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Old March 6th, 2015, 02:12 PM   #91
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Originally Posted by Eamonn10 View Post
Also Wilson's vision of an enlightened world order has to be taken into consideration.
Why? Does it signify anything beyond his overinflated opinion of himself?

If he had any ulterior motive for going to war, it had nothing to do with economics, but stemmed from a fear that if he didn't move soon, the Entente would win whilst he was still a neutral, so that "America" (read "him") would be left out of the peace conference - which of course would never do. <g>.

In fairness, though, I don't think he would have gone to war for that alone, had the Germans not kept on kicking him into it
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Old March 6th, 2015, 02:26 PM   #92
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Why? Does it signify anything beyond his overinflated opinion of himself?

If he had any ulterior motive for going to war, it had nothing to do with economics, but stemmed from a fear that if he didn't move soon, the Entente would win whilst he was still a neutral, so that "America" (read "him") would be left out of the peace conference - which of course would never do. <g>.

In fairness, though, I don't think he would have gone to war for that alone, had the Germans not kept on kicking him into it


Because the international system he favoured, based on liberalism, democracy and capitalistic enterprise, could never exist in a world dominated by imperial Germany.
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Old March 7th, 2015, 12:37 AM   #93
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Because the international system he favoured, based on liberalism, democracy and capitalistic enterprise, could never exist in a world dominated by imperial Germany.

When was Germany even close to dominating the world? She would have strengthened her position in Europe, and maybe acquired some more colonies, but she had scarcely any capability even to reach the American continent, let alone make any conquests there. How would she have been any harder to coexist with than the Soviet Union was after WW2?


Though once again, even if correct this has little bearing on what actually took place. Whatever he may have said later (ie with 20/20 hindsight) Wilson did not go to Congress on April 2 in order to save the Allies from defeat, if only because he was quite unaware that they needed saving. As far as he knew, America was joining the winning side.

This was indeed what almost everyone still thought. Certainly the Germans did, which is why they went ahead with USW and the ZT, despite knowing that it meant war with the US. As matters stood in Jan 1917, when the crucial decisons were taken, Germany had barely made it through the "annus horribilis" of 1916, and (the Russian Revolution and the French army mutinies being still in the future) seemed doomed to lose the war in 1917, unless the u-boats could win it for them. Either way, the war seemed certain to end in a matter of months, long before American intervention could have any effect. As Admiral Sims (or his ghostwriter) put it, America's action was expected to have no more significance than would "a declaration of war by the planet Mars".

The only major exceptions to this conventional wisdom were in the top echelons of HM Treasury, who alone knew how bad Britain's financial position was. But this of course was a closely guarded secret, unknown to anyone in Washington. Not that it would have mattered. Even when the situation was revealed, after American entry, the US Treasury at first did not believe it, assuming that Britain was exaggerating her problems in order to get America to pay for her war effort. When frantic letters from Ambassador Page were ignored, we finally had to send Arthur Balfour to America with, in effect, a begging bowl, before the monetary taps were finally turned on.

What Wilson feared in April was not a German victory, which he did not expect, but an Allied one - without US participation. This would mean America (read "Wilson") being excluded from the peace settlement, and denied the influence she would have as an ally of even a few months standing. Since Wilson was. of course, The Indispensible Man, the only one who could possibly get the peace treaty right, clearly this would never do. <g>

As Wilson delivered his War Message to Congress, everything seemed to have panned out just right. America was safely aboard the victorious bandwagon, probably within a few months of war's end. A token US force might go to Europe, but casualties would be negligible. Some American sailors would be killed by u-boats, but USW meant that this was happening anyway, so remaining neutral wouldn't save them. Even the financial cost seemed likely to be modest. Things could hardly have worked out better.

In a matter of weeks, all these assumptions were to blow up in Wilson's face. Britain's financial crisis required a far bigger US commitment than expected, and with the collapse of morale in the French and Russian armies, all the confident hopes of Allied victory in 1917 were dashed, with the prospect looming of a far bigger American army being required next year, if indeed things held together that long. As if this weren't enough, Allied food shortages would soon require Americans to accept meatless and wheatless days, and a ban on use of foodstuffs for brewing or distilling, which effectively brought in Prohibition even before the Eighteenth Amendment.

This much bigger commitment of course required a galvanising of American public opinion, ie a massive propaganda campaign which whipped up anti-German hatred to the point where anyone expressing doubts about the war, or about conscripton, was at serious risk of being lynched. This effectively ended the Progressive Era, as rabid patriots, most without a progressive bone in their bodies, came to dominate the stage. By the time St Woodrow got started on the League of Nations debate, many who might have supported him were either silenced or even imprisoned for supposed disloyalty. As one of them observed, Wilson had "put his enemies in office and his friends in jail". Like the cartoon lumberjack, he had sawn away the branch on which he was sitting.

