tv Michael Neiberg Discusses The Path to War CSPAN May 13, 2017 12:54pm-1:45pm EDT
[applause] [inaudible conversations] >> up next from colby military writers symposium, michael neiberg changes the american psyche between the thinking of the lusitania in the us joining world war i. >> let's get started with the next presentation. my name is reina pennington, i teach military history and happy today to introduce my friend
michael neiberg, professor of history and inaugural chair of war studies, before that, michael neiberg taught at the air force academy and southern mississippi, he writes widely on both world wars and his recipient of numerous prizes and daughters for his work like the tomlinson, english-language books and world war i, look for his book on the second battle and the choice outstanding economic title award, fighting the great war, global history, he edited a number of important collections like imus and the man, the atlas of world war i and the great war reader. his most recent books include dance of the furies and outbreak of world war i. and the remaking of europe, the blood of free men, the liberation of harris, 1944, the orange community will be
interested in his book making citizen soldiers, rotc and ideology of american military service. in his free time that i don't know he has much, michael neiberg is a self-described fan of all pittsburgh sports teams and bruce springsteen. the book is working on now, the path towards following the american reaction to the early events of the first world war and trace their nation's courses from that to belligerence showing how it became a moment of national self-determination. let's welcome doctor michael neiberg. >> thanks to everybody especially lindsay who is dealing with all the logistics and difficulty with my travels so thank you for everyone's effort. what i want to do is talk about what jennifer talked about an hour earlier how the united
states got involved in this war, what the united states was doing in response to set the conditions for what jennifer talked about. this book looks at the war from the bottom up as we were both trained by the same advisor so we have the same approach of looking at things ground up, that is to say not assuming politicians and political leaders necessarily represent what american opinion is doing and this is an a special issue with woodrow wilson who always won the 1912 election because the republican party split and won the 1916, that wilson went to bed election night assuming he had lost. it is difficult to take that assumption forward. what i want to do is talk about the prewar period. i don't know what you learned that i learned nothing of consequence about this time period in high school, college or graduate school. i was taught the lusitania sinks in the united states goes to war two years later. there is something more going
on. what i want to show is what that is. i want to do one prelude in response to jennifer which is to say once the war begins there is a different dynamic in the united states. some of the things jennifer talked about our wartime patterns that are not parents from the 1914-17 period as i hope to show you. i want to take you on a journey, this man, walter hines page, american newspaperman in north carolina, an early supporter of woodrow wilson used his newspaper in wilmington, north carolina and elsewhere to support wilson's candidacy in 1912 and wilson made them ambassador to great britain in 1913 so paige had a front row seat for what was going on in europe. when world war i broke out, a very long, eloquent, interesting letter had this line in it. now when i thank heaven for the atlantic ocean, thank god we are out.
this is somebody else's problem, someone else's concern. it will affect us on the margins but it is not our fight. over a year later in october 1915, germany wins, the monroe doctrine will be shot through. we have to have a great army and navy. walter hines page meant that the united states spend a lot of money on something americans never spend money on before. he said we will have to decide whether we want one battleship or university. spending money on something like this was something americans never had to do. the war might force us to do it. suppose england wins? we need an academic dispute with her, a matter of life or death for english-speaking civilization. i will take on a journey from thank god we are out of it to it is life or death. walter hines page was well ahead
of where most americans were and i could have picked the american ambassador to france or the american ambassador to germany who said the listings to wilson but he said them eloquently and page was so fervent in his belief that in summer of 1916 he came to washington and demanded to meet with wilson as ambassadors had the right to do. wilson didn't want to talk to him. walter hines page went to wilson avenue summer home, and literally waited on the president's front porch because he felt wilson had to be acknowledging some that he was trying to ignore. ..
