American War Presidents


Pre-University Paper, 2010

23 Pages, Grade: 1,0


Excerpt

Table of Contents

I. American wars

II. President Woodrow Wilson - His policy during the First World War
1. President Wilson's neutrality and his exertion for being a neutral mediator
2. First cracks in the American - German relation
3. President Wilson's vision of world peace
4. President Wilson being forced to join the war
5. President Wilson's "Fourteen Points"
6. President Wilson - American idealist and fighter for democracy, peace and liberty

III. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt - His policy during the Second World War
1. President Roosevelt's concentration on national politics during the Great Depression
2. President Roosevelt's struggle with the American "Neutrality Acts"
3. President Roosevelt's support of the European Allies
3.1. President Roosevelt - A fighter for the "Cash-and-Carry Clause"
3.2. President Roosevelt's wish for peace - The "Arsenal of Democracy"
3.3. President Roosevelt's support of Great Britain - The "Lend-Lease Act"
4. The attack on Pearl Harbor and the American entrance in the Second World War
5. President Roosevelt - Strategist and fighter for democracy

IV. President Wilson's and President Roosevelt's intentions

V. Supplement

VI. Bibliography

I. American wars

In the last 250 years the USA has been involved in more than twenty wars. The reasons for the American interventions in those wars were quite different. The involvement in the Barbary Wars which lasted from 1801 until 1805 was caused by the fact that the pasha of Tripoli wanted to blackmail the United States. The USA had to decide whether they wanted to be protected from pirate attacks or not. President Thomas Jefferson saw only one opportunity and this was fighting against Tripoli.1 The Mexican-American War, which took place from 1846 until 1848, was another war fought by the Americans. During that time the extension of the American territory was the main aim of the American President James K. Polk. The war grew out of an argument between the Mexicans and the Americans, because the USA shifted the border between those two states in the Mexican's disfavor. After the outburst of the war it took two years until the Mexicans had to give up, facing a great loss of territory.2 Another example is the Vietnam War which lasted from 1961 until 1975. The United States believed that their duty was to stop the advance of communism. The plan of President John F. Kennedy was to help the population of South Vietnam to get rid of the Vietcong guerrilla.3 After North Vietnam has attacked American warships, President Lyndon B. Johnson managed to get the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution accepted by the Congress. Soon after this, the USA declared the civil war in South Vietnam as a war of the United States against the communistic North Vietnam.4 All in all it is obvious that the reasons for the American involvements in those wars are very different and strongly linked to the incidents in those times and the decisions of the American Presidents.

In the following I am going to take a closer look at two different wars in which the United States of America were involved in. I am going to direct my attention to the American President's role in this time and his impact on certain decisions and on the war itself.

II. President Woodrow Wilson - His policy during the First World War

1. President Wilson's neutrality and his exertion for being a neutral mediator

After the war in Europe broke out in August 1914, President Woodrow Wilson called on the American citizens to remain neutral. He reminded that a huge percentage of the national population had been born in those European nations which were involved in the war. This fact was kind of a threat to the President because he feared that this could lead to tensions and hostility among the American people. Wanting to protect the world peace, President Wilson believed that it was essential to be neutral in order to be a mediator and to be able to act in a way which was not dominated by personal feelings and preferences. In his speech 'Message on Neutrality', which Mr. Wilson delivered on August 20th, 1914, he made those points clear:

"My Fellow-Countrymen: (...) I take the liberty of addressing a few words to you in order to point out (...) which will best safeguard the Nation against distress and disaster. The effect of the war upon the United States will depend upon what American citizens say and do. Every man who really loves America will act and speak in the true spirit of neutrality, which is the spirit of impartiality and fairness and friendliness to all concerned. (...) The people of the United States are drawn from many nations, and chiefly from the nations now at war. It is natural and inevitable that there should be the utmost variety of sympathy and desire among them with regard to the issues and circumstances of the conflict. (...) Those responsible for exciting it will assume a (...) responsibility for no less a thing than that the people of the United States (...) may be divided in camps of hostile opinion. (...) Such division among us would be fatal to our peace of mind and might seriously stand in the way of the proper performance of our duty as the one great nation at peace, the one people holding itself ready to play a part of impartial mediation and speak the counsels of peace and accommodation, not as a partisan, but as a friend. I venture, therefore, (...) to speak a solemn word of warning to you against that deepest, most subtle, most essential breach of neutrality which may spring out of partisanship, out of passionately taking sides. (...) We must be impartial in thought as well as in action, must put curb upon our sentiments as well as upon every transaction that might be construed as preference of one party to the struggle before another. (...) a Nation that neither sits in judgment upon others nor is disturbed in her own counsels and which keeps herself fit and free to do what is honest and disinterested and serviceable for the peace of the world. (...)"5

