In the past few years, much attention has been given to the Obama administration’s pivot toward Asia. President Obama, however, is not the first president to undertake a major strategic shift in U.S. foreign policy. In the years before the U.S. entry into World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt pivoted the United States away from relative isolationism of the past decades into the Second World War and into the role of the world’s great super power. How did he do it and what are the takeaways for presidents and their Cabinet members in this century?
On July 3, Foreign Policy at Brookings will host Nonresident Senior Fellow Michael Fullilove, executive director of the Lowy Institute in Sydney, Australia, and author of the new book
Rendezvous with Destiny: How Franklin D. Roosevelt and Five Extraordinary Men Took America into the War and into the World
(Penguin Press, 2013). Fullilove will present his account of FDR’s special envoys sent on missions to Europe in the lead-up to Pearl Harbor: Sumner Welles, a well-bred diplomat who was eventually forced out of the State Department for his sexual misadventures; “Wild Bill” Donovan, the Republican lawyer, adventurer and future spymaster; Harry Hopkins, the sickly social worker and political fixer; Wendell Willkie, a former Republican presidential candidate; and Averell Harriman, the railroad baron turned policy-maker. Taken together, the missions describe the progressive hardening of Roosevelt’s policy toward the dictators and plot the arc of America’s transformation from a reluctant middle power into the global leader.
Kurt Campbell, former assistant secretary of state for East Asia and now chairman and CEO of The Asia Group, will join the discussion, which will be moderated by Brookings Vice President and Director of Foreign Policy Martin Indyk.
After the program, the speakers will take audience questions.