Always fiercely contested on matters of domestic policy, Franklin Roosevelt faced even more opposition when it came to international relations. His first two terms in office coincided with the rise of a powerful isolationist movement that urged the government not to involve itself in foreign entanglements. That movement, coupled with strongly anti-British sentiment that owed much to America's large Irish and German populations, hampered Roosevelt's efforts to set the nation on the side of England when it became apparent in the late 1930s that a European war loomed.
To placate his opposition, Thomas Fleming charges in The New Dealers' War, Roosevelt promised "that he would never send American soldiers to fight beyond America's shores." Yet, Fleming continues, on December 4, 1941, the Chicago Tribune revealed the existence of elaborate war plans involving the landing of an American force 5 million strong in Europe by 1943. The revelation gave isolationists fits, of course, but their criticism was effectively silenced three days later when a Japanese force attacked Hawaii. In declaring war on Japan and its allies, Roosevelt's New Deal administration imposed what Fleming considers to have been an unreasonable demand for the unconditional surrender of the Axis powers. That demand, he believes, compromised internal resistance to the enemy regimes. Its prosecution also legitimized the use of what Fleming calls "hateful tactics" such as the bombing of civilian targets and the use of nuclear weapons.
Fleming's revisionist study will be of greatest interest to those already inclined to the view that Franklin Roosevelt tricked his country into fighting Fascism. Other readers may take issue with his ad hominem, ideological arguments. Either way, his provocative thesis is sure to promote debate. --Gregory McNamee