The American President wanted to end the war in Europe as fast as possible. Hence he offered to act as a mediator between the belligerent European nations as he proclaimed in his speech before. Soon after the outburst of the war he said: "[...] I should welcome an opportunity to act in the interest of European peace. Either now or at any other time that might be thought more suitable [...]".6

Nevertheless the European countries did not react to this offer. They were not willing to take steps for peace.7

After that the President of the United States tried to approach the belligerent nations. Hoping that his adviser Colonel House would be able to arrange a statute of peace with the British and the German ambassadors, Wilson did not stop trying to put up the peace within the world. It should be mentioned that these negotiations were more or less senseless because the German ambassador Bernstorff was acting arbitrarily. He also kept away the information from President Wilson that the German Foreign Ministry was endangering the American offer to act as mediators. Due to that Wilson believed all over the time that the Germans wanted to have an arranged statute of peace initiated by the United States of America, although the German government was not asking for it. Yet President Wilson and his adviser asked the belligerent states under which circumstances they were willing to end the war. The conditions of the Entente and Germany went too far and hence those claims were intolerable for the opponents.8

As the first try to arrange a mediated peace failed, Wilson was again just able to offer acting as a neutral mediator.9

The attitude of being neutral and the wish of avoiding taking sides changed in the years to follow.

2. First cracks in the American - German relation

The Americans who tried to be neutral were very indignant at what the German submarine did on May 7th, 1915. The torpedoing of the British steamer Lusitania, causing the death of over 1000 people including over 100 American citizens, outraged the United States of America. President Wilson corresponded with the German government, which justified their behavior pointing out that the British had set up a blockade of Europe. For Germany this was a contravention of the law of nations and as long as Great Britain was violating against that, the German Government was not willing to end submarine warfare. President Wilson offered to talk to the British government in order to make them loosen the blockade of Europe on condition that Germany had to bring the unrestricted submarine warfare to an end.10

After another submarine warfare incident which caused again an outburst of rage within the American population the German Emperor was willing to accept the offer of President Wilson because he did not want the American army to join the war. Woodrow Wilson on the other hand kept his promise and protested against the British blockade of Europe.11

Nevertheless the German government was not really complying with its promise to end submarine warfare. On March 24th, 1916, they torpedoed another steamer. As a result President Wilson had to threaten the German government and head of state. The Emperor of Germany promised as a reply to Wilson's threat that he would end unrestricted submarine warfare until further notice.12

The good American-German relation was therefore severely damaged. President Wilson tried to end the war in Europe and wanted to act as a mediator in order to put up peace again but the Emperor and the government of Germany did not contribute to a fast arrangement of a statute of peace. According to that, President Wilson never stopped attempting to find a proper solution for the problems within Europe although the European nations were not very helpful and disappointed the President many times. The German government, however, wanted Wilson to help by setting up a mediated peace in the autumn of 1916, and so President Wilson acted again as a mediator13.

3. President Wilson's vision of world peace

On January 22nd, 1917, President Wilson delivered a speech to the Senate of the USA in which he talked about his vision of a peaceful world. His attempt to figure out the necessary guiding rules to avoid a new outburst of war shows that Woodrow Wilson never lost his dream of world peace. He emphasized that it would be essential to have a 'peace without victory' in order to guarantee a living together not based on hatred and the wish of reprisals. The American President wanted those principles to play an important role for the European peace-negotiations and the peace-treaty. Furthermore, Wilson pointed out that it would be best if all nations were united, for example in a 'World League for Peace'. He dreamt that every nation would support the same aims and would be not building alliances which could endanger peace and justice again. Hence it is obvious that the President wanted a world and a harmonious living together which were not dominated by suspicion, hatred, killing and war. Further indications for that are also the principles in his "A World League for Peace" Speech. President Wilson was a man who fought for 'peace without victory', an equality of rights, freedom of life and sovereignty of the people. This can be seen in his demands for peace and justice14:

"(...) The world can be at peace only if its life is stable, and there can be no stability where the will is in rebellion, where there is not tranquility of spirit and sense of justice, of freedom, and of right. (...) When all unite to act in the same sense and with the same purpose all act in the common interest and are free to live their own lives under a common protection (...) These are American principles, America policies.(...) They are the principles of mankind and must prevail."15

But in the following months President Wilson had to realize that the European belligerent nations were not willing to accept a 'peace without victory'. The situation within Europe got even worse and for American citizens danger was at hand. American ships sunk because of the submarine warfare of Germany what caused anger as well as rebellion within the American population.

4. President Wilson being forced to join the war

After failed peace-negotiations with the Entente and after turning down the peace offers of President Wilson the government of Germany decided to resume its unrestricted submarine warfare on February 1st, 1917. Confronted with Germany's decision President Woodrow Wilson was forced to end the diplomatic relations with Germany.16 Yet the American President still tried to realize a peace between the belligerent nations and corresponded with Austria, the ally of Germany. But Emperor Wilhelm II did not want to listen to Austria's mediations, which tried to restore the diplomatic relations between the USA and Germany. The German Emperor refused to make the first step.17 Hence Wilson's attempt to arrange a statute of peace was condemned to fail.

