World War I, or the Great Term Paper

Pages: 6 (1881 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 4  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Drama - World

World War I, or the Great War, began as a conflict in Europe, due to the military alliances, rivalries and expansion goals of these European nations. The conflict, which broke out in August of 1914, eliminated the four great monarchial empires of Russia, Austria-Hungary, Germany and Turkey. It also shifted power from Europe to the United States and less so to the Soviet Union and Japan. Campaigns took place throughout Europe, as well as in the Eastern Mediterranean, Palestine, Syria, Mesopotamia and the Dardanelles. There were also naval fights in the Indian Ocean and off the Falkland Islands. German colonies were destroyed in Africa and the Far East.

The impetus for WWI was building for a long period of time; it included the competing European alliance system (Germany and Austria-Hungary vs. France Russia and later Britain), Anglo-German naval rivalry (between England and Germany), and the Austrian concern with Slavic nationalism that peaked with the assassination of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife at Sarajevo. Austria-Hungary declared war, Russia ordered a general mobilization, and Germany also declared war when Russia would not demobilize. The United States remained neutral until 1915 when Germany began building up its submarine level and sunk the Lusitania off the coast of Ireland with 124 Americans aboard.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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TOPIC: Term Paper on World War I, or the Great War, Assignment

President Wilson sent a letter to Germany without a positive response. Then a German submarine sunk the passenger liner Arabic and the Sussex. Finally, it appeared all hopes were lost for avoiding the war with the sinking of the ocean liner Laconia and start of the Russian Revolution. In the last of three German offensives on the Western Front, the Second Battle of the Marne, the Germans were defeated. The Allies marched eastward, easily conquering most of the Germans' territory. In the Fall of 1918, the Allies won all fronts. On November 11, 1918, the Germans finally surrendered, ending the Great War. Ten million people died; 21 million were wounded. In May 1919, the Allies presented the Treaty of Versailles to the Germans. On June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles, German representatives signed the treaty. The Allies also created individual treaties for the remaining Central powers. Austria signed the Treaty of St. -Germain, Bulgaria the Treaty of Neuilly, Hungary the Treaty of Trianon, and the Ottoman Empire the Treaty of Sevres (American Destiny)

Paul Johnson's a History of the American People held nothing back regarding Wilson and World War I. On page 642, for example, he clearly states: "The Great War of 1914-1918 was the primal tragedy of the modern world civilization, the main reason why the 20th century turned into such a disastrous epoch for mankind." Most of the information regarding WWI in Johnson's book is from Wilson's viewpoint. Wilson warned that "Once lead this people into war and they'll forget there was ever such a thing as tolerance...the Spirit of ruthless brutality will enter into every fiber of our national life (643). Johnson also writes considerably about the Wilson's "peacemaking" efforts, which were "very inaccurate," according to British Foreign Secretary, a.J. Balfour (648). Wilson wrote the draft plan for peace, the Fourteen Points, in a hurry and did not consult Britain and France. States Johnson: "The truth is, from the moment the U.S. entered the war, Wilson had been on a dramatic learning-curve in international affairs, and his views were changing all the time" (650) He also erroneously relied on the suggestions of others who had their own private agenda. As a result, "Versailles was the impulse behind Adolf Hitler's rise to power, the pretext for his aggressions, and the ultimate cause of World War Two (651).

Through his comments about Wilson in this and other books about the President, Johnson shows how Wilson was America's worst president and an unparalleled disaster for the world. In fact, the U.S. intervention into World War I strengthened the hand of Soviet Communism and led directly to the rise of Hitler and World War II. This is a controversial interpretation of this historical period, but Johnson does not seem to mind the controversy. In fact, Johnson has said of Wilson as having "...a self-regarding arrogance and smugness, masquerading as righteousness, which was always there and which grew with the exercise of power. Vanity got the best of him. He had no need for the polite constraints of bourgeois society, simple truth, or constitutional government. He was like so many democrats, who can wish their neighbor 'Good day' in the morning and vote to take his property or his life in the afternoon." His idea of making the world "safe for democracy," was ridiculous. The war had been going on for two years. Wilson's intervention pushed it out for almost another two years, killing millions including hundreds of thousands of Americans. Was the world any safer for democracy? According to Johnson, perhaps just the opposite; after the war and Wilson's inept settlement, there arose the most aggressive opponents to democracy who had their own ideas about how to improve the world for themselves and without care for others

America a Narrative History by George Brown Tindall and David E. Shi analyzes this time period from the background scenes that were being played around Wilson and his rise to Presidency. Thus, Wilson's election is seen from the political support in the various states, such as James Smith, the Democratic boss of New Jersey, who offered Wilson his support for the 1910 gubernatorial nomination, later finding out that this "innocent schoolmaster" actually had a will of iron. The book goes into Wilson's confrontation of the tariffs and banking as well as he antitrust laws. During his term, progressivism also reached its peak, leading to a framework where American politics and society would still function at the end of the century. Tindall and Shi conclude the problems with the progressivism included: disenfranchisement of southern African-Americans, manipulation of democratic reforms, decision making by faceless bureaucratic experts, decline of voter participation and a fall from optimism to war. "Progressivism was largely a middle-class movement in which the poor and unorganized had little influence."

As for the war, Wilson did not even give himself high marks in diplomacy, saying he had little background in this area and none in its practice. Tindall and Shi, as Johnson, are not sugar and creme about Wilson, especially when it comes to his support of fellow humankind, including the fight against civil liberties since the United States' entry into World War I. The Espionage and Sedation Acts in 1917 and 1918 outlawed criticism of government policy, including those who blocked the sale of liberty bonds. One of the biggest ironies of the War was right after the U.S. entered and George Creel, head of the Committee on Public Information and a Denver newsman, sold Wilson on the best approach was "expression not repression" to influence public opinion. However, by arousing public opinion, the war effort channeled the crusading zeal of progressivism into "grotesque campaigns of 'Americanism' and witch-hunting (964). German books were banned from schools and music from local auditoriums. Sauerkraut became "liberty cabbage." Thousands of socialists, communists, unionists, and "suspicious" foreigners were arrested, some without warrants, and a number were imprisoned and deported. Socialist Eugene Debs was arrested for speaking out against the war and actually ran for president from prison in 1920. Wilson refused to pardon him, leaving the task to Republican Warren G. Harding. When Tindall died at the age of 85, one of his eulogists stated that the southern author offered one of the most subtle and damning indictments of Woodrow Wilson ever seen.

Finally, Howard Zinn does not treat Wilson any better in a People's History of the United States, which more so than the other books relies on the comments of a variety of organizations and individuals to back his historical perspective. Zinn leads into his comments about U.S. involvement with the knowledge that the people of France and Britain were not told of the extent of the casualties in the war. Then "into this pit of death and deception came the United States..." (361). It is well-known that Zinn believed that the U.S. went into WWI based on lies and deception. Zinn stresses how nationalism, border disputes, the long-term rule of Europe's leaders, and an interweaving of alliances, all led to the onset of this slaughter.

Zinn provides additional background, such as Hofstadter, who wrote of "economic necessities" behind Wilson's war policy (362) and an article by W.E.B. Du Bois about the "new wealth" that comes from the "darker nations of the world" (363) and the exploitation of capitalism. The readers also learn more about George Creel, who Zinn calls the "government's official propagandist for the war" (364) and about the Espionage Act and the case of Eugene Debs, who went to prison and finally released by President Harding in 1921.

Zinn's book also goes deeply into the anti-war movement and the public parades and listing of 65,000 conscientious objectors. On the other hand, he notes the brutality against these objectors… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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