Has the Good Neighbor Policy Paid Dividends?

It is interesting to note that the Good Neighbor policy was baptized in 1933, the year Hitler came into power in Germany and the Nazis began to perfect their plans for the conquest and enslavement of their neighbors. The United States, at the same time, was supporting the principles of nonintervention in the affairs of its neighbors, of respect for their sovereignty and territorial integrity, and of consultation with their governments in time of crisis.

This contrast between the development of the Good Neighbor policy in the New World and the gradual collapse of collective security in the rest of the world must not be overlooked. The League of Nations, in which most of the Latin-American countries had enthusiastically enrolled, was going to pieces. Japanese aggression in Manchuria in 1931 began the cracking-up process. A series of land grabs by Italy and Germany followed.

In this dismal falling-to-pieces of the civilized world, Latin-American countries had a very direct interest. All of them in terms of modern warfare were “weak states.” They were seeing with their own eyes what happened to “weak states.” When China was stripped of Manchuria and when Ethiopia, Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Albania went under, there was no need to draw the moral. Was an eventual attack on Latin America itself by one of the restless and ambitious dictators impossible or improbable?

Throughout this crucial decade the United States steadily and with determination pursued the Good Neighbor policy. Was it a success? What were its fruits? One need only compare the reaction of the New World in the first World War with its reaction to Hitler’s threat of world domination twenty-five years later.

In the first war only Brazil, of the larger and more powerful states, was on our side as a fighting partner. Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Argentina, and Chile all remained perfectly neutral. In the present war not one is wholly neutral.

United Front of the Americas

All of our Latin-American neighbors have mobilized their resources to defend the continent against Axis aggression. All declared war or broke diplomatic relations with the Axis powers. Axis propaganda agencies were banned and military cooperation was extended practically whenever and whereever requested by the United States. This collaboration included permitting considerable bodies of United States armed forces to be established on Latin-American soil for the protection of the hemisphere.

Communications were completely broken off with the Axis countries. Economic programs were developed in Latin America to increase the production of strategic materials for the United States and other United Nations and to cooperate in economic warfare against Axis commercial and financial interests. In a variety of ways, all Latin-American nations have made positive contributions to the winning of the war, except Argentina, which has not given real support to inter-American defense.

Granted all this, what of the future? Will the crack-up of the Axis powers result also in a crack-up of the Good Neighbor policy? Do we know enough about each other to be confident that the process of consolidating our economic, political, and cultural relations with Latin America will continue?

This is not an open and shut proposition. Indeed, there are some people—friendly to the idea of cooperation among all the nations of the Americas—who believe that the differences are too great for real understanding. Moreover, they say that Latin America is so divided itself that it does not really exist as a unity.