In the following, Wilson, who did not want to be involved in the European war, tried to realize his plan of a so-called 'armed neutrality'. This was necessary because the American President was confronted with an economic disaster. American shipping companies were keeping their trading vessels in the ports. The German submarine warfare forced them to do so, because they feared that their ships could be torpedoed by the submarine. The economic trend of the USA was moving downward as exports could not be delivered to the European states. President Wilson hoped that his plan of an 'armed neutrality', meaning that trading vessels should be armed against submarine attacks, would be helpful for the export of the United States.18 Wilson's decision was intended to guarantee American neutrality and to avoid an involvement in the European war. But suddenly things changed rapidly: On February 24th, 1917, President Wilson received an intercepted telegram of Arthur Zimmermann,19 which was intended for the German minister at Mexico City. Zimmermann advised the minister to propose an alliance between Germany and Mexico against the United States of America. This alliance should have come into operation at that moment when the USA were joining the European War and were fighting against Germany. In case of defeating the United States Mexico would get back its territory which was annexed after the Mexican-American War of 1848.20 Soon after Wilson had received the telegram he published it. He wanted to assure that the members of the Senate agree to his concept of 'armed neutrality'. Zimmermann admitted that he had indeed written the telegram proving its genuineness. After several attacks of the German submarine which caused the sinking of three American ships in the middle of March of 1917, the

American population was filled with indignation. The outrage of the people and the offensive war of Germany against the USA forced President Wilson to declare war on Germany.21

On April 2nd, 1917, President Wilson addressed the Congress in order to request a declaration of war on Germany. Woodrow Wilson justified his decision of a declaration of war by pointing out the disastrous consequences of the submarine warfare of Germany. Thereby he did not want to have revenge or reprisal; his only aim was to protect innocent noncombatants. Stressing that 'armed neutrality' has not been as effective as intended Wilson showed that his strategy has not been helpful. The American President mentioned furthermore that his aim was to defend peace, justice and democracy against totalitarian states. Nevertheless Wilson reminded the American people not to be hostile towards the American citizens born in Germany. Wilson regarded the German population as his friends and as victims of their own government. Believing that it was important and essential to live in a democratic world Woodrow Wilson regarded it as the duty of the United States of America to fight for peace, democracy and a free world. Accordingly, Woodrow Wilson knew that a declaration of war on Germany was the only way to realize these criterions and to ensure that the United States' safety and American rights were granted:

"(...) Our object now, as then, is to vindicate the principles of peace and justice in the life of the world as against selfish and autocratic power and to set up among the really free and self-governed peoples of the world such a concert of purpose and of action as will henceforth ensure the observance of those principles. Neutrality is no longer feasible or desirable where the peace of the world is involved and the freedom of its peoples, and the menace to that peace and freedom lies in the existence of autocratic governments backed by organized force which is controlled wholly by their will, not by the will of their people. (...) The world must be made safe for democracy. Its peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty. We have no selfish ends to serve. We desire no conquest, no dominion. (...) We enter this war only where we are clearly forced into it because there are no other means of defending our rights. (...) It is a fearful thing to lead this great peaceful people into war, into the most terrible and disastrous of all wars, civilization itself seeming to be in the balance. But the right is more precious than peace, and we shall fight for the things which we have always carried nearest our hearts-for democracy, for the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their own governments, for the rights and liberties of small nations, for a universal dominion of right by such a concert of free peoples as shall bring peace and safety to all nations and make the world itself at last free. (...)"22

After the American Congress had agreed with Wilson’s requests President Wilson declared war on Germany on April 6th, 1917.

[...]


1 Cf. Adams, Willi Paul: Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809): Der Aufklärer und Sklavenbesitzer als Parteiführer, Regierungschef und Landesvater, in: Die amerikanischen Präsidenten. 44 historische Portraits von George Washington bis Barack Obama, ed. by Christof Mauch, München, 5., fortgeführte und aktualisierte Auflage, 2009, p. 82.

2 Cf. Nagler, Jörg: James K. Polk (1845-1849): Der Präsident der Manifest Destiny, in: Die amerikanischen Präsidenten, p. 148 ff.

3 Cf. Heideking, Jürgen: John F. Kennedy (1961-1963): Der imperiale Präsident, in: Die amerikanischen Präsidenten, p. 357.

4 Cf. Frey, Marc: Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969): Great Society und Vietnam-Trauma, in: Die amerikanischen Präsidenten, p. 368.

