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The Great Departure: The United States and World War I, 1914-1920

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | The Great Departure: The United States and World War I, 1914-1920.pdf | Language: ENGLISH
    Daniel Malloy Smith(Author)

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Examines the basic motivations which sent America to war against Germany in 1917

4.2 (8354)
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Book details

  • PDF | 221 pages
  • Daniel Malloy Smith(Author)
  • McGraw-Hill College; 1St Edition edition (May 1, 1965)
  • English
  • 2
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Review Text

  • By R. Albin on May 11, 2008

    This short and well written book is a diplomatic history of the USA before, during, and after WWI. It deals primarily with the American decision to enter the War and the rejection of the Versailles settlement in the USA. Woodrow Wilson is very much the central figure in the narration, though Smith also discusses the roles of other important American actors like Secretary of State Robert Lansing and Wilson's close advisor, Edward House.The analysis of the American decision to enter the war is probably the least familiar and most interesting aspect of the book. Smith has a nice analysis of the events and motivations that led to American entry on the side of the Allies. The backdrop is the traditional isolationism of American foreign policy. As Smith points out, by the end of the 19th century, American relations with Britain were particularly good and many Americans perceived British global dominance as a benign phenomenon, particularly as Britain indicated respect for the Monroe Doctrine and American influence in the Western Hemisphere. Many Americans, including influential individuals like Wilson and his advisors, also had sentimental ties to Britain. The rather erratic and intermittantly aggresive German foreign policy raised concerns about the dangers of a larger German role on the world stage. After an initial economic contraction, the outbreak of war resulted in an economic boom in the USA as the Allies turned to America for war supplies and financing. Both short term economic concerns and long term economic and strategic concerns, plus the bonds of sentiment, led to an American tilt to the Allies. The American leadership, including both Wilson and all his major advisors, were also imbued with a combination of Progressive era zeal for reform and a sense of religious mission that led the to favor democratic states. Facilitated by shrewd diplomacy on the part of Lord Gray, the British Foreign Minister, American neutrality was distinctly benign towards the Allies and essentially negative towards the Germans. American positions eventually hardened in a manner that the Wilson administration felt that its credibility would be compromised if the Germans violated what it regarded as crucial American positions. With the final institution of unrestricted submarine warfare, the Wilson government felt compelled to enter the War.Smith's treatment of Wilson is interesting. He presents him as being considerably more pragmatic than commonly thought and making the decision to enter the war reluctantly. One also gets the sense that if the Germans had handled diplomacy more intelligently, the American entry might have been delayed or that American intervention would have been less whole hearted.Smith's analysis of the American role in the Paris Peace conference is also evenhanded and intelligent. His discussion of Wilson shows that Wilson was both more pragmatic than many appreciate but also that Wilson's moral rigidity resulted in some major errors, several of which would haunt him when he returned to the USA to pursue ratification of the treaty. Smith's discussion of the unfortunate history of the ratification controversy is concise, clear, and insightful.


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