The Diplomatic Education of Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1882-1933. By Graham Cross. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. 217 pp.
Graham Cross focuses on the development of Franklin D. Roosevelt's (FDR's) internationalism prior to his presidency, arguing that presidential biographers and foreign policy scholars alike have neglected the importance of FDR's early internationalist worldview for his presidential policies. Based on a review of transcripts of FDR's prepresidential speeches, more than 20 of his articles related to foreign affairs, and his family correspondence, Cross traces the ways in which FDR's early life and career shaped his internationalist outlook. Cross downplays the influence of the Great Depression and World War II on FDR's internationalism, perhaps, attributable to his chosen chronological period, but, in more puzzling ways, also, that of both Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt. What emerges is a somewhat confusing depiction of FDR's "internationalist vision" (p. 167), absent any discussion of how a clearer understanding of FDR's early internationalism may settle any historiographic controversy surrounding FDR's presidency.
To his credit, Cross clearly distinguishes the similarities and differences in international perspectives between a young FDR and the already legendary Theodore Roosevelt, on one side, and between FDR as early politician and Woodrow Wilson as president, on the other. He identifies FDR's eclectic and pragmatic borrowings from various ideological and political traditions. In Cross's narrative, FDR matured from a youthful "patrician internationalist" until 1910, when he was elected to the New York State Senate, to an "internationalist" until 1933, when he entered the White House. In his conclusion, Cross identifies FDR's internationalism as "practical" and "resilient" (p. 167), his youthful advocacy of unilateral military power increasingly tempered by a more mature appreciation for liberal multilateralism, mass democracy, and global reform. The author's analysis is balanced in that he acknowledges the influence of both earlier presidents without glossing over differences, namely that FDR shied away from Theodore Roosevelt's global imperial ambitions prior to World War I and from wholesale Wilsonian idealism and collective security in the interwar period.
Cross's claim that FDR's internationalism contains, at its core, a "duality that valued power and idealism equally" (p. 166) is certainly not...