“Even after he asked Congress for a declaration of war, President Wilson could argue that his foreign policy was still committed to peace.” Assess the validity of this statement.
Wilson’s Peace Conquest
President Wilson’s foreign policy was committed to peace throughout WW1, even after he requested a declaration of war from Congress. Although some might argue that the very action of asking for a declaration of war opposes the argument that Wilson was steadfast in his search for peace, such is not the case. For one, it took a combination of repeated offences for the United States to formally break off relations with Germany and proclaim that the United States had entered the war. Furthermore, idealist President Wilson hoped for a uniform peace, one without the winning country punishing the defeated, and made a list of “Fourteen Points” that he believed would help in creating an everlasting peace in the world. Contrary to the belief that he was all talk, Wilson valiantly lobbied for the inclusion of his “peace without victory” ideals and his “Fourteen Points” in the Treaty of Versailles.
Before the United States joined WW1, President Wilson’s policies leaned toward peace. He did everything in his power to try and prevent the United States from entering the First World War. Wilson did not support Germans interference with the right of American merchants to sell goods not intended for warfare, but only chastised the Germans. Had he the desire, Wilson could have declared war because of this intrusion, but he kept his cool and did not. When the Germans torpedoed ships, the Lusitania in particular, causing the deaths of innocent Americans, Wilson sent a notice to Germany saying that he was unhappy. The Germans apologized, but serenely stated that they had every right to torpedo the ships because they were carrying contraband. Wilson tried to leave that festering issue alone, but when the Germans continued torpedoing ships, Wilson threatened to end relations. As a result, the Sussex Pledge was written. After the Sussex pledge was made, German and American relations improved while British and American relations deteriorated. When Great Britain announced that the “Allies would not welcome Wilsonian mediation as long as they had any hope of a military victory,” Wilson was crushed. He began to believe that the Allies wanted a malicious peace, not a just settlement as Wilson yearned for. When the Germans announced that they were going to resume unrestricted submarine warfare, Wilson had had enough. Although it took him a couple of years because he was attempting to avoid war at all costs, President Wilson eventually came to the conclusion that the only way to preserve peace and safety was to end hostilities all together. At which point, Wilson went before Congress and requested a declaration of war.