The killing of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, an Austro-Hungarian in Sarajevo, marked the commencement of the First World War on July 28, 1914, as the Austro-Hungarian Empire declared war on the Serbia. It is this that led to the many alliances formed in Europe to compel a majority of the countries to join into the war. By the August of 1924, Britain declared war on Germany and it this that marked the entrant of all the powers in Europe into the war that came to be one of the most deadly conflicts in the history of humankind. By August 4, 1914, the president of the Unite States Woodrow Wilson was quick to address the Congress with a robust and stern declaration that the United States would remain neutral from the war, and it is a position that received a lot of backing and support from the majority of Americans. It is the address of the president that he cited the strong economic and cultural connections that Americans had with the two warring factions that necessitated their neutrality. Furthermore, the US had no valid reasons to enter the war. Woodrow Wilson said, “Every man who loves America will act and speak in the true spirit of neutrality.” However, the US would not be in a position to maintain the neutrality and after two and a half years of refraining from joining the war, it was Wilson that mobilized Congress to the declaration of war in 1917, participating in the war on the side of the allies. It is this that led to controversy and sharp criticism of the Wilson administration, and there were varied reasons from both the critics and supporters of the decision to join the war. Despite the reasons given by the various critics and advocates of the decision, it was clear that the unrestricted submarine warfare policy by the Germans triggered the US joining of the war.
John Milton Cooper, Jr. (2003), made a historical interpretation on the motivations for joining the First World War by the US as being based on economic reasons. According to him, economic played a significant role in forcing the US to make the decision to join the war on the Allied side to protect their economic interests. The ties of geopolitics and culture were not enough reasons to join the war since as a neutral and strategic nation, the US profited in a major way on the advent of the war as they continued to trade with all the forces in the war without discrimination. However, the control of the British of the seas, as well as its increased reliance on the overseas trade coupled with the long history of good relations between the countries, led to increased trade between British and the US. America had the world’s largest industrial as well, as an agricultural economy in the world and as a result led to the increased trade with the Allied forces becoming its major supply house. They supplied them with ammunitions and foodstuff. However, as the war continued, British resources began getting strained the war proved to be too expensive, and as Cooper reiterates, it is this that led to the beginning of massive borrowing by the British for itself and the other allied powers. They mainly borrowed through the J.P Morgan and Company. By the year 1917, British faced a potential economic downfall as collateral their collateral sources were depleted leaving the US economic interests with the allies compromised. The British suffered a potentially economically crippling moment that would cut-off the overseas trade as well, and that meant that the economic benefit of the US would also be severed. It is this that necessitated the United States to intervene the war and as critics say it the primary reason being, “to save the Morgan loan.”
Charles Seymour was of the view that the United State’s primary reason for joining the World War 1 was the German submarine warfare that left President Wilson Woodrow with no other reason but to accede the war with the aim of protecting the American lives and property. The German policy of attacking the US ships came following a series of protests from Germany against the continued shipment of ammunition and food to the allied powers since it was the primary source of aid that strengthened the Entente against the Germans. Before the protests made by both Germany and Austria-Hungary against the trade between the Americans and the Allies, there was an agreement that as long as the US remained neutral, they would continue to make a trade in Europe. However, the British had a stronger grip and control, over the seas through the blockade and it is this that led to the Allied forces benefiting more from the trade at the expense of the enemy forces. It is this that angered the Germans who decided to take up the policies of sinking the American ships. The German administration initiated a submarine warfare against the US and all other ships in the region leading to the sinking of ships and consequential deaths of American citizens and massive losses in the seas. The first major case the US strongly opposed was the sinking of a British ship named ‘Falaba’ that led to the death of Leon C. Thrasher. There were a series of other British as well as American ships that sank between 1915 and 1916 that severed the German- American relations. By the year 1917 following the failed peace talks between the two warring faction, Germany declared a non-restricted submarine warfare, and it is this that made the US decide not to refrain from the war any longer. Wilson asserted that America could no longer remain neutral any longer and led to his demand for joining the Allied powers against the Germans.
Walter Millis in his book Road to War-America, 1914-1917 (1970) strongly asserts that America was never neutral in the First World War but was allied to the Entente right from the beginning and thus joined the war to support the Allied camp. Millis vehemently opposes the view that it was for the good of Americans economically and also the German policies and confrontation that led to the US joining the war. According to him, they were passively in the war right from the beginning. Willis Millis was thorough in his thesis that the participation of the US in the war was a mistake, and the country was dragged into the war by the Wilson administration that spoke neutrality whereas it supported British taking a hypocritical stance that led to German’s aggression against the United States. Millis insists that the Wilson administration was quick to lure the public into believing that there was a need to protect the democracy of the world through the support of the allies built all that was a blatant lie put across to get the United States joining the war. The US, therefore, entered the war to protect its personal interest with the majority of the business tycoons profiting the most from the War at the expense of the taxpayers. According to Millis joining the war for the US was, therefore, unnecessary and based on self-interests that cost Americans millions of dollars and thousands of lives lost in the war.
The Zimmerman Telegram in January 1917 was also a significant reason that led to the entrant of the US to the First World War. The Zimmerman note was a German diplomatic internal communication that called upon Mexico to attack the USA. The note was, however, intercepted by the USA and President Wilson had enough ammunition to convince the Congress of the need to join the war to fight Germany. The note was an official indication of the existence of a row between Germany and the United States and hence the need for the USA to act and act fast.
In conclusion, the United States maintained that their neutrality on paper with the Wilson administration calling upon the Americans to act in a nonpartisan manner regarding the First World War. However, it is velars that the Wilson administration maintained a form of preference for the Entente. There was increased trading with the British on behalf of the Allied forces and in as much as the British maintained a blockade that affected the US trade in Europe, they did not take any stern action or reaction as they meddled with the German policies during the war. The Americans further wanted to maintain the strong trade relations that existed with the allies and also the Morgan loans that they had issued out were a strong interest that they wanted to protect. Furthermore, the Zimmerman Telegram was also an indication of the German aggression. However, the militant aggression that prompted the United States to join the war was the non-restricted submarine warfare policy taken up by the Germans. It is this that was enough to convince the American public and also Congress that the US could no longer remain neutral. There were reasons given by the Wilson administration as to why the USA needed to join the war, but it was clear that the unrestricted submarine warfare policy by the Germans is what offered the most agitation and indicated the need for the US to join the war.
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