advertisement for the work of a man named richard harding davis, by far the most famous american journalist of his age. good friend of theodore roosevelt. he covered japanese war. very, very famous guy. as soon as the war broke out he was in mexico when it broke out. he got on the first ship he could to new york, the first ship to europe lusitania, in order to get to europe to cover the war. americans paid attention to the war from the very beginning. they knew this was single most important event to happen in their lifetimes. they knew it was already
affecting them directly. when the war broke out, united states had no way to transfer gold, american currency was based in gold. european countries sold stocks in new york city, getting cash, taking the gold out of the united states. if that continued the united states would have literally run out of gold, in late july, imagine this, late july 1914, the government ordered new york, philadelphia, chicago stock exchanges closed. they remain closed until november. imagine that happening today. the war was affecting americans from the very beginning. one thing richard harding davis told his readers you news you get from great britain is biased, it is propaganda and wrong. however the base, point britain is making that germany is committing terrible atrocities in europe. don't believe what the british
are telling you. believe what american reporters see with our own ice. we'll talk about that in a little bit. wooded drove wilson may have given a speech in august of 1914 he asked american people to remain neutral in fact an indeed. the american people completely ignored him. the american people were pro-allied from the start as i open to show you here. that doesn't mean the american people wanted to be involved in the war but they clearly saw germany, austria hungary aggressors. wilson also defined american neutrality in a very interesting way. he could have said that american neutrality means no trade with either side, which is what some socialists in the united states wanted him to do. he could also have said, that american neutrality means that if you you trade x-amount of dollars with one side you have to trade x-amount of dollars with the other side. he didn't do that either. what he said was, american neutrality allows american corporations and the american
people to behave in any way they wanted. i will show here in a minute what that means is, america's heart and its pocketbook were going in the same direction. let me introduce you to another american. this is mary roberts reinhardt, one of the most famous writers in the united states in 1914. she wrote mysteries. she would be called later the americaning a today that christie. i read one of her books, circular staircase in 1914. they were not very good but they must have been for 1914 audiences of the she was in new york city with a gala dinner hosted by "saturday evening post," when the editor said he had an offer to send mary roberts reinhardt first female reporter into the trenches of europe and royal houses of austria and germany and britain and france. she set it up. she could go to both sides, government houses and into the trenches themselves.
as the story goes her husband forbade her from going. mary roberts reinhardt stood up and said i won't have the biggest thing in my life go aside without being part of it and i'm going. they demanded a 10,000-dollars life insurance policy from the "saturday evening post" and she went into the western front in late 1914 with the some of $1000 per dispatch. that is $20,000 per art can in today's money, an enormous amount of money. she stayed at the western front in europe until march of 1915. in some ways her journey typified the view of a lot of americans in this arc from october, november, 1914, to march 1915 in four ways. i want to talk about them here briefly. one, her first piece she wrote before she left she wanted to go to europe to condemn all sides, condemn all europeans for the stupidity allowing a war to begin over small diplomatic issue in the balkans, assassination after arch duke very few people heard of and
very few people liked. by the time she got to the western front, begun her tour of the western front she became convinced the allies had to win the war t was a war of autocratic germany fighting against democratic britain and france. the united states clearly had an interest seeing the allies win. second, like richard harding davis, she argued britain would try to draw the united states into the war through propaganda, economics, better diplomats to pull the united states into the war. she argued the united states should not get into the war unless or until american interests were threatened. in other words the united states should support britain and france to the maximum extent it could, under no circumstances should the united states go to war to rescue britain. third, she believed that the united states should start to think about getting ready for had war. the united states could not pretend that the war would not affect america or the united states would not get involved. she wrote a beautiful, lyrical
letter i will show you later about this process. and fourth, by the time she came back from the united states, from europe to the united states just before the sinking of lusitania, she determined this war was a war of high principles and high ideals. it was a war of democracy against autocracy. those articles help to make her an even bigger celebrity. she came back to the united states just before the sinking of the lusitania as i noted. that sinking did not lead the united states to want to declare war on germany. a survey done of 1000 american newspapers shortly after the sinking of the lusitania found only six had editorials arguing for american entry. very few americans wanted to go to war. my daughter brought home the history textbook, the textbook said sinking of the lusitania led the united states into world war i. nothing could be further from the truth.
