100 Years Ago Today: America Enters the Great War

This is a momentous anniversary for our country—but is there anything to celebrate here?

A century ago today, the United States Congress, acting on the request of President Woodrow Wilson, declared war on Imperial Germany. Four days before, on the evening of April 2, the president addressed a joint session of Congress, asking for war. The subsequent vote was hardly close, with the House voting 373 to 50 in favor, while the Senate’s tally of 82 to six was even more lopsided.

This was the most important foreign policy decision made by Washington in the entire 20th century, since by entering the First World War—called the Great War at the time—the United States determined the outcome of that momentous and horrible conflict and thereby set Europe on a course for an even more terrible war to come.

None of that could be known at the time, of course. Reluctantly, President Wilson finally decided to enter the war—after successfully running for reelection in 1916 on a peace platform—when Berlin’s conduct became intolerable, leading to American deaths. Like the college professor he was, Wilson hoped for peace and considered the Great War to be a by-product of Europe’s decrepit and illiberal empires, to which the president and his fellow American progressives felt morally superior.

Wilson did not enter the war lightly. How could he, once word of the appalling losses of 1916 reached America? Nightmares like Verdun and the Somme, where millions of Europeans killed and maimed each other without changing much of anything strategically, meant no sensible person could welcome more such slaughter.

Read the rest at The Observer …