Cem Anil Kenar
Wilson’s Stance during WW1:
From “He kept us out of the War” to “Make the World Safe for Democracy”
As it is well-known the World War I was primarily of a war fought due to imperialist aims, stemming from the need to satisfy the demand for raw material in the Europe. With the industrial revolution urge for raw material became of crucial importance for the European states. This was followed by the aggressive colonization projects that eventually led to a harsh competition between different parties around Europe, who want to hold control over the economic resources. The United States was not a super-power, as it is now, at the time of the War. Being aware of this Wilson opted to remain as a neutral observer during the initial phase of the war. It was the third year of the war, when the British intelligence intercepted the coded telegram dispatched by the Foreign Secretary of the German Empire, Arthur Zimmermann, on 16 January 1917. While the two blocs, The Entente Powers (France, The British Empire and Russia) vs. The Central Powers, (Austria-Hungary, Germany and the Ottoman Empire), were fairly evenly balanced between 1914 and 1917, with the year 1917 the Central Powers started to be weakened due to several reasons. The Americans were convinced that the Central Powers were doomed to lose the war, when the Zimmermann telegram was revealed. Therefore, Wilson aspired to take advantage of these circumstances and use the telegram as a pretext for convincing the American public opinion to join to the War and side with the Entente Powers. Given that all the parties involved in the war was motivated with the aim to gain competitive advantage over others, Wilson’s decision can be understood as an attempt on the side of the U.S. to pursue its own interest. In fact, Americans has succeeded in their endeavor to take advantage of the situation. Though the American causalities were around 100,000 with the end of the war, the American economy and its strategic positioning in the World politics were reinforced. This paper is attempt to shed light on Wilson’s stance during the World War I. It will be argued that Wilson had skillfully maximized the American interests during the war through several strategies. Though his re-election campaign was based on the slogan of non-involvement, Wilson was well-aware the danger, as well as the window of opportunity, awaiting the U.S. Accordingly it will be demonstrated that Wilson had utilized the Zimmerman telegram to justify the involvement of the American in the war. Accordingly the structure of this paper is as follows; firstly a brief summary of Wilsons’s arguments to launch the war is provided. These arguments will be evaluated critically. Secondly, the factors that delayed the American involvement will be discussed. This will be followed by Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war on April 2, 1917. His arguments to support the American entry into the War were based on the grounds of moral arguments. For Wilson, the U.S had a moral responsibility to enter the war to make the world safe for democracy. However the main reason underlying his call to join the war on the side of Entente Powers was more complicated than that. The American economy was dependent on the Britain. Therefore while Wilson listed many reasons to justify his call to enter to war, such as the German submarines attack on American civilians on international waters, the autocrat nature of the German state, and the responsibility of Americans to spread democracy and liberalism around the world, these arguments were not convincing. Germans had already announced that the attack on happened because those ships were transporting arms to the Britain. Besides though Wilson claimed that the war against Germany would also mean a war against autocracy, he was sided with Russia, which was also governed by an autocrat. Wilson proclaimed that the American entry into the World War I was inevitable...
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