the sing sink led americans what do you want to do about this war? what should america's proper response to the war be? as some of you know, william jenningss bryan, woodrow will con seas secretary of state. ban americans from going overseas. when wilson refused to go that farther, william jennings bryan resigned. she became, reinhardt, what is known as preparedness. the argument, it is time for the united states to get it is military ready, if not necessarily to fight a war but to make it strong enough that the europeans would not try to infringe either american interests or american honor. the wonderful analogy people drew in 1915 and 191, the americans ought to build up a porcupine army, an al mall powerful and strong enough to defend itself not to defend itself. i'm a city kid. i don't know if that is actually true of porcupines.
this sinking of lusitania made american as attitudes towards germans harsher. this is a cartoon. what the are germans had on their belt buckles, god is with us. kaiser wearing a fez dripping with blood. armenia genocide conducted by the ottomans could never have been done without german approval and german help. the american people blamed germany for the armenian genocide. blamed germany for the campaign of submarine warfare and a series of events that ha 7 happened here in the united states in 1915 and 1916. attemptedded assassination of jpmorgan and expulsion ever two german diplomats from the united states for acts of sabotage against american interests. he later went to become very important figure.
last chancellor of germany before ascent of adolf hitler. the detonation after depot in jersey city, new jersey, worst terrorist ate event in american history, only surpassed by the events of 9/11. there were also allegations just to prove to you that there is no new idea, there is only old books, there were allegations that the germans were trying to rig american elections. and also, that the germans were the ones behind pancho villa raid into new mexico into 1916. there is wonderful cops and robbers story of a german commercial attache fell asleep on snorkel straighted train line in summer of 1916. woke up realized he was at the wrong stop. jumped out of the zuck way car, elevated car. american secret service trailing him, grabbed his briefcase and ran out the other door. literally secret service age
sent is running down the street with his gun flagging down a taxi. those showed clearly the german government involvement in all kinds of plots in the united states to disrupt american industry. what to do about it? well the u.s. government for reasons that i would be happy to talk about in question and answer really didn't do very much. in large part because of the sclerosis of government. partisanship between republicans and democrats and two different wings of the republican party. the fact it was a presidential election year and nobody really wanted to talk about a war that didn't have any answers. what happened is this movement called preparedness mostly led by private citizens. some of you know, not too far from here in plattsburgh, new york, most showcased example of this where young men voluntarily paid money and voluntary gave up their summers to go to faux military crain -- training camp to train the men
into becoming officers. nobody thought including general wood or theodore roosevelt would trane men to be officers, not enough of them. the point was to shame woodrow wilson to do something at the federal level. this preparedness movement therefore became a private movement. 1916, 1915, american citizens on their own accord if the american government won't get us ready for war we'll do the ourselves. philadelphia industrialist powell evans led a movement. he was head of the one of great railroads in the united states. led a movement of industrialists men wanted to get military training they had a fund that would pay them while they did it. powell led charity movements in philadelphia to help repair and replace buildings destroyed in belgium and help out french and polish charities. thomas edison form ad commission of scientific preparedness to get science organized. they had chapters in 48 states.
charles mayo, of the famous mayo clinic had medical preparedness. columbia university had a pacifist president in 1916, sent out a memo to the faculty of explaining army's g status whatever it was in 1916 and where on the g staff system their services could best help the country in time of emergency. in 1916 and every single member of columbia's faculty agreed to put their names on the list this is ad from at&t, from bell telegraph, in the fall of 1915, very early on, fall of 1915 that says, we are prepared. in the little semicircle that is paul revere, 1775. the bigger picture is the united states army staff officer, 1916, behind him is a map that says, the bell telephone system. and the text reads in part, in its wonderful preparedness to inform its citizens after national need the united states stands alone and unequaled. it can command the entire bell telephone system which
completely covers our country with its network of wires. the message is, corporationing will be the new paul revere. the bell telephone system will be the new paul revere. now again for reasons that i would be happy to discuss in the q and a in 1916 this preparedness movement at the government level only produced some half-measures. there was slightly larger navy. we got rotc program officially created in 1916. we got a whole lot of parades. other than that we didn't get a whole heck of a lot. debate remained how to be neutral and safe from what many americans began to describe as the fire in your neighbor's house. a threat coming closer, closer, closer to the united states. now there were people who pled germany's case. this is most famous of them. this is a interesting man born in germany, came to the united states and became a professor at harvard. one of the most famous to the extent that professors can be famous, one of the most famous and well-known professorses in the united states in this time period.
