The Panay Crisis
After the Brussels conference a new element entered American diplomacy. The President increasingly abandoned a policy of appeasement in favour of a show of strength and placed more emphasis on deterring ‘extremists’ than on encouraging ‘moderates’. The reason for this change was the tripartite Anti-Comintern Pact of November 1937 which Roosevelt believed was an instrument of world conquest, threatening American interests in Europe and Asia. In response he announced the formal opening of Anglo-American trade negotiations as the ‘democratic answer’ to the new axis while simultaneously rejecting Italian demands for an economic agreement. He also supported increased naval rearmament as the only means of securing respect from the ‘bandit’ nations. American public opinion, however, would not allow Roosevelt to go beyond these relatively innocuous moves until the sinking of the USS Panay on the Yangtse river by Japanese warplanes in December 1937. This incident offered the President an opportunity to implement the warning contained in the ‘quarantine’ speech and to show the axis powers that there was a point beyond which the ‘democracies’ would not allow them to go. Roosevelt hoped to make an example of Japan and deter Germany and Italy from pursuing similar courses of expansion. While this new policy did not preclude the Welles approach, with which it could be combined, the President was clearly placing more emphasis on deterrence rather than conciliation after November 1937.
KeywordsPublic Opinion Economic Agreement International Situation American Interest American Attitude
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