Thursday, April 6, 2017

Why we entered World War I 100 years ago today

By Christopher Kelly 4/6/17

One hundred years ago this month, Woodrow Wilson ended America's longstanding policy of isolation and led us into World War I on the Allied side. Over two and a half million Americans were shipped "over there" to Europe and served in the American Expeditionary Force (AEF). By war's end, more than 100,000 Americans would join the ranks of what British Prime Minister Lloyd George termed, without a trace of irony, "the glorious dead."

Why did Wilson make his fateful decision to enter the "War to end all wars?" Two of the principle reasons behind Wilson's decision were the German policy of unrestricted submarine warfare and the Zimmerman Telegram.  Unrestricted submarine warfare........ the RMS Lusitania, which was destined to be sunk by a German U-boat off the coast of Ireland in 1915, killing around 1,200 passengers, including at least 125 Americans.......To Read More.....

My Take - This article is interesting but misleading.  Wilson used both of these examples as an excuse to enter the war.   There was no need for America to enter this war, and especially over the sinking of the Lusitania.  The Lusitania was a British ship and there's more than enough evidence it wasn't just a passenger ship - it was in reality a munitions carrier disguised as a passenger ship, and naturally the disguise required passengers.  This wasn't a act demonstrating German brutality as much as it was English disdain for civilian life, and that was especially true of Winston Churchill who - as Lord of the Admiralty - ordered English shipping to fly flags of other countries, especially American flags in hopes of Germany sinking legitimately flagged American ships to draw America into this war. 

They knew this could, and eventually would happen, and used this for propaganda purposes to draw Americans into the war.  As for Wilson - he was a well know anglophile and privately wanted to enter the war on England's side - all the while lying to the American public proclaiming how he was a devoted isolationist.  And going to war over Americans who died on a foreign flag ship in time of war was a standard created by Wilson to justify the unjustifiable.   Most of this article is factually accurate but is misleading in my opinion.  I would view this as lies of omission. 

Oh, one more thing.  Who was responsible for the breakup of the Ottoman Empire after the war and creating the countries of the Middle East as we know them and the problems we have now?  Winston Churchill!


  1. Rich, I read your blog daily. Good stuff.

    I get the impression you are not a fan of Winston Churchill. I can see why in light of his flagging munitions/passenger ships. Any other reasons.

    Thanks, Tim

  2. Tim,

    It's not so much as not being a fan of Churchill, it's making sure everyone understands why things are as they are. Churchill had some great qualities as was demonstrated during WWII. However, Churchill loved England and himself. He was - his entire life - a shameless self promoter while at the same time courageous as he demonstrated during the Boer War and when he resigned his government job and joined the army to go to the front line after the disaster at Gallopli, which he championed.

    In 1919 he ordered British troops to fire on unarmed strikers, which some might try to justify because socialism was erupting all over Europe, not just the Soviet Union, and they were largely responsible for the strikes. Their goal was to overthrow the government. What is little talked about was WWI brought about left wing riots all over Europe including France, England and Germany. These nations wanted an end to the war desperately for fear of being overthrown by anarchists.

    Churchill was a man of Empire, and a man of England and a man of his day. He had the admirable qualities and the despicable qualities of all three. He was what he was and it's important to know and understand all those qualities if we wish to be able to under history and have it benefit us today.

    Best wishes,
    Rich K.

  3. Well obviously much had to be omitted in a short Oped. There were other factors involved in the move to war. The violation of Belgian neutrality was a factor as early as 1914 in turning American public opinion against the Central Powers. There was the execution of Edith Cavell, a British Red Cross nurse by the Germans in 1915. There was the massive debt incurred by the Allied powers to the United States -- America had a financial stake in Allied victory.

    Rich mentions the Lusitania but there were many more passenger ships that were sunk as a result of German U-boat activity.

    Fundamentally, however, the German policy of Unrestricted Submarine warfare and the Zimmerman telegram were the two principle drivers of the America move towards intervention.

    Wilson was responding to American public opinion which had clearly titled towards intervention. Some like his Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan opposed this title towards the Allies. Bryan eventually resigned.

    Best Regards,
    Christopher Kelly

  4. Chris,

    Thank you for your interest, I went to your site. I'm flattered at your interest. I'm not saying the Germans were the good guys in all of this. What I'm saying is there was absolutely no legitimate reason, nor any value, for America to enter WWI.

