The Myth of Isolationism

Washington Naval Conferences and International Law

Representatives from the Nine Powers who signed the treaty at the Washington Naval Conference.

Provisions of the Washington Naval Conference:

  1. Set Tonnage ratio of ships 5 (UK): 5 (US): 3 (Japan): 1.7 (France): 1.7 (Italy).
  2. Signatories agreed to status quo for bases in the Pacific, no new expansion.
  3. Internationalization of US Open Door policy in China. Open Door becomes agreed upon standard by all signatories.
  4. Only disarmament treaty of the 20th century that actually led to the destruction of arms.  The agreements forced the US to scrap 15 old battleships and 2 new ones, along with 13 ships under construction.
This cartoon shows how the US felt that the Kellog-Briand Pact and the Washington Naval Conference worked together to insure American interests.

Audio: The US and International Law During the 1920s (9:13)

Kellog-Briand Pact

  • Signatories agreed not to use war to resolve “disputes or conflicts of whatever nature or of whatever origin they may be, which may arise among them.”
  • While not effective, became the basis for much of the International law that has become the norm in foreign relations.  Explicitly linked to UN Charter and to “Crimes against Peace.”
Lindbergh in Paris
Charles Lindbergh upon his arrival in Paris after his Transatlantic crossing.



Isolationism and Empire Copyright © by James McKay. All Rights Reserved.

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