Published Date

March 1, 1945

Resource Type

GI Roundtable Series, Primary Source

From GI Roundtable 14: Is the Good Neighbor Policy a Success? (1945) 

After the defeat of the Axis, will we forget all about our neighbors and devote ourselves to our own domestic problems or to other more pressing world affairs? Will we give up our attempt to make Latin Americans understand us and abandon our efforts to learn about them? Because of our great power, will we go back to ignoring the rights and feelings of smaller nations?

Every Latin-American nation is deeply jealous of its own political sovereignty, its own independence and freedom from outside interference. Is it any wonder that they have eagerly welcomed a policy which respects their freedom and assumes their democracy? And in view of our past interventions, can we blame them for fearing a change?

Changes there may be in our foreign policy, even in Pan-American affairs. But today the Good Neighbor policy appears to be a nonpartisan policy supported by both major political parties and by independent voters as well. Many American statesmen and presidents have had a hand in developing it—Thomas Jefferson, Henry Clay, James G. Blaine, Elihu Root, Woodrow Wilson, Charles Evans Hughes, Dwight Morrow, Cordell Hull, Sumner Welles, and many others.

President Roosevelt’s leadership in developing the policy since 1933 has been described. It is worthy of note that the Republican Party, which has been out of power during most of the recent years when the policy has been developed, inserted this plank in their platform for the 1944 campaign:

“We shall develop Pan-American solidarity. The citizens of our neighboring nations in the Western Hemisphere are, like ourselves, Americans. Cooperation with them shall be achieved through mutual agreement and without interference in the internal affairs of any nation.”

It is not enough, however, that governments follow the Good Neighbor policy. It is fully as important that the 260 million people of the twenty-one American republics shall become good neighbors. One of the constructive results of this war has been to bring North and South Americans to know each other better. Much more needs to be done, however, if the people in this country are to understand that the advantages to the United States of having friendly nations to the south are real, whether in war or in peace.

Strategically, these nations are our exposed flanks, and the Panama Canal is of permanent and peculiar significance in all military plans for the defense of the United States.

Commercially, too, Latin America had been, even before the war, of increasing importance to us. Half of all our direct investments abroad, one-fourth of our indirect investments, and one-fourth of our foreign trade area were there. Our trade and our investments will not be of less value in the postwar world.

Culturally the United States has much to learn as well as much to give. When the late Senator Simon Guggenheim established fellowships in 1930 for Latin-American scholars, scientists, and artists, similar to the fellowships previously made available to our own citizens, he wrote: “We are proceeding in the conviction that we have much to learn in those countries that are our elder sisters in the civilization of America and much to give their scholars and creative workers.” The fellowships are awarded on merit only, without regard to color, race, or creed, and are for the sole purpose of “ascertaining for the common benefit what advances have been made by each nation in knowledge, including the solution of common problems, and in understanding and appreciation of each other’s deepest culture.”

To return to the question raised at the beginning of this booklet: Is the Good Neighbor policy merely a short-time arrangement? There are no slick and easy answers to this question or to the other problems presented in the foregoing pages. The Good Neighbor policy has definitely been a success if we mean that it has supported the war effort. This is the short-term view. The problem now before all Americans—north and south of the Rio Grande—is whether this policy will endure.

If it is to endure, it will survive for the same reasons that a marriage survives after the honeymoon is over.

The process of building up a solid foundation for the Good Neighbor policy will require time, as well as understanding and good will on both sides. There will be difficulties and many of them. But they can and must be solved if good neighborliness is to continue as the watchword of the Americas in the coming peace.

Next section: To the Discussion Leader