    The Zimmerman telegram was provocative but that was hardly a justification for a declaration of war. There's no way Germany was going to able to get the Mexicans to attack the United States. Even Mexico realized there was no way they could defeat America and German promises of enrichment were at best wishful thinking. Germany couldn't even feed it's own people. And I'm sure Wilson knew all of that but didn't care because he needed the propaganda of that foolish effort by the Germans to stir up American passion to enter the war to save England.

    True, America became a bigger power as a result of the war, but if Americans had stayed out of it we would have been even bigger because WWI bankrupted Europe, and that would have made America stronger than anyone else, richer than everyone else and no dead boys to bury. Irrespective of how much Europe owed America. The economics argument to declare war is flawed in my opinion. The abuses argument is emotionally compelling but still not justification for America to enter that war.

    It still comes down to this. Wilson wanted this war to support England and the media supplied the emotions to promote that effort. That didn't justify it. America had no dog in this fight. This was Wilson's war, and we need to recognize that if we wish to recognize and understand things as they happen now.

    Best wishes,

  5. Rich Asks, "Who was responsible for the breakup of the Ottoman Empire after the war and creating the countries of the Middle East as we know them and the problems we have now? " He then blames Churchill.

    Have you never heard of Lawrence of Arabia? Or of Sykes and Picot? Plenty of blame / credit (depending on your perspective) to go around. Churchill was not in a position to dictate the terms of the treaty of Versailles in the Middle East. In fact, Churchill denounced the Treaty of Versailles as being "monstrous" and "malignant".

    Christopher Kelly (

  6. Are you isolationist or non-interventionist perhaps?

    America went to war in 1917, in part, due to a plot by British intelligence. Of course it was the Germans that wrote and sent the Zimmerman telegram.

    Russia was driven out of the war the same year, in part, due to a plot by German intelligence (smuggling Lenin to Russia in a "sealed train"). So you could argue that both Russia and America were in WWI the victims of an intelligence conspiracy.

    Best of luck with the blog!


    PS Personally I am not really isolationist but I appreciate the perspective.

  7. Chris,

    I thank you for your comments. I'm off to work right now and can't take the time to look up the material I wish to quote, but I will respond later in the day.

    Thanks again and best wishes,
    Rich K


  8. Chris,

    I agree there was plenty of blame to go around, but my understanding is Churchill denounced the Treaty of Versailles much later as he blamed it for the rise of Nazism. In that he was right, but that's too late, and I'm not sure what that has to do with how the Middle East was divided.

    You're right to bring up the Sykes-Picot agreement - thanks for the correction - as that divided the Ottoman Empire into areas of influence between England, France and Russia for after the war, Of course Russia dropped out, leaving France and England. Lawrence of Arabia was an important component in defeating the Ottoman Empire but he was no more important in deciding how it would be divided and who it would be ruled by than was Gertrude Ball.

    Having said that - it was Churchill who drew the lines in 1921 carving out three countries - Israel, Iraq and Jordan. I over stated his involvement in the overall divisions, but he's responsible for much of what happened in the Middle East before WWI and after. He deserves the lion's share of the blame for what's happening in the Middle East, especially since it was his blundering arrogance as First Lord of the Admiralty that pushed the Turks into a German alliance. They had no earthly reason to enter that war otherwise. Although I do think the world's craving for oil would have led to much of what we see happening anyway. Fracking will cause changes, and America withdrawing from direct involvement and large military campaigns and backing away from patrolling the world's oceans will see more changes. The Bretton Woods era is moribund and will soon be dead.

    Best wishes,

    Rich K

  9. Churchill lost his job as First Sea Lord of the Admiralty as a result of Gallipoli -- a big cock-up. He served as an officer in the trenches on the Western Front. He was not really in a position of power for the Versailles Treaty deliberations. Having no seat at the table he can hardly be blamed for the Treaty. Moreover, he did denounce it as I mentioned.

    I agree with you that his actions also pushed the Ottoman Empire into the war. The Turks had been friendly with the Kaiser's Germany before this though. The Kaiser fancied himself a champion of the Muslim world.

    I also agree that fracking has caused massive changes and will very likely cause lots more.

    Churchill's historic role in creating Israel is largely to his credit.