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Woodrow Wilson and American Diplomacy

Until early in [the twentieth] century, the isolationist tendency prevailed in American foreign policy. Then, two factors projected America into world affairs: its rapidly expanding power, and the gradual collapse of the international system centered on Europe . President Woodrow Wilson was the leader who would initiate the ideologies of American diplomacy in the twentieth century. Up until his Presidency, American foreign policy was simply to fulfill the course of manifest destiny, and to remain free of entanglements overseas.

Although he could not convince his fellow politicians on Capitol Hill of the probable success of his ideas, he did persuade the fellow writers of the Treaty of Versailles to use his Fourteen Points. Americas role as a political global superpower was established during his Presidency, as well as the modern policy that peace depends on the spread of democracy, and that national interest consists of adhering to a global system of law. The formation of modern American diplomacy can not only be attributed to Wilson, for the policies of Theodore Roosevelt are what initiated his diplomatic policies.

Roosevelt convinced Congress to strengthen the Army and Navy, and began major involvement in European affairs. His foreign policy regarding the Caribbean followed the policy of the Monroe Doctrine, that to maintain order in the Caribbean, foreign nations could not be involved, however Roosevelt did not follow the Doctrine to the extent of forceful evacuation of the Americas, he did use diplomatic means. He prevented European warfare in Venezuela, by negotiating with the involved nations. He found that it was Americas duty, just as all other powerful nations duties, to police the world and maintain order.

The Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine was issued, and it stated that America would be the police force of the Americas, and that European intervention was not necessary. This major step showed that America had no goals in obtaining new territories in the Caribbean, and was a measure to protect the Panama region from upheaval. Wilson would follow Roosevelts ideologies but to an even greater extent as he created a modern Monroe Doctrine. National aspirations must be respected; peoples may now be dominated, and[may now] be governed only by their own consent.

Self-determination is not a mere phrase. It is an imperative principle of action Peoples and provinces are not to be bartered about from sovereignty to sovereignty as if they were mere chattels and pawns in a game Every territorial settlement involved in this war must be made in the interest and for the benefit of the populations concerned. Its peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty. From 1913-1917, Wilson and Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan had to deal with an unstable Mexican government.

Bryan was easily the leading opponent of imperialism and navalism and a pioneer in the movement to advance peace through arbitration and conciliation. The Wilsonian foreign policy was the start of the concept that war should be avoided at all costs. This policy, named New Freedom diplomacy, was seen in the ordeal with Mexico. Wilson only desired to see the Mexicans establish a constitutional government, and overthrow the new leader of Mexico, Victoriano Huerta. As soon as Huerta seized power from the unstable government, some of the northern states began anti-Huerta campaigns.

At first Wilson suggested that America would mediate the dispute between Huerta and the Governor of Coahuila, Venustiano Carranza, and his followers in the Constitutionalist movement. But to Wilsons surprise both parties utterly rejected any American interference. On October 13, 1913, Huerta arrested most of the chamber of deputies and inaugurated a military dictatorship. Wilson was so angered by the breakup of any democratic means in Mexico that he gave full support to the Constitutionalist movement. Wilson prevented a German merchant ship from delivering arms to Huerta, by taking the port at Veracruz.

Wilsons challenge was to avoid a war with Mexico, while having American troops on Mexican soil. Carranza was opposed to this acquisition and denounced the American government. Carranza and his armies eventually took Mexico City, and abdicated the dictator on July 15, 1914. After Carranza seized control, a split in the Constitutionalist movement plunged Mexico into civil war. Fansico Pancho Villa, Carranzas greatest general broke ties and led the revolt. Villa became very corrupt, and would seek nothing but full control of Mexico, and not negotiating at all, war was his only tool.

Villa declared war on Carranza, and a civil war had begun. Carranzas army swiftly removed the provisional government of Villa. Began attacking American citizens. Sixteen Americans were killed in a massacre as Villas men stopped a train at Santa Ysabel. Another nineteen were killed as Villa burnt Columbus, New Mexico on March 9, 1916. The actions by Villa tested Wilson in declaring war, but he refused, and instead tried diplomatic means. Instead of actual war, he sent a small battalion across the border to obtain Villa, but never to attack Carranza.

Carranza was upset by the American actions and demanded that they leave Mexico immediately. Wilson refused, and sent the National Guard to the border. There were two brief skirmishes with the Constitutionalists. Carranza and Wilson new that neither nation could afford a war, thus there was a peace settlement. There was a joint commission between the nations from 1916-1917, and no official treaty was written because there was no official war. Wilson had succeeded; he reformed the corrupt Mexican government into a democracy. Many presidents during the Cold War would follow this policy.

