Although starting at a local level, WWI quickly embraced the entire world, making nearly every state take sides in the military conflict. The U.S. managed to maintain neutrality for an impressive amount of time, yet even the American government had to define its position toward WWI at some point. It was promoted by Woodrow Wilson, the policy of isolationism that the U.S. had maintained up until nearly the end of WWI. In retrospect, these were the policies of nationalism and imperialism that sparked the development of military actions within Europe, causing WWI to erupt. Being devoid of the specified movements and representing a multinational society, the U.S. abstained from WWI, which allowed it to contribute to the defeat of the Axis powers.
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Nationalism, Imperialism, Militarism, and the WWI
When considering the causes of WWI, one must acknowledge the presence of multiple factors that determined the development of the conflict. The militarist and nationalist moods that were brewing in Europe at the time can be seen as the primary factors that led to the evolution of the confrontation within Europe. Specifically, due to the threat that large armies posed to the territorial integrity of European states, there was a strong propensity toward the militarization of the army across European countries (Williamson, 2015).
Similarly, the tendency for European states to consolidate and develop the policies that focused on fighting for the privileges of the dominant groups, thus producing Nationalism and Imperialism, led to the aggravation of the conflict (Höbusch, 2016). In a similar vein, other states such as Prussia developed Nationalism due to previous failures in the political field and the need to prove their worth as political entities (Williamson, 2015). In some countries, such as Russia, the specified phenomenon took the shape of imperialism (Höbusch, 2016). Thus, the increasing levels of enmity between European countries have affected the development of WWI.
Events That Drew the United States into the WWI
While the U.S. viewed the imperialist, nationalist, and militarist views of Europe as alien at the time when WWI erupted, the American government had to take actions at some point to support the Allies and prevent the Axis forces from gaining any further influence. Particularly, it was the invasion-based military strategy of German military forces and the threat for the global well-being that made the American government finally intervene (Béland, Howard, & Morgan, 2015).
In addition, the political connections that the U.S. had at the time implied that the government should support the states with which it had developed a strong bond. Specifically, the American government had very strong ties to the British Empire. In addition, the fact that the German submarines engaged in military actions toward the U.S. and the Allies indicated that America could not stand neutral any longer.
Specific Events That Led to America’s Entrance into the WWI
Despite the initial policy of noninvolvement and neutrality, the U.S. had to enter WWI under the pressure of several circumstances. Specifically, once the U.S. started sending ships to Britain in order to provide it with the necessary assistance, German submarines sank these ships. The destruction of William P. Frye, one of the private vessels sent to Britain, was the last straw for the U.S. After the specified event, the American Senate votes for entering WWI and declaring war against the Axis powers (Béland et al., 2015). In addition, after the German fleet attacked Britain, the U.S. demanded reparations from the German government, which was met with disdain. Thus, America became involved in one of the vastest global military conflicts in history.
Role of Ethnicity in America’s Neutrality
The U.S. maintained the policy of neutrality nearly up until the end of WWI, which can be explained by the lack of concern for the concepts of imperialism and nationalism that gained significance in Europe. (Fulwider, 2016). However, there were some issues in encouraging the ethnic minorities of the U.S. to support the specified policy. For instance, German immigrants voiced concern for the well-being of their country of origin, thus supporting it and the Central Powers.
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Similarly, the Irish population of the U.S., as opposed to the policy of Great Britain, viewing it as the oppressor of Ireland. Finally, some of the Jewish immigrants in the U.S. could not consider the presence of Russia in the ranks of the Allies as a positive factor, which made them support the Central Powers (Fulwider, 2016). As a result, while technically being immune to the ideas of imperialism, militarism, and nationalism, which tore Europe asunder, the U.S. was also filled with contradictions.
The defeat of the Treaty of Versailles: Analysis
On June 28, 1919, the Allies and the Central Powers signed the Treaty of Versailles, which implied the defeat of the latter and the creation of a healthier climate for international relationships. The specified step was preceded by the Paris Peace Conference, during which the conditions on which the peace treaty was supposed to be signed were discussed. Before the treaty was signed, numerous disagreements had to be settled. Specifically, some of the countries, namely Italy, did not agree to the terms that the treaty contained, such as the control over the Adriatic (Williamson, 2015). Nevertheless, the treaty was finally signed, and peace was restored.
WWI was defined by the growing propensity toward nationalism, militarism, and imperialism in Europe, which was intrinsically alien to the U.S., thus ensuring the latter’s neutrality during the war. Being the precursor to another devastating war, WWI did not settle major issues that caused its development in the first place. However, during the confrontation, the role of the U.S. as the peacekeeper and the supporter of the Allies was established.
Béland, D., Howard, C., & Morgan, K. J. (2015). The Oxford handbook of U.S. social policy. Oxford, UK: OUP.
Fulwider, C. R. (2016). German propaganda and U.S. neutrality in World War I. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press.
Höbusch, H. (2016). “Mountain of destiny”: Nanga Parbat and its path into the German imagination. Rochester, NY: Boydell & Brewer.
Williamson, D. (2015). Access to history: War and peace. International relations 1890-1945 (4th ed.). London, UK: Hachette UK.