he was an early advocate, early developer of criminal psychology. that is trying to get at the cause of psych lodge call causes of crime. very famous guy. very interesting guy, influenced all kinds of things and as i just learned a couple months ago was indirect influence on the creation of wonder woman as well in psychological approaches. he was also an enormous supporter of the new medium of cinema ma. he was assassinated by cinema. written many articles before world war i, put german government less after military posture to show germany's scientific, medical, education facets and germany's superiority in cinema. when the war began he began a series of letters to the editor, open letters to president wilson and a quick book he put together called, america and the war, which hing argued that americans mess under associate the causes of this war. the war really had begun because germany -- russia was trying to
take away some of germany's wealth. that britain was fighting russia's war for it. the americans had to understand that russia was the real threat to instability. now what is interesting to me about hugo monsterberg three things come out of his experience. the first how passionately and how deeply he was rejected. first bit community at harvard. then by the wider boston community. then by the united states as a whole. in the boston public library there is serious of correspondence between muensterberg and harvard faculty members in effect you need to shut up. you have the right to say what you want to say, we'll defend the right and you need to understand how much harm this is causing to harvard and causing to you. nobody agrees with this. you needed to stop doing this. he kept letters, letters from all kinds of people in the boston public library. second was his recognition, jennifer alluded to this in her talk a little bit, germans born in germany living in the united states like himself defended
germany but german-americans did not. germ man-americans sided with the united states. understood that germany was doing something outside the bounds of civilization. this of course includes men like dwight eisenhower, eddie rickenbacher, john pershing all who are german-americans. defenders of germany by early 19 is a were getting harder and harder to find. interesting interesting thing about hugo munsterberg after the sinking of lusitania he stopped. he went into complete silence. whether he became ashamed of germany's actions or whether he didn't want to continue to fight a fight he knew was increasingly unpopular is left unclear by his aisle ledges n 1916, in the middle of giving a lecture at radcliffe college he had a brain aneurysm and died. most attributed to the stress to defend a position so violently unpopular. two messages of this i want to carry forward, number one,
munsterberg's between americans born in germany and americans in the u.s. and sickly the unpopularity of defending germany's position. this is far cry from kinds of stuff we talk about once the war begins. these themes reappear in 19209 in the pulitzer prize-winning book, one much ours, about an american community in nebraska and one of the main themes of this is that the families hatred of what's going on in germ any but nevertheless their love of their german-american neighbors, the tension between those two things. okay. this is another famous german american. this is cardinal mundolin senior ranking roman catholic cardinal in the united states. son after german who fought in the civil war and cardinal in chicago at the time. he had a very interesting approach to the war between the united states and germany. like many recent migrants from germany to the united states he was catholic. that meant they were in
opposition to the pressuring shun class that taken over germany in the 17 '80s and 1808's. that government engaged in anti-catholic campaign in germany. his view was that the germans were fine. the problem however was the german government, was this imperial protestant government. as jennifer showed on the slide, president wilson picks up a theme on that, we're fighting the war for liberty of everybody including the germans. this is what he meant. get rid of that imperial younger class, get rid of the wilhelm ii the german people can come up to rise to be natural force in europe. it is regime change before we began to use that phrase. mundelin described conflict between the united states and germany as a conflict between a man's mother and his wife. he did this often. you were raised by your mother but you now live with your wife. the question he ended every topic on sermon, if your mother
or your wife has a dispute who do you side with? the answer was of course your wife because that is who you live with. he made this statement in early 1916, should u.s. and germany go to the war, german american community will support america from the drummer boy in the to the aged veteran in the old folks home. later he said, it is rather late in the day to ask the german-american to prove his patriotism. he did that half a century ago. he referred to german move americans that fought in the civil war. they do not want to see the united states act as an arm of the british government, if american values are threatened, the german-american community will go to war. i don't time to talk about it today, same thing is broadly similar of america's irish-american community and of america's jewish american community which when the war broke out was avowedly anti-russian. the jewish opinion would change as the war goes on.