Combined with the natural alienation of German-Americans, and the inevitable resentments that wartime austerities produced, this set the stage for Wilson's postwar debacle. Old opponents of war like LaFollette, and resentful supporters like Lodge, who considered Wilson to have stolen their issue, had no difficulty in combining against him over the Treaty of Versailles. In 1918, even before the armistice, Wilson would lose Congress, and two years later his party (outside the South) would suffer near annihilation. Thomas Woodrow Frankenstein had been destroyed by a monster of his own creation.

A cruel fate, but not, perhaps, an unjust one.

Last edited by Mikestone8; March 7th, 2015 at 12:43 AM.
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Old March 7th, 2015, 03:31 AM   #94
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I agree with some of your points but as regards American neutrality...

Remaining neutral in sentiment proved difficult because of its economic ties, common language, ancestry and culture which linked many Americans to Britain. These were strong emotional bonds. Not all Americans shared these view of course. The German-Americans sided with Germany and the Irish-Americans had no love for Britain.

By 1917 the American commitment to neutrality has been transformed into strong popular support for the war.

Wilson felt that if America didn't help to fight the war, America could not shape the peace. This ties with his vision of an enlightened world order.

One of the most important questions for America was neutral rights on the high seas. Within days of the wars outbreak, Britain had intercepted American merchant ships bound for Germany. In November 1914, Britain provoked more Wilsonian protests by declaring the North Sea a war zone and planting it with mines. U.S. denunciations had no effect, for Britain resolved to exploit its naval advantage no matter how it alienated American public opinion.

Ultimately, however, as others have said, Germany pushed the U.S. into the war. The German subs were causing havoc and Wilson at one stage said Germany would be held to "strict accountability" for the loss of American ships or lives. By May 1915, the Germans were putting ads in American newspapers telling people not to travel but then the Lusitania was sunk. Even so neutrality debates went on in America for another two years. It was Germany decision to decided to return to the policy of unlimited U-boat attacks that brought America into the war. Five American ships fell victim to German torpedoes in February and March 1917 and then the discovery of the Zimmerman telegram was the final straw.

To conclude, German attacks on American shipping, U.S. investment in the Allied cause, and American cultural links to the Allies, especially England-had converged to draw the United States into the war.
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Old March 7th, 2015, 07:00 AM   #95
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Originally Posted by Eamonn10 View Post
I agree with some of your points but as regards American neutrality...

Remaining neutral in sentiment proved difficult because of its economic ties, common language, ancestry and culture which linked many Americans to Britain. These were strong emotional bonds. Not all Americans shared these view of course. The German-Americans sided with Germany and the Irish-Americans had no love for Britain.

By 1917 the American commitment to neutrality has been transformed into strong popular support for the war.

Make that "in 1917" rather than "by 1917" and there is something in it, but as of Jan 1917 there was little support for war. Indeed, thanks to quarrels with Britain over blacklists and related matters, American opinion was distinctly less pro-Entente than it had been a year before. As recently as September 1916, Congress had passed legislation empowering Wilson to deny clearance to the ships of nations which discriminated against US firms - ie British ones. Wilson was also back-pedalling wrt U-boat warfare, taking no action over the sinking of two armed merchantmen, the Marina and Arabia, despite repeated prodding from his pro-Entente Sec of State, Robert Lansing. When push came to shove, he was willing to accept that armed ships were fair game, rather than face war over such a dubious issue.



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Wilson felt that if America didn't help to fight the war, America could not shape the peace. This ties with his vision of an enlightened world order.
Agreed - but that alone did not lead to war. Direct attacks on America's own vessels did.


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To conclude, German attacks on American shipping, U.S. investment in the Allied cause, and American cultural links to the Allies, especially England-had converged to draw the United States into the war.
Agreed about the attacks (offering US territory to Mexico didn't exactly help matters either), but not about the other two. The cultural links made active intervention on the German side unlikely, but never came even closer to bringing America to war, while all US loans during the period of neutrality were secured, so the lenders were never in danger of losing their money. That danger would arise only in respect of unsecured loans, and even Lansing, the most pro-Allied member of the Administration, was firmly opposed to granting these, as was the Federal Reserve.
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Old March 8th, 2015, 07:22 AM   #96
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Make that "in 1917" rather than "by 1917" and there is something in it, but as of Jan 1917 there was little support for war. Indeed, thanks to quarrels with Britain over blacklists and related matters, American opinion was distinctly less pro-Entente than it had been a year before. As recently as September 1916, Congress had passed legislation empowering Wilson to deny clearance to the ships of nations which discriminated against US firms - ie British ones. Wilson was also back-pedalling wrt U-boat warfare, taking no action over the sinking of two armed merchantmen, the Marina and Arabia, despite repeated prodding from his pro-Entente Sec of State, Robert Lansing. When push came to shove, he was willing to accept that armed ships were fair game, rather than face war over such a dubious issue.



Agreed - but that alone did not lead to war. Direct attacks on America's own vessels did.


