How far can it can be said that the USA followed a policy of strict isolation in foreign affairs during the 1920s and early 1930s, and what effects did this policy have on international relations?

After the First World War, USA seemed to play an important role in international affairs as President Woodrow Wilson’s dream of forming League of Nations to maintain peace in world. However, the ideas of Peace settlement and League of Nations were rejected by US Senate. Through 1920s and early 1930s, USA followed the policy of isolation. USA did not join the league to avoid conflicts and disputes with other nation by entering into treaties. For example, no American representative was present during Locarno Conference. The failure of League is also attributed to the non-participation of USA. Though, USA tried to follow policy of isolation but the issues of overseas trade and war reparations from European nations made it impossible to avoid any engagement in world affairs. So it can be said that the policy of isolation was in terms of keeping away from the political problems Europe rather than cutting off from the world. The following are the examples of having such policy:

  • During 1920s USA tried to have trade relations and investment opportunity in Canada, Central and South America and Europe. But to have trade relations, the disputes arose has to addressed like Mexico was threatening to occupy US oil fields and both have to enter into a compromise.
  • With the growing power of Japan in the far East, USA became suspicious. The Washington Conference 1920-21, in which a agreement was signed to limit the influence of Japan and imposed restriction on British Navy expansion.
  • USA had to reduce the interest rates for the loans which was given to the European nation and demanded their payment in full. By taking part in Dawes and Young Plan, USA also had to lend money to Germany so that Germany can pay reparations to Britain, France and Belgium and in turn they can pay back to USA. This caused the Great Depression of 1929.
  • The signing of Kellog-Briand Pact of 1928 to renounce war.
  • The uneasy relations with Britain due to Washington agreement. The friendship was re-established by revising the provisions of the agreement.
  • When Japan attacked Manchuria in 1931, USA did not interfere to avoid the possibility of rise of conflict and negative effect on trade.

So it is clear that USA was not isolated but it kept itself away from Europe’s political problems and avoided any war like situation.


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