Force of law

Who was Lend-Lease designed to help? Lend-Lease was designed to help any country that was involved in the war effort whose fighting would directly impact the United States. This assistance was not limited to Europe, however. Latin America also benefited from Lend-Lease. According to the book For La Patria: Politics and the Armed Forces in Latin America, Lend-Lease assistance found its way to Latin America, mostly because the United States created “a regional security plan that suited its own strategic needs (140).

The creation of this strategic zone played right into the Monroe Doctrine and obligated the Latin American countries to ask only the United States for help and to defend themselves if attacked (Ibid). During the Lend-Lease years, an astonishing 73 percent of Lend-Lease aid went to Brazil, with smaller amounts going to regional republics (Ibid). Lend-Lease enticed Latin American armed forces that were starved for new equipment and cut off from traditional suppliers (Ibid). Lend-Lease also expanded the hemispheric dominance that that the United States took in the Western Hemisphere.

According to La Patria, “the United States desired a hemispheric security doctrine to mask its essentially unilateral policies (141). ” This means that the United States used Lend-Lease as a way to control the Latin American countries and make them accountable to the United States. Lend-Lease was also meant to assist the countries of Europe in their direct fighting efforts. Stettinius remarks in his article that most of the Lend-Lease aid was in reverse—that is, we received materiel from Europe, ostensibly to protect it from enemy attack (1942).

As his example, he cites a British munitions plant that was disassembled brick by brick and shipped here and reassembled in order to protect it from the Luftwaffe (1942). He also notes that what we received in Lend-Lease is nothing compared to what we gave. The European nations that benefited from Lend-Lease were Britain and Russia for the most part. Again, we need to remember that about Three-quarters of what was given were given to Brazil. The Lend-Lease Act contained within it a provision that at its core was unconstitutional. How did it pass, then, if it was unconstitutional?

The answer lies with the expediency with which the bill was passed. The bill was needed; therefore it was passed as is, with only two months of debate. The section in question is one that has to do with the termination of the President’s powers under the act with the passage of a joint resolution of Congress. This provision goes back to a part of Lend-Lease that states that the President or his designee can authorize the manufacture, sale of, test of, and release of any defense article deemed necessary for the defense of the allies and by extension the United States (United States Government, 1941).

The provision in question flies in the face of the balance of powers as established under the Constitution. The provision that provides for the termination of the President’s powers under the act is, on its face unconstitutional. It would appear that the Congress is attempting to usurp power from the President and take it for themselves, clearly a violation of the Constitution. It worried Franklin Roosevelt so much, he asked his Attorney General to render an opinion about the constitutionality of the clause (Jackson, 1953).

Though he signed the order, he “feared the long-range effect of the precedent on the balance of power between Congress and the Executive (Ibid). In other words, Roosevelt felt as though Congress was using the opportunity of a national emergency to make a grab for more power, some of which they may have felt they lost under Roosevelt when he passed measures of the New Deal. Roosevelt was so concerned about the provision, that though he had an official opinion rendered, he did not publish it, nor did it have the force of law.