In July, 1937, Japanese and Chinese troops exchanged gunfire at the Marco Polo Bridge outside Beijing, providing a pretext for Japan to launch an undeclared war to impose dominance over China. Two years earlier, Italy had invaded Ethiopia, and in March, 1936, Nazi Germany had remilitarized the Rhineland. These events only reinforced isolationism in the United States, as most Americans rejected any commitments to defend security abroad. This limited Roosevelt to little more than verbal condemnation of Japanese aggression. However, he feared isolationism would foster more Japanese expansionism, especially after Germany and Italy signed the Anti-Comintern Pact in 1936. In September, 1937, Roosevelt’s anger and revulsion upon learning of Japanese brutality against the Chinese caused him to consider proposing that all peaceful nations join to isolate any state staging acts of aggression. Roosevelt thought terminating trade was an effective sanction and would make a resort to war unnecessary.
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