World War I and the United States’ Participation
American people will always remember the effects of World War I. It claimed millions of lives and caused the destruction of cultural and architectural masterpieces. Moreover, World War I was also the beginning of the end of the Old World in the form in which it previously existed (Dyer, 2015). This paper aims to analyze the political role of the United States and the effectiveness of the Versailles Treaty.
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As World War I was declared in the summer of 1914, while most European politics were on the vacations, it could have been inevitable since German troops were already mobilized. Moreover, the European Continental Entente, which at that time was the leading representative of the European political force, was then in a state of internal conflict (Harris, 2015). European countries were not ready to unite to repulse the enemy. So the war did not last three months, or even a year, as was initially assumed in the upper classes, but more than four years and claimed millions of lives.
After the outbreak of World War I, President Woodrow Wilson decided that America should maintain neutrality. At the same time, America had strong trade relations with Europe (Dyer, 2015). Prices for cotton (an element for gunpowder manufacturing), which American companies exported to France and the U.K., went higher and higher, while the American economy was also developing steadily. When European countries ran out of money, America began to sell goods on credit. Some American politics considered this behavior as strongly wrong and selfish.
Germany soon declared the neutral waters of Great Britain and Ireland to be a war zone, which jeopardized the neutrality of the Atlantic waters controlled by British vessels. After German submarines attacked the British liner “Lusitania,” 1,200 people lost their lives, including 128 Americans (Dyer, 2015). Theodore Roosevelt wanted the U.S. to declare war while Secretary of State Brian wanted a soft response.
Wilson insisted on forcing Germany to apologize and take all measures to ensure that the sea waters remained safe. In early 1917, Germany declared submarine warfare once again, since it was running out of resources due to the British blockade. After the German foreign secretary Arthur Zimmerman sent a secret telegram to the Mexican government in February 1917, proposing an alliance against America in case of war, Wilson severed diplomatic relations with Germany (Dyer, 2015). Finally, Wilson asked Congress to declare war after the German submarines attacked five American ships.
After the proclamation of the Weimar Republic in 1919, Germany faced three problems: the British blockade on food imports, the nature of negotiations with the Allied Powers, and the revolutionary activity of the Spartacus Party. The conference in Versailles was opened on January 18, 1919. Shortly after, Woodrow Wilson proposed his famous Fourteen Points, which, as Kassab (2016) recalls, guaranteed “equal terms of liberty and safety with one another, whether they be weak or strong” to all peoples (p.146). Although Germany complied with the requirements for an armistice, Allied Powers did not take the Fourteen Points seriously and suggested to dismember Germany.
French Prime Minister Clemenceau wanted to take the entire west bank of the Rhein River. Nonetheless, Great Britain and the U.S. rejected this idea, proposing a compromise of 15 years occupation of the mentioned land, while also ensuring France with British and American military alliance (Farmer, 2018). The Treaty was not even presented to the U.S. Senate for voting before it was signed, making the guarantee to France fell through. Thus, France insisted to prolong the British food blockade that resulted in severe sufferings of German people.
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In this way, the political role of the United States and the effectiveness of the Versailles Treaty were analyzed. It can be assumed that the United States played the role of a mediator who contributed to the victory of Allied Powers by providing economic support to the Great Britain. Equally important was the part of the U.S. during the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.
Dyer, J. (Director). (2015). Transforming America: U. S. history since 1877, a war to end all wars: part 2.
Farmer, B. (2018). The treaty of Versailles and the rise of nazism. The New American, 34(21), 33-38.
Harris, P. (2015). The war to end all wars: Reflections on the First World War and public affairs. Journal of Public Affairs, 15(1), 1-3.
Kassab, H. S. (2016). The power of emotion in politics, philosophy, and ideology. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.