The spread of democracy has been the basis of American foreign policy after World War II; future presidents defeated communism in similar, more modern, ways. Prior to American entry in to World War II, Wilsons foreign policy with Europe was to try and maintain a balance of diplomatic relations between both sides of the conflict. Actions like this have been taken previous to Wilson, seen with Jefferson and Madison during the Commercial Warfare era with Britain and France. The events the brought America into the war, were very similar to those of the Commercial Warfare period.

Both involved the usage of international trade barriers, and a naval war. Wilsons policies at this time were very similar to those of Jefferson, neutrality was key, but in both situations involvement on one-side of the conflict could not be avoided. It is still Americas goal to open new foreign markets, and raw materials through diplomatic policies. The dominant American reaction in August 1914 was relief that America was far removed from the scene of conflict, coupled with conviction that the United States had no vital stake in the outcome.

Wilson new that the war might have a disastrous effect on the American economy had he not made actions to prevent a crash on Wall St. He closed the stock market on July 31, 1914 to prevent the deflation of European securities, causing a possible panic. Foreign ships were allowed to fly the American flag when transporting American goods to avoid seizure at sea. The government discouraged loans by American bankers to belligerent governments because they violated the spirit of neutrality. During the years of war without American military involvement, it was very difficult to have neutrality of trade.

At the start of the war Britain ruled the seas, and rarely allowed trade with Germany, but never issued a formal statement. In time German submarines would overthrow the British cruise ships, as the owner of the sea, but this was mostly a bluff. On May 17, 1915 the German U-boats sank the Lusitania even though it carried nothing related to the military whatsoever. Of the 1200 people onboard the ship 128 were American. The American sentiment was still peace; war would be too costly. Wilson would write three notes to the German government trying to maintain peace, and also prevent such occurrences in the future.

Germany paid no intention to the notes, even though Wilson used extremely diplomatic language to avoid the conflict, stating the any future attack as deliberately unfriendly. Germany would ignore the notes completely, and sank another non-military ship killing two Americans. Wilson was outraged, he and new Secretary of State Lansing demanded that Germany stop attacking commercial ships without giving warning, and proper safety to passengers, this became known as the Arabic pledge named after the sunken ship. This event elevated anti-German sentiment in a time of much conspiracy in German-American relations.

The American government would also denounce Britains blockade, as a prevention of neutral international trade. Maintaining neutrality became a hardship. During 1915 and 1916 America was on the brink of war, with any one enemy action against the United States, and war was inevitable. There was such tension in diplomacy, that when Wilson sent Colonel House to Europe to try and mediate a peace settlement, both sides refused without ridiculous opposing clauses. House would try numerous times in diplomatic missions only to fail. A major issue was the preparedness controversy.

It was Wilsons belief that having a large standing army and building munitions was unfavorable. In 1915 he would make a concession to allow the expansion by 400,000 troops, but they would serve very short terms. In 1916 he had to satisfy Congress, and he doubled the size of the military, but left the National Guard as it was. The preparedness changes set off debate throughout the government. Congress and the President would have to form a resolution on the expansion of the military. There was strong opposition from the agrarian society, but was favored heavily by the industrialists.

Many democrats of the south and west formed an anti-preparedness bloc in debate. The navy would rapidly expand as well with the authorization of the building of over 30 ships and 3 submarines during the first year of a 3-year plan. The Merchant Marine Act of 1916 was established with support from the president. The act called for the creation of a government run shipping system, and a new agency, the United States Shipping Board. The USSB had the power to own and operate merchant ships, as well as to regulate rates and service of all merchant shipping, interstate, coastwise, and foreign commerce.

The president had is way with the militarization. The future of the American military would follow the actions of Wilson. The National Guard would fall under the War Department jurisdiction, and America would have a large standing military at all times. During times of war the military would be enlarged with the use of reserves. Wilson changed the future of neutral military. In 1917 Woodrow Wilson brought America into the war, and one of the major reasons was to save democracy in Europe. The Germans were winning the war, and after Russia withdrew from the war, it was mostly a one front war for Germany.

