Justus D. Doenecke

in Nothing Less Than War

Published by University Press of Kentucky

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780813130026
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780813135755 | DOI:

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The leadership of Woodrow Wilson was defined largely by his actions during World War I. Although he was the primary decision maker on issues concerning foreign relations at that time, Wilson relied heavily on the advice of his subordinates despite knowing their limitations. At certain crucial junctures, his policies proved counterproductive to his goals of keeping the country out of the war, upholding the right to sell American goods without hindrance, and negotiating a conflict that was becoming increasingly fratricidal. In holding Germany to “strict accountability” concerning the destruction of American ships as well as neutral and belligerent vessels on the high seas, Wilson's messages were perceived as vague and obscured the issue. His ineptitude showed in his decisions on many critical issues, including the House–Gray memorandum that committed the country to enter the war on the side of the Allies and the modus vivendi that provided for the disarmament of Allied merchantmen. On the positive side, he understood that the US could not act unilaterally on the world scene and that it would benefit the country to join “any feasible association of nations.” Wilson also recognized that while Americans wanted to remain at peace, they also sought to protect the nation's rights. Ultimately, he had no other choice but to declare war against Germany and fight alongside the Allies, despite the administration's increasing frustration with Britain and improving relations with Germany.

Keywords: World War I; American foreign policy; Woodrow Wilson; Germany; Britain; diplomatic relations; neutrality; submarine warfare

Chapter.  3128 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas

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