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What Did American Intervention in WWI Accomplish? A Lot if..

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Auteur Bericht

Geregistreerd op: 7-2-2006
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BerichtGeplaatst: 04 Apr 2012 17:25    Onderwerp: What Did American Intervention in WWI Accomplish? A Lot if.. Reageer met quote

This essay is based on research conducted for my Master's thesis.
I examined all the sides of WWI that semester, Germany's role in particular very carefully, before coming to certain conclusions, part of which are expressed here as to why American involvement in the War to End All Wars was such a central moment in world history, and a good call.

America decided to intervene in the First World War 95 years ago this week in 1917, in one of the most momentous decisions in the history of the country and the modern world, as there was no going back from that moment as to America being the strongest state on Earth.

Wilson had tried to keep America out of the war, in keeping with longstanding isolationist sentiment, but he also sympathized with the Allies, due to their government being much more similar to America's system than that of the Kaiser of Germany, if that also meant holding one's nose at the despotism of the Tsars.

Wilson was a political scientist from JHU as a Ph.D., justly famous for his work Congressional Government while at Princeton, as to why he felt this way at a very deep level. He was the first professor to become President in American history, and the only one with a large body of published work in his field to ever to do that, as in the era President Obama lived in, that was considered a bad political carer move: Borking's price.

As to how he approached the moral element in foreign policy, something "Realists" always underestimate as to a "real influence, "Wilson was the quintessential WASP, a stern Presbytarian who couldn't abide by things he saw unjust, although the Germans not without reason thought him unfair. Then again, for all the Germans complaints about the Carthaginian character of the Treaty of Versailles, that is actually a total misnomer, as Versailles was far more generous than what the Germans offered the Russians at Brest-Litovsk in 1918.

As to the sympathies then, although Wilson declared neutrality immediately upon the sounding of the guns of August, and much to the objection of Theodore Roosevelt, who having run in 1912 might well have brought the United States into the war much sooner, Wilson allowed certain tactical realities of naval warfare and financial interests to make the United States de facto if not de jure allies with France and especially Britain well before 1917.

As to naval tactical realities influence in this process, although submarines actually did the most damage then and in WWII by surfacing and firing with their gun, as opposed to torpedos, it was still an attack that had no possibility of warning, or especially evacuation of non-combatants.

As to warning, the submarine, although having the tactical surprise, couldn't maintain that without immediately firing, since it was a sitting duck on the water to any gun with any reasonable level of accuracy.

Moreover, it couldn't therefore take prisoners, but merely pop up, and put boats into Davey Jone's Locker, like the infamous episode with the Lusitania in 1915, a full two years note before the U.S. entered the war (note, the Lusitania was also carrying contraband of war, and therefore the passengers were somewhat like human shields with a bad ending.).

As to the financial issue, firms like J.P. Morgan were in fact close to the British, and as the British used that credit to finance the French, there was a "moral hazard" issue as to the bankers assuming that D.C. would bail them out, if unlike Left Wing histories, that is not what motivated Wilson.

If you read his papers, held hostage almost for many years by Arthur Link at Princeton, what you see is that Wilson actually cared about the principles he espoused in terms of no more wars of aggression, and human rights, and democracy.

That is why there was such back and forth with Bethman von Hollweg about submarine warfare after the Lusitania, note, two full years before American intervention.

Wilson won re-election in 1916 on a peace platform, because he believed he could bring about a settlement without the use of force, although in the circumstances he was confronting, this assumption was highly unrealistic, not, however, surprising for someone of such a fundamentally humane temper as Wilson.

It's very difficult to get someone really committed to back down in international relations over core security issues, absent a totally credible threat of the use of force, and even then, like with Iran now, it may not work, if you want a lesson applicable to today's world.

As to the circumstances, the Allies and Central Powers mutual preemptive strike plans had all died on contact with the enemy, although the German High Command's much less so (French Plan 17 was an offensive operation, as was the Russian offensive slaughtered at Tannenburg, just like the Schlieffen Plan.).

As to the military situation 95 years ago today, if it was desparate on all sides upon our intervention, the Germans had in fact calculated correctly that they had a very reasonable chance to win, even with American intervention.

Without American intervention, the German victory was a foregone conclusion, something of potentially awesome consequences compared to the world we live in now.

As to why the German victory was inevitable without the U.S. intervening, the Russians had fallen into revolution in March 1917.

The Russians were rapidly becoming combat ineffective, helped especially when the Germans put Lenin on the famous "sealed train" with millions of dollars, and sent him to take Russia out of the war. Lenin of course wasn't motivated by the same things as the Germans who sent him, but in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, forced on the Russians at gunpoint in 1918, he had done his work from the German point of view.

It is in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk that anyone who says Versailles was a punitive peace reveals a lack of knowledge. That is harsh, but true.

It is true because Brest-Litvosk amputated 300 years of Russian history, and imposed vassal states across Eastern Europe all the way to the Urals, what Hitler was trying to accomplish in Barbarossa: Versailles was generous in comparison.

Maybe Versailles could have been more generous, but would you be, given stated German war aims in what came after Brest-Litovsk, amputating large parts of Northern France, huge indemities, and basically annexing Belgium, and enforced by a massive offensive operation with more than one million stormtroopers, "Stormtroptruppen," that absent American intervention would have won the war in the West.

That sequence of German offensives in the West in March 1918 would have won the war absent American intervention, because if the United States had not fought it out with the Germans on the high seas since April the year before, France, Britain and Italy would have collapsed: period.

As it was with American intervention, France's Army mutineed in 1917 after the Nivelle offensive ended in a total bloodbath. If America weren't feeding the troops at that point via British subsidies, another super Cannae-Sedan was one small push away.

Similarly, the British were on the edge of financial and economic collapse, especially with food, that absent American intervention means that there is no way the Germans don't win that war, since Italy collapsed at Caporetto late in the year.

The only reason to hang on in the West was the Americans: period.

If that had not happened then, the world order would have been shaped by Germany in very different ways, starting with democracy.

After 1916, Germany was run by a military autocracy of Hindenburg and Ludendorff. Ludendorff was at the Beer Hall episode with Hitler, if you want to be honest about what those types of people had in mind for the government of Europe: military despotism.

Maybe that's how things some day finish, because the Left wing element can't get over inequality enough, and the Right wing never knows when to stop with that, but the only reason we didn't already see that in Western Europe was because of our intervention there, and that had beneficial feedback here too, as we have enough of a security state as it is anyway, truth be told.

As to why that feedback was good, if Germany had done what was inevitable after its victory, and erected a world empire that overshadowed the British Empire, we would have had to protect ourselves militarily from that by creating a military-industrial intelligence complex, just without as many potential democratic allies.

As it was, the rise of the Bolshevist despotism in Russia alas led to many of the same security measures, as sometimes to survive people like the Chekists, or the Nazi style militarists, you have to become more like them than you ever wanted, since if you don't, they might win, and in today's world exterminate your race with nuclear weapons.

We had however more space to avoid that outome because of our intervention in WWI, and by a large margin.

Moreover, like Wilson thought, we had a chance to bring democratic governments to other places in the world where that never would have happened, at least a chance for something better, so far as we can know at least in a world full of moral ambiguities that always disappoint people like Woodrow Wilson, if like his biggest fan Nixon thought, their disappointments make them more noble in the process.

If any question why we died
Tell them, because our fathers lied
-Rudyard Kipling-
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