America’s Entry Into World War I
The onset of World War I came with repercussions to the United States, which initially planned on avoiding any confrontations. The fighting in Europe led to an increased appetite for territory, while German power continuously went unchecked in the oceans, posing a grave danger to innocent civilians. America upheld a neutral stance with President Woodrow Wilson maintaining a good relationship with both warring sides. However, the United States declared war on Germany after they sank four American merchant ships and tried to use Mexico to infiltrate the country. Therefore, the increased sovereign threat and attacks by German forces on innocent American and allied ships fueled America’s entry into the World War.
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America maintained neutrality during the war, hesitating to engage mainly because it hoped to broker a peace deal. President Wilson thought that stopping the war would prevent the country from participating, thus, maintaining its role as a negotiator at the time. For instance, he sent a close confidant, Edward House, to present possible peace solutions to London and Berlin (Berkin et al. 564). Furthermore, American sentiment at the time supported the President’s position since American interests were not at stake. Consequently, the country continued to maintain communication with both sides by providing food and supplies in addition to funding in terms of loans.
However, a turning point in America’s position arose after the sinking of a British ocean liner which led to the deaths of civilians, including American citizens. Germany’s role in the loss of the Lusitania caused diplomatic relations between the two countries to deteriorate. The continued attacks of American merchant ships by German U-boats causing the deaths of numerous citizens further dented their relationship. Additionally, the interception of the ‘Zimmerman telegram’ proposing a coalition between Germany and Mexico caused outrage in the country (Berkin et al. 571). As a result, President Wilson appeared before Congress asking for a declaration of war, ultimately leading to the country joining the First World War.
President Wilson’s actions at the time showed great restraint since he had just assumed office in 1913. His main agenda initially focused on solving domestic issues with little focus on foreign interventions. Furthermore, he also had little experience in international matters and foreign policy despite his knowledge of the subject. Therefore, the goal was to set America as a peaceful negotiator without engaging in the war to settle disputes. However, changing the policies of his predecessors proved difficult due to their extensive work in foreign policy. As a leader, his religious beliefs played a vital role in the decisions made, as evident in his speech announcing America’s neutrality, mentioning God’s larger plan for the country (Berkin et al. 569). Therefore, President Wilson showed outstanding leadership in handling the matter, opting for war when all other diplomatic options failed.
America’s entry into the world war was mainly fueled by increased attacks by German submarines and U-boats on American and allied ships together with the risk of its sovereignty. President Wilson initially maintained the neutral stance of the country in the war to preserve a relationship with both warring sides. However, the continued attacks which killed American citizens and the leaked Zimmerman telegram caused the nation to join the war. President Wilson’s leadership tried to avoid such altercations by opting for peaceful settlements based on appropriate foreign policies. However, the turn of events at the time forced a reaction leading to the United States joining the allied forces to fight in the First World War.
Berkin, Carol, et al. Making America, Volume 2 Since 1865: A History of the United States. 7th ed., Cengage Learning, 2015.