Why do you suppose that some historians have criticized FDR for “manipulating” the U.S. into war?
Answer #1: Roosevelt has been accused of manipulating the U.S. into war because no matter what course of action he took — from active preparation to passive neglect — looked like manipulation. Active preparation led to accusations that he foresaw that an American war economy would do for the U.S. what it did for the German economy: reignite it and reduce unemployment to near zero. Passive neglect is what he has been accused of before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor: by ensuring a surprise (or “sneak”) attack, national outrage further enabled the transition to a war economy and his and his party’s re-election.
Some historians have criticized FDR for manipulating the U.S. into war, is this a valid assertion? Why or why not?
Answer #2: In the light of the above, the accusation of manipulating the U.S. into war is not valid. Towards Europe FDR prepared for the inevitable, without endangering a domestic isolationist uproar, with the Lend-Lease program, which was arguably a grant to the British in the guise of a business-like loan. The cut-off of Japanese oil supplies was done as a moral and legal response to Japan’s invasion of China and what became known as the Rape of Nanking. Given his treaty obligations under the Neutrality Acts of the 1930s, he could do little else. At the time, there was no particular reason to expect that Roosevelt could or should have foreseen an invasion of the Dutch East Indies to replace U.S. oil, given American pre-Pearl Harbor military presence in the Pacific.
In what day do present day politics impact the way we “remember” FDR and the move toward war?
Answer #3: The comparison of the Pearl Harbor attack with the 9-11 attacks is an obvious one, and that is probably the natural starting point today when remembering FDR’s moves toward war as a response to a unexpected national attack. Both his and George Bush’s responses might better be described as leaps after having been kicked. Both were accused, with some justification, of having looked the other way in the weeks immediately before each attack. Afterwards, the U.S. government was at last able to move decisively to world war because of a swift change in public opinion. The difference is that, twelve years later, our war still rages with no end in sight.