Agreed about the attacks (offering US territory to Mexico didn't exactly help matters either), but not about the other two. The cultural links made active intervention on the German side unlikely, but never came even closer to bringing America to war, while all US loans during the period of neutrality were secured, so the lenders were never in danger of losing their money. That danger would arise only in respect of unsecured loans, and even Lansing, the most pro-Allied member of the Administration, was firmly opposed to granting these, as was the Federal Reserve.
I'll bow to your knowledge and analysis of the subject
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Old March 13th, 2015, 07:56 AM   #97
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Hello there, since my thread here did not seem to attract a lot of attention I am gonna try here by creating a debate, if that is alright.

Should the United States of America have joined the first world war on the side of the entente, or should it have stayed passive?

Absolutely not. Getting involved in WWI was probably THE single greatest foreign policy mistake in US history. It quite simply was not America's fight. Unfortunately, the business elites were able to maneuver the country into war because they had so much money invested in the British stock market, because they had loaned so much money to Britain and France to buy war material, that if Britain and France defaulted on those loans, several major US banks and companies stood to lose a lot of money.

Had there been a neutrality act like there was in the 1930's under which any combatants were required to follow "cash and carry" ie no credit and they must transport the goods themselves, the US never would have gotten involved in the First World War.

Not only was US involvement bad for America over 100,000 soldiers died, but it also handed absolute victory to the Entente Powers who forced completely unreasonable terms on Germany which made Hitler politically possible in the 30's. Without US involvement, the war ends in a stalemate (the Kaiserschlacht offensive failed without much US involvement) and the two sides would have been forced to come to a negotiated settlement.

This also would have meant the Hapsburg Empire would not have been dismembered which created an enormous power vacuum in Central Europe that was first filled by the Nazis and later the Commies and it would not have created the Yugoslavia - ie 7 different ethnic groups who hated each other forced to be in one country under Serb dominance. That of course led directly to the Balkan wars of the 1990's.
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Old March 13th, 2015, 08:12 AM   #98
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Absolutely not. Getting involved in WWI was probably THE single greatest foreign policy mistake in US history. It quite simply was not America's fight. Unfortunately, the business elites were able to maneuver the country into war because they had so much money invested in the British stock market, because they had loaned so much money to Britain and France to buy war material, that if Britain and France defaulted on those loans, several major US banks and companies stood to lose a lot of money.

Wrong on two points.

1) All loans prior to May 1917 had been secured on property or investments in North America, so there was no way those loans could be defaulted on. Unsecured loans were made only after US entry into the war.

2) In any case, (see my previous message #95) America did not go to war from fear of a German victory, since bar a few German-Americans hardly anybody expected one. General belief in April 1917 was that the Entente would win, very possibly before the year was out. So far as Wilson had any motive other than the sinking of American ships, it was fear that an Allied victory while he was still a neutral would leave him excluded from the peace talks. Couldn't have that, could he?

Still, those points aside I pretty much agree with your message.
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Old March 13th, 2015, 08:24 AM   #99
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Wrong on two points.

1) All loans prior to May 1917 had been secured on property or investments in North America, so there was no way those loans could be defaulted on. Unsecured loans were made only after US entry into the war.

2) In any case, (see my previous message #95) America did not go to war from fear of a German victory, since bar a few German-Americans hardly anybody expected one. General belief in April 1917 was that the Entente would win, very possibly before the year was out. So far as Wilson had any motive other than the sinking of American ships, it was fear that an Allied victory while he was still a neutral would leave him excluded from the peace talks. Couldn't have that, could he?

Still, those points aside I pretty much agree with your message.
1) you ignore the level of investment in Britain by US companies and banks - which was substantial. Also, I'd need to see evidence that there would not have been a massive "haircut" on loans made to Britain and France had they not prevailed. Everything I've seen is that both were heavily indebted to US creditors and that this was a major motivating factor for pushing the US toward entry into the war.

2) I agree with you about Wilson and his messianic ambitions though I doubt there was much confidence that the Entente Powers would win outright. Even prior to American entry, Russia and Italy looked very wobbly - and besides, nobody had demonstrated an ability to achieve a breakthrough on the battlefield anyway. Britain and France were just about out of men and money. Germany spent the last of its extra men on the kaiserschlacht offensive in the West after the Russians collapsed and that offensive failed with the Germans taking massive casualties.
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Old March 13th, 2015, 09:37 AM   #100
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They were certainly indebted to US creditors - iirc to the tune of around $2.2 billion at th time America entered the war - but as I said, these were all secured loans, so the lenders would not lost their money whatever the outcome of the war.

Their would of course have been a recession when the war ended and all those munitions etc orders ceased - but that would happen whoever won, and indeed did happen in 1919/20 and gave Harding an added boost to his Presidential campaign - not that he needed it.

With all due respect, the other stuff is 20/20 hindsight. The Russian collapse and the French army mutinies were still in the future when America declared war, and Britain's financial woes were still secret. Indeed, even when they were revealed, the US Treasury at first did not believe them, suspecting GB of exaggerating her woes to get Uncle Sucker to pay for the British war effort. It was necessary to send Balfour to the US with (in effect) a begging bowl, before the financial taps were turned on.

As far as anyone could see, Germany had barely made it through 1916, and 1917 was going to be even worse. Washington's concern was not a German win, but being left out of the peace settlement following the anticipated Entente one.
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