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The Sailor

Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Transformation of American Foreign Policy

In The Sailor, David F. Schmitz presents a comprehensive reassessment of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's foreign policymaking. Most historians have cast FDR as a leader who resisted an established international strategy and who was forced to react quickly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, launching the nation into World War II. Drawing on a wealth of primary documents as well as the latest secondary sources, Schmitz challenges this view, demonstrating that Roosevelt was both consistent and calculating in guiding the direction of American foreign policy throughout his presidency.

Schmitz illuminates how the policies FDR pursued in response to the crises of the 1930s transformed Americans' thinking about their place in the world. He shows how the president developed an interlocking set of ideas that prompted a debate between isolationism and preparedness, guided the United States into World War II, and mobilized support for the war while establishing a sense of responsibility for the postwar world. The critical moment came in the period between Roosevelt's reelection in 1940 and the Pearl Harbor attack, when he set out his view of the US as the arsenal of democracy, proclaimed his war goals centered on protection of the four freedoms, secured passage of the Lend-Lease Act, and announced the principles of the Atlantic Charter.

This long-overdue book presents a definitive new perspective on Roosevelt's diplomacy and the emergence of the United States as a world power. Schmitz's work offers an important correction to existing studies and establishes FDR as arguably the most significant and successful foreign policymaker in the nation's history.

About the Author

David F. Schmitz is the Robert Allen Skotheim Chair of History at Whitman College. He is the author of several books, including Richard Nixon and the Vietnam War: The End of the American Century and The Triumph of Internationalism: Franklin D. Roosevelt and a World in Crisis, 1933–1941. He lives in Walla Walla, Washington.

Reviews

"The Sailor is a piece of solid, thoughtful, important scholarship. Schmitz challenges the long-standing argument that Franklin Roosevelt was a realist opportunist who simply reacted to world events and successfully demonstrates that FDR developed a consistent foreign policy."—Warren Kimball, Robert Treat Professor of History (emeritus) at Rutgers University and author of The Juggler: Franklin Roosevelt as Wartime Statesman

"Schmitz rightly observes that the last major book covering the entirety of FDR's foreign policy appeared forty years ago. This subject is particularly fitting for a new treatment, and Schmitz's assessment of Roosevelt as a consistent internationalist who was crucial in leading America to the path it adopted in the years after 1945 is persuasive. This is a story that needs to be retold, and the author is particularly well-equipped to tell it."—Steven Casey, author of The War Beat Europe: The American Media at War against Nazi Germany

"With his considerable analytical talents, intellectual depth, and decades of scholarship, David Schmitz brings clarity to our understanding of the illusive FDR. Many have tried, Schmitz succeeds, and the result is definitive. The Sailor breaks new ground by portraying Roosevelt as a true progressive internationalist who shaped the next three-quarters of a century of policy. Lucky for the United States to have both a visionary and pragmatic admiral who navigated the nation to the sane ground of internationalism."—Thomas W. Zeiler, University of Colorado Boulder

"In this superb study, David Schmitz convincingly shows that FDR thought more seriously about foreign affairs and pursued his goals more consistently than his detractors and even some of his admirers thought. Guided by his faith in American values and an astute understanding of national security, Roosevelt kept a skilled hand on the tiller as he steered towards a more peaceful world. This highly readable study is ideal for use in undergraduate courses, but scholars will find much here that is new and thought-provoking."—Marc Gallicchio, Villanova University, author of Unconditional: The Japanese Surrender in World War II

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