which called for, among other things, disarmament, free trade, and an end to imperialism. It was mere lip service. The U.S. was interested in none of these -- and such would show in the latter half of the 20 the century.
Wilson, how had promoted his 14 points in Paris during the peace talks, sat by and allowed Germany and the Ottoman Empire to be "carved up."
Few of Wilson's 14 talking points remained on the table. They would not define the interwar years. Instead, land-grabbing and power-building would.
John Foster Dulles, who would go on with his brother Allen to direct from behind the scenes hundreds of covert operations in foreign nations, designed to destabilize and/or overthrow governments deemed inimical to U.S. corporate interests, would write a "war guilt clause" which would essentially blame the Great War on Germany and force the country "to pay extremely heavy reparations" that were neither objectively fair nor designed to promote the sort of peace that Wilson proclaimed with his 14 points.
Every administration had its men who, like Dulles, conceived the U.S.'s role in world affairs in terms of dominance. Even Wilson saw the U.S. In this light, declaring in the wake of the Paris peace talks, "At last the world knows America as the savior of the world!"
Wilson's League of Nations was derided by Senators at home as a League of Imperialists. Wilson contended that it wasn't so -- and perhaps he believed his own arguments. But has actions belied his words. The Treaty of Versailles was a disaster that only paved the way for more war and made a much bigger and deadlier land-grab by world powers inevitable.
Retired Marine Corps General Smedley Butler toured the U.S. In the 1930s, giving a speech entitled "War is a Racket," in which he described the way in which Wall Street and corporate America (companies like United Fruit) used American military to undermine and overthrow free nations' governments. On the face of it, the world would be told that such and such government was illegal or undemocratic or dictatorial or tyrannical and that U.S. intervention was needed in order to liberate the individuals of the nation. Nothing could be further from the truth, Butler explained. Companies profited from war, and companies profited from invasion. From shipbuilders to boot makers to bankers, Butler provided a list of profiteers that showed how the war years and the interwar years focused solely on protecting U.S. investments. Butler stated: "It would have been far cheaper (not to say safer) for the average American who pays the bills to stay out of foreign entanglements. For a very few this racket, like bootlegging and other underworld rackets, brings fancy profits, but the cost of operations is always transferred to the people -- who do not profit."
Boyce claims that "postwar Republican Administrations raised the average level of protection over 60 per cent, above where it was when Wilson took office in 1913," but Boyce's claim is colored by rose-tinted glasses.
That protection came at the expense of others' destabilization. And this protection came at a price. Franklin Roosevelt identified the men holding the purse strings in a letter to Colonel E.M. House in 1933: "The real truth…is, as you and I know, that a financial element in the larger centers has owned the Government ever since the days of Andrew Jackson."
Henry Ford's Dearborn Independent published in the 1920s an expose of whom Ford believed to be holding economically hostage not only the U.S. But all the world's nations. The articles were called "The International Jew," and described a Zionist plot for world domination. The paper was later accused of being anti-Semitic, but Ford made the claim that the financiers of the world's wars were banking houses controlled, ultimately, by the House of Rothschild and its kith and kin. The banks supplied the capital and by establishing themselves in every country from Russia to the U.S., they were able to communicate with one another concerning lending and borrowing.
That these same banks had influenced U.S. foreign and domestic policy since the time of Andrew Jackson, as Roosevelt admitted, just shows the degree to which America's role in the interwar period was anything but pacific. War was a racket, as Butler described, and would always be a racket so long as Wall Street could profit by it.
That Wall Street stood to profit during the interwar period was a given. The 1920s were called The Roaring Decade -- the Lawless Years. It was the decade of the original Ponzi schemer. Wall Street economics were not limited to U.S. borders, but affected the whole globe. The big financial institutions of Wall Street "supported Roosevelt's…