America’s Long Lasting Legacy from World War One
By Alan Sunningham
via the History is Now magazine web site
World War One was notable for so many reasons. From understanding the current state of Eastern Europe to sewing the seeds of the Second World War, or understanding the falls of both the Ottoman Empire and Tsarist Russia. The war also influenced the way the U.S. conducts foreign policy.
American involvement in the First World War resulted from both the German Empire’s targeting of American ships via unrestricted submarine warfare and the sending of the Zimmermann telegram from Germany to Mexico. Wilson had the capability to claim that the U.S. was under threat from attack and did so, eventually contributing to the Western European war effort significantly and assisting in bringing the war to an end. From a strategic standpoint, Wilson’s overall stated goal was peace - he wanted the world to have the same ideals and beliefs that the United States itself had, or claimed to have. He repeatedly tried to broker a peace agreement between the warring factions.
I would argue that the most important result of U.S. intervention into the First World War was the retreat back into isolationism. Prior to WWI, the U.S. had been largely keeping to itself, largely engaging in domestic matters, and externally when the country was threatened (or perceived to be threatened) by a foreign nation within its sphere of influence. From the end of the Civil War to the First World War, the United States was becoming more involved in the global scene (with the taking of, what were essentially colonies, in the Philippines and Cuba in the Spanish-American War and multiple interventions in Mexico and Latin America). Despite this, the American public and political leaders retreated inward and left the global scene, instead focusing on “internal growth and development” by increasing tariffs, “that were enacted to restrict the influx of imported goods, thereby increasing domestic production”. While this was the initial motivation factor throughout the 1920s, the later collapse of the U.S. (and global) economy from 1929 further ingrained the idea that the U.S. should focus on domestic issues. The fact that congressional inquiries and anti-war books (USMC Gen. Smedley Butler’s War is a Racket among them) discussed wartime profiteering also put off many Americans on going to war for corporate desires.
Lack of commitment to the League of Nations
While these are certainly legitimate concerns for not going to war or becoming involved in the global stage, it is also possible that, had the U.S. been more committed to the League of Nations in the 1920s and 1930s, a stronger, global force may have been created that could have prevented Hitler’s rise to power, the rise of Fascism in Europe, and minimized the effect of the global economic depression of the 1930s.
Read the entire article on the History is Now web site here:
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