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Among the first historians to argue in favour of the back-door-to-war theory were (1999) that, contrary to accepted opinion, the United States need not have fought in World War II.
As evidence of Roosevelt’s duplicity, they cite the fact that the administration failed to notify the military of decoded Japanese messages indicating that an attack would take place on December 6–7.
The revisionists argue that key events leading up to the U. declaration of war in 1941 show that Roosevelt sometimes used deceitful tactics to increase U. involvement gradually and to stir up pro-war sentiments in the American public.
In their view, the circumstances immediately surrounding the attack on Pearl Harbor, when interpreted in light of Roosevelt’s behaviour in the preceding years, strongly suggest that he intentionally provoked the Japanese attack.
Without American involvement in the fighting, Buchanan argued, Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia would have destroyed each other, thereby sparing the world the post-1945 Cold War.
Most historians have rejected the claims of Beard, Tansill, and Buchanan as reductionist and unconvincing. Nevertheless, they argue that this does not show that Roosevelt intentionally provoked the Japanese to attack the United States or that he allowed the country to be surprised at Pearl Harbor.
He allegedly created this consensus by provoking the Japanese into the attack on Pearl Harbor.
As the revisionists describe it, Roosevelt purposefully increased tensions between Washington and Tokyo by introducing embargoes in 1940–41 on scrap metals and petroleum products that Japan needed for its war machine.
As World War II began with Germany’s invasion of Poland in 1939, Congress and much of the American public continued to favour neutrality.
Convinced that their country’s participation in World War I had been a grave mistake, Americans supported a series of neutrality laws enacted in the 1930s to prevent a repetition of the pre-1917 events that drew the United States into the fighting.
For the revisionists, however, the deal decisively ended American neutrality and made U. “Like the Mississippi,” Churchill said, “it just keeps rolling along.” To support their contention that Roosevelt was secretly plotting to bring the United States into the war, the revisionists point to rhetoric he used during his 1940 reelection campaign.
During the contest against the Republican nominee, Wendell Willkie, Roosevelt repeatedly declared his intention to keep America out of war unless it was attacked by a foreign power.
Despite the existence of an undeclared naval war between Germany and the United States, however, Roosevelt hesitated to ask for a formal declaration, because most of the American public still supported neutrality.