The Zimmermann Telegram: Was It Necessary for U.S. Entry Into World War I?

Topics: World War I, World War II, United States Pages: 10 (3773 words) Published: November 10, 2010
In the year of 1917, Europe remained in a position of war and stalemate. The whole of Europe had been pitched in a massive war for nearly three years, as Europe had been divided between the Central Powers Germany, Austria-Hungary, and later the Ottoman Empire, and Triple Entente forces of Britain, France, and Russia. While the growing dissent and chaos within the Russian Empire had ensued with the aftermath of the February/March Revolution, the situation seemed to begin to lean in favor for German forces. However, the situation was about to become much more complicated as a new power enters the war; with the interception and decryption of the Zimmermann Telegram on March 1st of 1917 by British forces, a plot by the Germans to incite another American-Mexican War in the case of United States entry into the war is revealed. Enraged by this blatant threat from the German forces, the U.S. Congress, on April 6, 1917, had officially approved the declaration of war against Germany. The end result was, with the attempt to force the United States into a state of neutrality, the Germans had ironically and unintentionally triggered the U.S. entry into the Great War, or more appropriately, the First World War. However, the actual cause of American entry into the war is open to debate, as it could be stated that, in disregard toward the Zimmermann Telegram, the United States would have moved in favor of war from previous actions against the United States, specifically the recent renewal of unrestricted submarine warfare that had sunk the cruise liner, Lusitania, two years before, killing 1,195 passengers. This incident had already moved a sizeable demographic against Germany, moving the United States away from the anti-war isolationist movement. Perhaps then, the U.S. involvement in World War I may have been inevitable, regardless of the telegram. European Background:

The setting of Europe at the end of 1916 was bleak and disheartening, as the whole of the continent had still been at war for over two years without either side having any clear advantage or any determinable outcome in the Western Front; though for the Eastern Front the Germans had the sign of impending victory against the Russian Army. As stated in ‘The Chronicle of War’ by Paul Brewer in the opening sentence of page 140, “the people of Europe had little to look forward to that would be “happy” in the New Year.” The Western Front had, in particular, been placed into little more than a bloody stalemate as both the Entente powers and Triple Alliance powers were locked in the iconic trench warfare of the Great War. The early months of 1917, however, seemed to have given a favorable advantage for the German forces as the Russians were soon placed in dilemma that jeopardized whatever hope there was in the Eastern Front for the Allies. The Russian government had been locked in revolution and was now in the position that the in-fighting and inner conflict of the revolution may hamper the war effort. The event of the February/March Revolution had led to the immediate abdication of the Tsar and the dissolution of the Russian Autocracy, leading to the formation of the Provisional Government. However it was slow and did not produce the results demanded by the Russian people nor could it form a ready government soon enough to combat Russia’s problems, and its military failures only increased the populace’s dissatisfaction. This would eventually lead to the October Revolution at the hand of the Bolsheviks. Lenin, the leader of the Bolsheviks, had successfully performed a coup d’état against the failure and incompetence of the Provisional Government of Russia, and with this move he had immediately disbanded the Russian Army, believing that his Communist Revolution would incite others to do same in the other nations, beginning with Germany. But Lenin’s expectations would not be realized as the Germans marched into an undefended nation, with the power to force...
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