The Horror of Wilsonisn Interventionism

By: Frank Russo

Robert E. Lee warned about the growth of the federal government leading to constant oversea intervention in foreign affairs. To a large extension he was correct but not in the initial phases.

The Spanish American war of 1898 was triggered by American journalism and can be seen as the final paint on the wall of the Monroe Doctrine, formally kicking Spain out of its last colonial remnants in the new world and guaranteeing American hegemony. In 1911 America would invade Mexico in response to Pancho Villa’s assaults along the Mexican-American border culminating in the first armored action in American military history.

However, these foreign entanglements were not what General Lee was warning about, at least not in spirit. These actions, as well as small scale actions in South America, were directly linked to American economic and military interests. With the exception of the acquisition of Guam and the Philippines, cases from the European style of imperialism can be applied. Hawaii was necessary for the maintenance of a Pacific fleet, Mexico and other Latin American countries needed to be kept stable and the Panama canal for easy access between oceans were all necessary steps towards securing American interests.

In 1914 however, things changed. With the election of the progressive father of American interventionism, Woodrow Wilson, to the office of the presidency things would change dramatically. Wilson saw democracy, or at least the American version of it, as the world's best form of government and sought to install it wherever possible. Prior to U.S entry into world war one in 1917, Wilson was involved in over 100 military actions in South America with the hopes of installing American style democracy. Countless lives were lost and the reputation of America still feels the effects of Wilson's rampage through South America.

Economics brought us into close proximity to the allies but Wilsonian sympathies brought us to the trenches. Simple facts kept us from equitable trade with both the central and allied powers during world war one. A shared language, and lack of a German naval blockade brought America, at least initially, into the economic fold of the British empire. Despite Wilson's promise to remain neutral the stunning battlefield successes of the central powers unnerved him. First the German proximity to Paris, then the Austrian Trentino offensive, the Ottoman Victory at Gallipoli and the push on the Suez canal worried him. To Wilson democracy in Europe was under threat of destruction.

What didn't help is the American media parroting of Allied propaganda such as the Rape of Belgium and the constant denouncement of “the Hun” as a barbaric race. German Americans at the American entry of the war were horribly molested, forced to take loyalty oaths and in a few cases German churches burned. The treatment of these men and women was reminiscent of Japanese internment at the beginning of world war two yet this is never taught in classrooms as to do so would undermine the glorifying of Wilson's principles.

The same reason stated for the us entry into the war are possibly the greatest indictments there of. The resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare around the isles of Britain and Ireland, (it wasn't the whole Atlantic as they'd have you believe), resulted in the sinking of the Lusitania, a  cruise liner which was pre warned before launch of German submarines and was carrying arms to England. This was a known fact. A fact the Germans thought would assume the angered Americans despite the fact that 100 of their citizens had been killed. Logic was lost on the American public and the Hun was so hated and lambasted by newspapers that a American senator who dared to bring up this fact was censured by his peers.

The Zimmerman telegram was the last nail in the coffin of American neutrality and the hypothetical military alliance between Germany and Mexico in event of America joining the allies ,(a proposal so detached from reality it might as well be on the moon), led Wilson to declare that the world must be made safe for democracy.

What followed was American entry into the war turning the tide, the collapse of four stabilizing empires, one a multiethnic conglomerate , and the collapse of a balance of power that had left Europe in relative peace since Napoleon. Wilson's fourteen points reflect two things. His desire to rewrite the world along American lines , and his complete detachment from the reality of the situation.

The creation of Poland, Ukraine and Yugoslavia angered Italy, (promised territory in the former Austro-Hungarian empire), The Newly formed Soviet Union,( who lost land in Finland, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Eastern Poland, Ukraine and Belarus despite having suffered the most during the war), Germany,( as it lost 13% of it's land, coal and it's entire colonial empire not to mention it's reparations and the guilt clause, ) as well as China who was forced to cede the Liaodong Peninsula to Japan despite being an allied powers intact at the end of the war.

Japan would be emboldened by its territorial acquisitions to become increasingly imperialistic in Asia. Italy and Germany would quickly turn to authoritarianism and Russia would do the same while killing millions in forced famines and show trials which would have been prevented had Germany won the war and kept Ukraine as a client state. The Soviet Union likely never would've existed had there been a German victory on the Western front in world war one.

All these things, though some not directly, have much to do with Wilson's cavalier attitude about the superiority of his vision. A son of the south, he had seen the danger and horror of one people forcing their views of government on another and yet he sparked a long tradition of doing the same.

Despite the moral superiority of the second world war from the allied perspective the war would've been avoided had it not been for Wilson's intervention. In fact, the cold war would see a resumption of such attitudes with American lives being wasted in Vietnam, Korea and many other places in order to impose and American worldview on others. America has not sought to export our ideas through leading by example, but through force of Arms and that has much to do with Woodrow Wilson. Today we have the horrors of Iraq and Afghanistan under Bush and those plus Libya and Yemen under Obama, (another Wilsonian but a much weaker one), to remind us of the failure of nation building and democratic election in these places.

We see a marked difference in president Trump, who so far has used economic and diplomatic pressure to gain his foreign policy objectives and this has resulted in much greater success. The cost of this summit in Indonesia came in the form of paper and money, not bullets, blood and tears and that is a model worth following more than any tyrannical progressive foreign policy .

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