They had irrational settlements for peace, and after France and England declined, the reopened unrestricted submarine warfare, and had thoughts of taking over the Western nations shortly. The Zimmerman Telegram was the validity of American entry. The German ambassador stated to the Mexican and Japanese government that if American entered the war in Europe, they declared war on the United States, their old territories would be returned to them. This shocked the American public, and when the German U-boats sank three more American merchant ships, the cabinet decided that they must go to war.

Congress overwhelmingly agreed with Wilsons sentiment and on April 6, 1917 the United States declared war on Germany. Wilson avoided war to the fullest extent, but the merchants could no longer take the beating at see that they were getting. Avoidance of war, and taking diplomacy to the fullest extent, would be used throughout the twentieth century. The Cold War is a perfect example, the presidents never allowed the United States to go into a state of war with Russia. The American War Dept. raised 3,000,000 men for battle and the Navy expanded its already great strength.

The Germans would get beaten back, and the Allies would win the war in the fall of 1918. It was time to establish a treaty to try and prevent another World War from occurring. The allied nations agreed to meet at Versailles, France, starting January 1, 1919. The major fault in the peace settlement would be that only neutral nations and allied nations were invited, and only the allies played a significant role. With the central powers not attending, none of their voices could be heard, this is believed to be a major reason for the failure of the settlement, a cause of the Great Depression, and the rise of Hitler.

The name Woodrow Wilson seems to be synonymous with two words, Fourteen Points. The Fourteen Points were Wilsons major accomplishment in office. Wilson introduced his theory on what measures would be successful, in not only preventing Germany from beginning a war again, but to prevent all wars. After all it was the war to end all wars. His elaborate Fourteen points were outlined in two groups the obligatory, the must be fulfilled and six more specific nonessential, but valuable clauses.

The eight musts included open diplomacy, freedom of the seas, general disarmament, the removal of international trade barriers, impartial settlement of colonial claims, the restoration of Belgium, the evacuation of Russian territory, and Wilsons greatest thought, the establishment of an international organization, the League of Nations. The thought of an international organization based on the ideology of peace was not Wilsons original idea; many had found collective security valuable.

Theodore Roosevelt gave a speech in 1910 to the Nobel Prize committee in which he proclaimed it would be a master stroke if those great Powers honestly bent on peace would form a League of Peace, but to prevent, by force if necessary, its being broken by others. Roosevelt merely made speeches on the idea, whereas Wilson made the idea a reality. The League of Nations would fail, however the idea still burned on, and the United Nations would be formed after the Second World War. The immediate conception is that it wasnt Woodrow Wilsons doing that created the successful United Nations.

However, the idea of an international organization that Wilson proclaimed and it unsuccessfulness, can be compared with the Articles of Confederation; both were stepping stones on the path to success, and without Wilsons initiation of the League of Nations the triumph of the United Nations may never have occurred. Wilsons use of an international organization to benefit the peace and security of the world, and more importantly the United States, was an action that was taken by most presidents in post-World War II.

The other six points, which were up for negotiation, were the restoration of Alsace-Loraine to France, self-determination in the remains of the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires, evacuation of the Balkans, readjustment of Italys frontiers, internationalization of the Dardanelles, and the creation of Poland with access to the sea. Wilson went to the peace conference at Versailles to present the points himself. In a time when it took one week to travel across the Atlantic, this was a rarity. Future presidents would follow his lead.

Especially with the advent of modern planes, making voyages much more efficient. Now it is frequent that leaders meet at conferences and negotiations all over the world. This most likely would have occurred with or without Wilson, however leaving the US for 6 months, only returning once, was revolutionary. No President had ever been away so long. This greatly affected the way Congress, and their isolationist tendencies, would look upon the Treaty of Versailles, and more importantly Wilsons League of Nations.

Wilsons statement of a modern Monroe Doctrine (see p. ) is not referred to as the Monroe Doctrine was in stating American policy for the next century, however, the ideas conveyed in those phrases is what American diplomacy became in the twentieth century. Wilson avoided war with Mexico, he avoided war with Germany until any hope for diplomacy was destroyed, and he used diplomatic techniques in the most precise manner. Although the isolationist Congress did not ratify the Treaty of Versailles, because of the League of Nations, Wilsons diplomatic spirit still lived on.

America would join the League of Nations, and be a global superpower in the United Nations, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. America has become what Wilson dreamed of, the economic, social, and political superpower. All fourteen points were eventually established, with interpretation on the general disarmament clause. Government officials might not study Wilson, they might not realize that it was he who shaped modern American diplomacy, it was he who shaped the twentieth century.

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