5 Wilson, Woodrow: Message on Neutrality, August 20, 1914, Transcript, http://millercenter.org/scripps/archive/speeches/detail/3791, November 3, 2010.

6 Doerris, Reinhard: Washington-Berlin 1908/1917, Düsseldorf, 1975, p. 107, quoted according to Wiedermann, Andreas: Die Beziehungen der USA mit England und dem Deutschen Reich während des ersten Weltkriegs und die Friedensinitiativen Woodrow Wilsons, München, 1. Auflage, 2004, p. 5.

7 Cf. ibd., p. 107f., quoted according to ibd., p. 5.

8 Cf. ibd., p. 108-117, quoted according to ibd., p. 6.

9 Cf. Wiedermann, Andreas: Die Beziehungen der USA mit England und dem Deutschen Reich während des ersten Weltkriegs und die Friedensinitiativen Woodrow Wilsons, p. 6.

10 Cf. Doerris, Reinhard: Washington-Berlin 1908/1917, p. 121-133, quoted according to Wiedermann, Andreas: Die Beziehungen der USA mit England und dem Deutschen Reich während des ersten Weltkriegs und die Friedensinitiativen Woodrow Wilsons, p. 7.

11 Cf. ibd., p. 121-133, quoted according to ibd., p. 7.

12 Cf. Doerris, Reinhard: Washington-Berlin 1908/1917, p. 137-149 and Fischer, Fritz: Griff nach der Weltmacht. Kriegszielpolitik des kaiserlichen Deutschland 1914-1918, Düsseldorf, 1961, p. 242f., quoted according to Wiedermann, Andreas: Die Beziehungen der USA mit England und dem Deutschen Reich während des ersten Weltkriegs und die Friedensinitiativen Woodrow Wilsons, p. 7f.

13 Cf. Fischer, Fritz: Griff nach der Weltmacht. Kriegszielpolitik des kaiserlichen Deutschland 1914-1918, Düsseldorf, 1961, p. 244-247, quoted according to ibd., p. 9.

14 Cf. Wilson, Woodrow: "A World League for Peace" Speech, January 22, 1917, Transcript, http://millercenter.org/scripps/archive/speeches/detail/3797, November 3, 2010.

15 Wilson, Woodrow: "A World League for Peace" Speech, January 22, 1917, Transcript, http://millercenter.org/scripps/archive/speeches/detail/3797, November 3, 2010.

16 Cf. Doerris, Reinhard: Washington-Berlin 1908/1917, p. 244-248, quoted according to Wiedermann, Andreas: Die Beziehungen der USA mit England und dem Deutschen Reich während des ersten Weltkriegs und die Friedensinitiativen Woodrow Wilsons, p. 11.

17 Cf. ibd., p. 249-251, quoted according to ibd., p. 11.

18 Cf. Schwabe, Klaus: Woodrow Wilson. Ein Staatsmann zwischen Puritanertum und Liberalismus, Zürich, 1971, p. 61-64, quoted according to Wiedermann, Andreas: Die Beziehungen der USA mit England und dem Deutschen Reich während des ersten Weltkriegs und die Friedensinitiativen Woodrow Wilsons, p.11.

19 Cf. Schwabe, Klaus: Woodrow Wilson. Ein Staatsmann zwischen Puritanertum und Liberalismus, Zürich, 1971, p. 63-64, and Doerris, Reinhard: Washington-Berlin 1908/1917, Düsseldorf, 1975, p. 152-154, quoted according to Wiedermann, Andreas: Die Beziehungen der USA mit England und dem Deutschen Reich während des ersten Weltkriegs und die Friedensinitiativen Woodrow Wilsons, p. 11.

20 Cf. Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia: American President: Biography of Woodrow Wilson, Aggressive Moral Diplomacy, http://millercenter.org/academic/americanpresident/wilson/essays/biography/print, November 3, 2010.

21 Cf. Schwabe, Klaus: Woodrow Wilson, p. 63-64, and Doerris, Reinhard: Washington-Berlin 1908/1917, p. 152-154, quoted according to Wiedermann, Andreas: Die Beziehungen der USA mit England und dem Deutschen Reich während des ersten Weltkriegs und die Friedensinitiativen Woodrow Wilsons, p. 11.

22 Wilson, Woodrow: Address to Congress Requesting a Declaration of War Against Germany, April 2, 1917, Transcript, http://millercenter.org/scripps/archive/speeches/detail/4722, November 3, 2010.

Excerpt out of 23 pages

Details

Title
American War Presidents
Grade
1,0
Author
Year
2010
Pages
23
Catalog Number
V176184
ISBN (eBook)
9783640972111
ISBN (Book)
9783640973095
File size
543 KB
Language
English
Tags
american, presidents
Quote paper
Stefanie Wunder (Author), 2010, American War Presidents , Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/176184

Comments

  • No comments yet.
Read the ebook
Title: American War Presidents



Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free