The point is made in the Editor’s Introduction to the book, Freedom Betrayed, that Hoover was not an isolationist, but an anti-interventionist. I believe it is worthwhile to understand what exactly is meant by this term, anti-interventionist, by examining Hoover’s actions.
First, what is the difference of an isolationist government foreign policy as opposed to an anti- (or non-) interventionist foreign policy. In my opinion, an isolationist policy would be one where the state intervened to ensure no minimal or no public interaction was possible between its citizens and private individuals in another country – especially in regards to trade, but potentially in all spheres of life. An anti-interventionist policy would be one where the government did not intervene. Its citizens were allowed free reign for trade and other interactions with people from other countries. More importantly, the state would not take action to intervene in another country.
What is Hoover’s view? How does he define these terms? At minimum, what can we glean from his actions in this regard?
Hoover seemed to be favorably disposed to government intervention on many areas of foreign involvement. These were primarily, but not limited to, what one might call humanitarian matters. For example, after the beginning of the Russo – Finnish war:
…in January 1940, President Roosevelt asked Congress to extend more credits for Finland for still more nonmilitary purchases. Hoover immediately endorsed Roosevelt’s request. A few weeks later, Congress passed legislation permitting $10,000,000 in additional U.S. government loans to the Finnish government….The next day, Hoover claimed credit for this outcome….
Another example of Hoover’s position of intervention on seemingly humanitarian grounds is offered for Poland, after the German and Russian invasion:
On February 29 he had actually testified before Congress…on behalf of a $20,000,000 governmental appropriation for aid to the suffering Poles.
Hoover’s advocacy of intervention was not limited to humanitarian-type aid, however. While advocating that America must stay out of the European conflict, he proposed
…America should arm “to the teeth” and stay out of it, while furnishing Britain all possible support “within the law”
As I mentioned in an earlier post regarding this book, I do not intend to spend much time on areas where Hoover is supportive of state policies – both economic and otherwise. My interest in this book is in areas where he has strong disagreements in the area of foreign policy. However, I feel it beneficial to point out what seems to be a large contradiction, at least in the view of the editor of this volume. Hoover, while certainly advocating that the U.S. stay out of the European conflict, at least when it comes to sending U.S. military personnel into battle, is quite an interventionist when it came to providing aid – both humanitarian and military.
This does not square with my definition of anti-intervention. To offer aid to one side in a conflict inherently means taking a position antagonistic to others in the conflict. One may debate the merits of one or the other side, but it is certainly an interventionist position to take a side and act upon such a decision.