Thursday, October 14, 2021

Review of "Why We Are At War: Messages to the Congress January to April, 1917," by Woodrow Wilson

 Review of

Why We Are At War: Messages to the Congress January to April, 1917, by Woodrow Wilson

Five out of five stars

No president was better at expressing idealism

 From January 1917 to April 1917 when there was a declaration of war by the United States Congress against Imperial Germany, American President Woodrow Wilson made seven major addresses to the Congress. They were expressions of idealism surrounded by the realism that war between the United States and Germany was now almost inevitable.

 Isolated from the sea by the British naval blockade, the German high command made the decision to engage in unrestricted submarine warfare against Britain and France in the hope to starve them of food and other raw materials. Since many of those items were coming from the United States, this meant that U. S. ships and goods were being sent to the bottom of the sea and American citizens on those ships were being killed.

 This book contains those seven major addresses and in reading them, one can see the incremental movement from a neutral power to a form of armed neutrality to a declaration of war. No U. S. president was better than Wilson in expressing an idealism about being above the war and then once entered, explaining how it happened and how future wars could be prevented.

 To Europeans with a long history of fighting wars right on schedule, Wilson’s proclamations no doubt sounded simple and naïve. As history demonstrates, Wilson’s ideal of no punishment by the victor over the defeated simply did not take place when World War I ended. In fact, Germany thought that they were surrendering under the basis of Wilson’s proclamations. The treaty of Versailles ended that notion.

 Fortunately, when the Second World War ended, the United States understood that a more humane treatment of the defeated was appropriate. So, in most ways followed the idealistic stance that Wilson put forward.

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