War by Act of Germany
-To defend American interests short of war, the president asked Congress for authority to arm American merchant ships.
-An obstruction of Midwestern senators was a reminder of the continuing strength of American
isolationism. -The Zimmermann note was intercepted and published on March 1, 1917, infuriating Americans, especially westerners.
-German foreign secretary Arthur Zimmermann had secretly proposed a German-Mexican alliance,
tempting Mexico with veiled promises of recovering Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. -On the heels of this provocation came the overt acts in the Atlantic, where German U-boats sank four unarmed American merchant vessels in the first two weeks of March.
-Simultaneously came the news that a revolution in Russia had toppled the regime of the tsars.
-America could not fight foursquare for democracy on the side of the Allies, without Russian despotism in
the Allied fold. -On April 2, 1917, Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war.
-He had lost his gamble that America could pursue the profits of neutral trade without being sucked into
the maelstrom. -A myth developed in later years that America was dragged into war by munitions makers and Wall Street bankers, desperate to protect their profits and loans.
-Yet, the weapons merchants and financiers were already thriving.
-Their slogan might well have been "Neutrality Forever."
-The truth is that British harassment of American commerce had been galling but endurable; Germany had resorted to the mass killing of civilians.
-The difference was like that between a gang of thieves and a gang of murderers. -President Wilson had drawn a clear line against the depredations of the submarine.
-The German high command chose to cross it.
Wilsonian Idealism Enthroned
-It was fearful to bring America to war because of the formidable challenge it posed to Wilson's leadership skills.
-Ironically, it fell to Wilson to shatter one of the most sacred of those traditions by entangling America in a
distant European war. -For more than a century, Americans had prided themselves on their isolationism from the periodic outbursts of militarized violence that afflicted the Old World.
-Since 1914, their pride had been reinforced by the bountiful profits gained through neutrality. -German U-boats had now roughly shoved a wavering America into the abyss, but ominously, no fewer than 6 senators and 50 representatives had voted against the war resolution.
-This included Jeannette Rankin, first congresswoman of Montana. -Wilson could whip up no enthusiasm, especially in the Midwest, by fighting to make the world safe from the submarine. -To galvanize the country, Wilson would have to proclaim more glorified arms.
-Radiating the spiritual fervor of his Presbyterian ancestors, he declared the goal of a crusade to make the
world safe for democracy.
-Brandishing the sword of righteousness, Wilson virtually hypnotized the nation with his lofty ideals.
-He contrasted the selfish war aims of the other belligerents, Allied and enemy alike, with America's
shining altruism. -America, Wilson preached, did not fight for the sake of riches of territorial conquest.
-The Republic sought only to shape an international order in which democracy could flourish without fear
of power-crazed autocrats and militarists. -In Wilsonian idealism, the personality of the president and the necessities of history were perfectly matched.
-Wilson believed in the principles he intoned- especially that the modern world could not afford the kind
of hyper-destructive war that advanced industrial states were now capable of waging.
-In this, Wilson's vision was prophetic.
-Probably no other appeal could have successfully converted the American people from their historic
hostility to involvement in European squabbles. -Americans could be either isolationists or crusaders, but not both. -Wilson's...
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