William E. Borah and American Foreign Policy

Satisfactory Essays
William E. Borah and American Foreign Policy, Robert J. Maddox closely examines the famed senator from Idaho by placing the senator's words in the context of his actions. Maddox argues that Borah possessed a sense of fatalism that affected his entire outlook. The thesis also forwards the notion that Borah's objectives never changed throughout his career, meaning that the Borah of 1917 was the same Borah of 1939. According to the author, Borah used whatever tactics were available to pursue his often unclear goals. Finally, Maddox concludes that this ends-justifies-the-means approach created the perception of inconsistency where inconsistency did not exist.

The format of the book follows the senator's major interests, specifically the fight over the League of Nations, the peace plans in the 1920's, U.S. recognition of Russia (Soviet Union), and neutrality in the 1930's. Borah's demonstrated his canniness by his advocacy of a naval conference and disarmament resolution in 1920, which he used as a tactical weapon to draw attention from the League of Nations issue. On this point, the author states that the senator's rhetoric and work toward convening naval conference was not an act of constructive foreign policy-making, because he knew that it was unlikely the conference would convene or could even succeed.

In contrast to Borah's previous isolationist stands was his belief that the United States should act honorably in its relations with other nations. More specifically, Borah advocated the treatment of other nations as equals, regardless of size or strength. He was also disdainful of the use of marine detachments and gunboat diplomacy, tools of an earlier time. An additional point to this contrast was Borah's work toward bringing about Soviet recognition. He questioned the rationale behind the continued isolation of the Soviet Union and thought it perilous to ignore one of the largest and potentially most powerful countries in the world.

Maddox concludes his book with the picture of William E. Borah, the "lion from Idaho", as a largely forgotten and marginalized figure in his time. His isolationist tendencies were no longer in step with the mood of the country and he held a largely misinformed and inaccurate grasp of the international stage. In illustration of this point is the example of when Borah reported that his "sources" had informed him of the unlikelihood of America's entry into World War II, a report that he delivered two months before the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
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