the point i want to make the german-american response is really complicated and it is much different before america's entry into the war then it becomes after as jennifer alluded to a little bit as well. now economics is huge factor as well. in 1914 the united states was in economic decline. the country was in a recession. and the outbreak of the war as i said shut off the united states, shut off the stock markets, and then what it did, it shut off america from european markets and european resources. it led to tremendous economic decline in the united states. however, it didn't take too long for people to come to the realization that the war was simply going to begin shortly begin to turn that around. david guggenheim of the guggenheim mining empire was in the europe when the war broke out. showed up in london. nobody would take guggenheim line of credit in wartime. showed up in london with 15 cents in his pocket. he met with the first american he came across, future president herbert hoover in london at
time, hoover i met up with david guggenheim at the time he had 15 cents in his pocket. he had a huge smile on his face. he knew his family's mining empire was about to make a enormous amount of money. now a couple of things i want to focus on here. the first the way that this war began quickly to change the american understanding of its relationship to the outside world. this is the a cartoon from april 1915. so this is prelusitania, from john t mccutcheon, future of winner of first pulitzer prize for editorial cartooning. it is called, coming our way. you see docks of new york city here are literally magnets with uncle sam's open wide to greet all that money coming from london, paris and berlin across the atlantic observe shin over to the united states. about this same time wilson got a letter from one of the few wall street people speaking to him, wilson's relationship with wall street was not good, telling the president like it or not what was going to happen
this war would make the united states and new york city the money power of the world. this would finally achieve the dream that americans had always wanted, the financial capital of the world would shift to the united states. and i do this with my wife and kids a lot. they're probably sick of it. my wife loves to go the beautiful gardens in the philadelphia and new jersey areas, almost all of them are built around 1919, 1920, 1921. my question to my wife, always when we look at these beautiful gardens, where do you think all this money came from? this is where all the money came from. i want to make a couple of points here. first, everybody in the united states was making money. everybody. it is the case of the great industrial it like duponts, guggenheims made enormous fortunes. it is also true american per capita income rose from $1100 per year to $1800 per year in just two years. that is enormous jump in profit.
we talk about the rise of wheat prices and how much money nebraska farmers are making. motor works sheer shied park in philadelphia, signed a 117 million-dollar deal to provide weapons and shells for the russians. eddie stone ammunition company in philadelphia signed deals to celebrate tish and french, pennsylvania national guard $200 million of worth of armaments. with all the contracts came jobs, salary raises after years of hard times. now it is true that the american people are starting to buy products here in the united states that they had traditionally bought in europe. one of the strange things you come across when you do research, 1915 was the single biggest year in american history for bible sales in the united states. because before 1915, americans had typically bought their family bibles from europe. now that european printers are no longer printing bibles, printing whatever the army needs american bible salesmen filled in the gap.
same thing is true of american eyeglass salesman. they used to buy eyeglasses from europe. pencils, believe it or not, some reason americans bought from europe they are being bought into the united states. see and read american industrial its talking about exactly that. what we're understanding we'll buy from ourselves. whatever we can manufacture, whatever we can grow, whatever food we can put together, the europeans will buy at whatever premium we can buy it. now remember, for americans, we have the right to trade with whomever we want. the question is, how to get goods from the united states to great britain. before it or not, before 1914, americans had limited ability to do that. 5% of the american overseas trade pre-world war i, went on british ships and insured by british insurance companies. that will change up during the war but it was impossible for united states to conduct overseas trade without the british. that is really not a problem with most americans. that is where we want to see our trade go anyway.
