My Question: Did President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) have any primary adviser/advisors (established foreign policy wonks), whom he listened too? Was it all just him?
A President's chief diplomat and one of his primary advisers on foreign policy is traditionally his Secretary of State. The longest serving Secretary of State in American History was Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Cordell Hull who served for 11 years (1933–1944). In a time of global war, Cordell Hull is best remembered for his opinions on trade tariffs, and not being part of Roosevelt's foreign policy team. He was never part of FDR's inner circle, and not called upon by Roosevelt for advice but rather putting policy into effect.
FDR's was famous for collecting many opinions when making his decisions in other areas. He had a formal Brain Trust of advisers for the economy, which rarely agreed but gave him competing options to think about. FDR also famously was a follower of the Economist John Maynard Keynes who is credited for FDR's core economic approach in combating the Great Depressions. The same diverse process seems unwieldy and out of place for FDR's foreign policy. Roosevelt picked a side early and pretty much stayed with it, with regards to foreign policy. He bent and broke laws in supporting Britain while claiming neutrality domestically and abroad. His moves were aggressive and pushed the boundaries of both what was politically possible and legally acceptable.
- Escorting British shipping half way across the Atlantic while screening for German u-boats.
- Lend Lease arrangement for ships, planes, and war materials with Britain while the US was still neutral
- Trading leases on British Caribbean military bases for war materials.(HR 1776)
- Sending 4000 Marines to Iceland for Hemispheric Defense without any legal basis
- Using horse and tackle to get around American Neutrality Laws in selling aircraft to the allies.
Roosevelt Fired his Secretary of War Harry Woodring, June 16, 1940 because he objected to Roosevelt's gift of a dozen B-17 bombers to the British.
Roosevelt Fired his ambassedor to Britain Joseph Kennedy October 22, 1940
During his stay in Washington, Kennedy had a meeting with Bill Bullitt, U.S. Ambassador to France. Kennedy told Bullitt that Britain and France were finished as sovereign countries, that Germany would win the war, and that there was nothing the United States could do to stop that from happening. Kennedy’s comments were funneled back to the White House, and FDR reportedly said, “I never want to see that son of a bitch again as long as I live. Take his resignation and get him out of here.”
So who advised Roosevelt on Diplomacy and Foreign Policy?
- How best to assist Britain and Russia before Dec 7th 1941
- When best to open a second front in Europe
- Future Borders of Europe
Not to Mention the 12 Conferences Roosevelt attended discussing the war:
- Atlantic Conference (Aug 1940)
- First Washington Conference (Dec 22 1941 - Jan 17 1942)
- Second Washington Conference (Jun 20 – 25, 1942)
- Casablanca Conference (Jan 14 – 24, 1943)
- Third Washington Conference (May 12 – 25, 1943)
- Quebec Conference (August 17 – 24, 1943)
- Cairo Conference (Nov 23 – 26, 1943)
- Tehran Conference (Nov 28 – Dec 1, 1943)
- Second Cairo Conference (Dec 4 – 6, 1943)
- Second Quebec Conference (Sept 12 – 16, 1944)
- Malta Conference (Jan 30 – Feb 2, 1945)
- Yalta Conference (Feb 4 – 11, 1945)
Harry Hopkins (Former Social Worker and head of charity foundations was Secretary of Commerce until Sept 1940) was a Roosevelt close advisor, emissary and inner circle guy. He was an able administrator and central player in both the New Deal and Lend Lease. Roosevelt even used him as an emissary to Churchill and Stalin. He was probable Roosevelts closest collaborator, even moving into the Whitehouse for several years during the war. He was someone who knew Roosevelt's mind and someone trusted to turn visions into reality; but I don't think he was himself a foreign policy visionary. He was central to implementing the New Deal but was not himself an economist. He was central to implementing Lend Lease, and Foreign Policy; but he wasn't a foreign policy guy who published papers on intervention vs isolation leading up to WWII when these issues were being debated.
Sumner Wells (under Secretary of State) was a close Roosevelt advisors who was said to have played a role in Roosevelt's foreign policy. Sumner Wells seems to fit the bill of what I'm looking for only he was forced out of office in 1943 for soliciting. Was there someone else, or a group of someone elses? Someone with established credentials in Foreign Policy. Someone like the economist Keynes on the economic front whom Roosevelt consulted with on Foreign Policy.
I'm not discussing military advisors. George Marshall played a huge role in the United States' preparation for war, and he was the highest ranking US military officer during the war. After the war General Marshall would become Truman's secretary of state. FDR respected him, and relied on him but they did not necessarily agree especially on foreign policy. After the Munich Conference (Jun 30, 1938) where Czechoslovakia was ceded to Germany, FDR first proposed production of 20,000 aircraft for use by the Allies with his military advisors. Then Brigadier General Marshall was new to Washington. He and President Roosevelt vocally clashed over the policy in the meeting. Marshal's concern was that the US Military didn't have enough arms for itself in 1938-1941 and he opposed arming Britain and at that time France at the expense of US forces. After the meeting, Marshall's friends were discussing what appeared to be his short stay in Washington disagreeing with the President so vocally. FDR responded by making Marshall his Chief of Staff (Sept 1, 1939) and putting him in charge of building the Armed Services for WWII. The sales, leases, and gifts of weapons from the US to the Allies continued.
My Question: Did FDR have any primary adviser/advisors (established foreign policy wonks), whom he listened too? Was it all just him?