France hosts NYC events marking centennial of US in WWI
07 April, 2017, 04:54 | Author: Leticia Walters
Wilson had not wanted to do this.
And while The Great War, a sprawling and engrossing three-night presentation of the renowned American Experience series, may not be the war documentary to end all war documentaries-given that Ken Burns's long-awaited 10-part The Vietnam War is heading our way this fall-there is value in this often wrenching account of how and why the US entered this awful and first modern war. Germany responded to a British blockade by escalating its attacks on shipping vessels, but many Americans viewed these matters as not their concern. A major military power attacking passenger ships with submarines? That sharply pejorative term, which became popular only in the 1920s, accurately describes neither the thought nor the actions of key participants in the peace coalition.
The unexpected began with the German calculation that the USA would have no impact on the ground war in Europe.
The reason Wilson asked Congress to declare war is pretty well understood.
Although the United States was officially neutral when World War I started in August 1914, the majority of American opinion, especially outside of strongly German or strongly Irish areas, tilted in favor of the Allies. The very fact that the United States enters the war with this determination will be of itself a mighty factor in bringing peace. The isolationist Sen. William E. Borah of Idaho warned that once the United States was "in the maelstrom of European politics", it would be "impossible to get out".
The war began in July 2014, a tumultuous period in Europe. Wilson himself, born in 1856, as a boy had watched Gen. Robert E. Lee march his army through Wilson's hometown of Staunton, Virginia, after the surrender at Appomattox, and he witnessed the devastation of Reconstruction firsthand.
The Germans believed they could end the war quickly by taking a more aggressive stance. Millions of Irish Americans were outraged that, despite Wilson's bleatings about democracy, Britain brutally repressed Ireland during and after the war. Chief among those ideologies were the Great Power rivalries attendant to global imperialism. The future was looking a little brighter - surely the war would be over sooner now? Now Wilson was explaining that "Neutrality is no longer feasible or desirable where the peace of the world is involved".
World War I might be glossed over in the history books, but its impact was felt in all corners of the world, including Toledo. Following the assassination in Sarajevo of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife, Sophie, by a suspected Serbian nationalist gunman, the Central Powers - Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria - were pounding Russia, France and Britain. The bellicosity of both Republican and Democratic leaders is a reminder that Wilson also failed to make democracy safe for the world.
US neutrality was finally shattered in the early months of 1917. Germany lost the war. In the telegram, Zimmermann proposed a military alliance between Germany, Mexico, and Japan - should the United States enter the war. Germany communicated its support for Mexican territorial ambition by means of a coded telegram, known thereafter as the Zimmerman telegram, sent first to the German ambassador in Washington, D.C., and then onto Mexico City.
On this date 100 years ago, the United States House of Representatives endorsed a declaration of war against Germany by a vote of 373-50.
It wasn't inconceivable that Mexico would declare war. Britain got all the food it needed, and by the beginning of 1918 the USA was sending 40,000 to 50,000 soldiers each week to France.
Once the United States chose to enter the fray, the president, with the aid of the courts, prosecuted opponents of the war with a ferocity neither his defenders nor his adversaries had expected.
American neutrality had withheld even through the sinking of the Lusitania by a German U-Boat in 1915 off the coast of Ireland, and the loss of many American lives. In 1912, American inventor Isaac Lewis had offered to give the U.S. Army his air-cooled machine gun design for free. Relatively speaking, USA deaths were few, about 118,000 from all causes, but a great tragedy for each of the families that suffered a loss. The British economist Lord Keynes warned in his classic, "Economic Consequences of the Peace", that the new world order being constructed by the victors at the end of World War I, including the American president, Woodrow Wilson, would lead to more instability than stability - and unfortunately, he was right.
Today, we've lost clarity on our national interests.
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