USA and WW1


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The role of the USA in the post-war peace settleme

Beginning of 1918 - WW most famous man in the world. USA was seen as a beacon of hope for war-torn Europe, offering idealistic and democratic principles instead of the old principles of power.

Reasons for high hopes on Wilson - the USA had not suffered years of exhaustion, enormous economic and military potential - first among the great powers, no question of American guilt for starting the war - as USA involvement only begain in 1917.

WW's personality strengthened the sense of idealism and moral purpose. His 14 points - foundations for peace.

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The post-war peace settlement

Wilson - bogged down in complex negotiations with other members of the big four.They all had different priorities from Wilson - less focussed on self-determination and 'Wilsonian idealism' and more concerned with extending their empires and extracting reparations from defeated Germany.

Wilson - difficult to manage new nations asserting their independence from the old empires.

Wilson - wanted to go ahead with plans of disarmament and setting up LON. Distracted by treaties with the five defeated powers: Germnay, Austria, Bulgaria, Turkey and Hungary.

USA signed the peace treaties - they were not accepted by Congress until August 1921. Political difficulties at home - demobilisation of US army was not carried out smoothly and instances of inter-racial violence between units, economic problems at home - inflation, people felt rewards of the war were not worth the cost.

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Retreat to isolationism

Wilson returned from Paris - different national mood. He clung to his idealistic principles about the League but faced opposition.

Public opposition due to - natural reaction of war-weariness, from committed isolationists from some senators who convinced the Senate to vote against LON.

WW vs Lodge - Lodge was not an isolationist he just wanted USA to be a world power but not in an organisation outside national control, WW stubbornly insisted that LON was the way forward. The clash then became a clash of personalities as well as policy disagreement.

Wilson's personality sufferred the effects of illness and exhaustion. Became less skillful in his political methods. Alienated former allies and may well have missed the chance to compromise wtith Lodge. 1919 - suffered a stroke and collapsed, after making a speech. Died in 1924. WW's ideals and policies were rejected in 1920. LON voted down by Congress. Democratic Party suffered a defeat in the presidential election. New president (Republican) Harding - his policies would be of 'normalcy' avoiding too much government influence at home and international complications were a low priority.

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