one interesting exception is cotton in the american south which germans used, every army uses to pack artillery shells. americans wanted to sell the cotton to germany have it not classified as weapon. british obviously had interest in classifying as military contraband and seizing it. that is very interesting in the debates. british army telling british board of trade put cotton on contraband list and british ambassador to the united states, let them have the cotton there. is a bigger thing to be discussed here. you can see the figures right here about the american trade balance from august of 1914 where the united states had a net negative to december where the united states is $131 million trade surplus. that's incredibly fast. now, what this does for the united states as you can see from mary roberts reinhardt is introduce a real problem. if we are the great country that we think we are, if we are fighting for the higher morals that we think we're fighting
for, do we have the right merely to profit from this war? what does it say about us as a people if all we're doing is making money? so, as you might guess, americans started to take at least a symbolic portion of that money and give it to the allied cause. enormous amounts of money begin to flow from the united states to the countries that we you saw as victims of this war, belgium, france, serbia especially. enormous apartments of money. philadelphia raised $100 million for belgium by itself in three hours. the city of philadelphia raised $200,000 for relief in poland. cities were donating entire hospitals, ambulances, nurses from 46 states in the united states went to serve in france. some americans did more than that. there is canadian story john vance, 80,000, 80,000 americans, crossed the border from the united states into canada and volunteered in the british army. 80,000. these men, are members of the
lafayette es can drill. wealthy americans form ad volunteer aviation squadron inside the french army was enormous public relations value to the united states and to france. here they are with the two mascots, two lion cubs, whiskey and soda. theodore roosevelt wrote articles about them. cornelius vanderbilt gave all the money to host lavish parties, big parties in paris, big parties at their aerodrome. this is the monument the french built to them in western paris. i want to wrap up saying why the united states got into this war. the real reason i think, is that by 1916 the american people had realized by staying neutral they had made themselves less safe, not more. this is the cover image of "life" magazine in february 1916, february 1916. it's a map of the united states if the united states continued to act in this neutral isolationist fashion. the fear is that the united states will end up like china.
a wealthy country unable to defend itself that gets pickedded apart by the europeans. you can see on this map, most of the united states is now labeled as new prussia, the west coast is labeled as jupanica. mexico is the province, meaning the german province of mexico. the atlantic ocean. boyd city, two cities out west, two german attaches that wilson declared persona non grata. my favorite part, i will show in calgary next week, canada is labeled as ba bearians. i don't think is reference to canadians. it is nhl playoff season we'll see who the penguins end up playing. what i fear this is reference to, if great britain and france look like losing the war and want to get out of the war, what the british and french might do, what they have done for centuries, trade possessions in other parts the world to get better deal in europe.
what might happen if germany wins in 1916, peace agreement might give to germany all of canada. canada is british he poe is session in 1914. comean the french island of martin nook in the caribbean could go to the germans. 1914, is when the united states openedded the panama canal. we're worried about this in 1916 the united states bought the danish virgin islands, made them the u.s. virgin islands to keep them out of german hands. in 1916, william jennings bryan seriously proposed buying canada from great britain to keep it out of german hands. what is important, about a year later when the zimmerman telegram is released it will confirm all of these fears. it will confirm people like "life" magazine who were doing this were not paranoid. the germans really did want to do this. this is really important because in my view, jennifer alluded to it a little bit, the american people are willing to go to war in 1917 to stop this.
november 11th 1918 germany declares am ma cities, lay their weapons down, we think we accomplished it. we celebrate veterans day on november 11th, use toed be armistice day. americans are demanding return of their sons from overseas, their job is done. second phase, wilson wants to do, losing the peace, the american people were not clear that is the controversial part. let me end on this. this is mary roberts reinhardt again in march of 1917. she wrote this piece in february much 191, two months before president wilson asked for declaration of war. in my opinion, wilson is two months behind the american people at least. this is what she wrote. we have virtually at war, by the time this is published, perhaps the declaration will be made. by the time this was published, new york state mobilized it is national guard and new jersey
mobilized it nation guard and. massachusetts mobilized its national guard. they weren't waiting for woodrow wilson. she said, america is is the last stand of humanities on earth. realization of a dream and fulfillment of an ideal. since 1914, britain and france had been fighting for that ideal but not the united states. then she wrote, under the domination of the prussians, imperial germany now threatened those values not only in europe but america itself. it had broken loose something terrible, something that must be killed or the world dies. in my view, what she is saying is, by february 1917 when she sat down to write that, america's policy of neutrality had made this country more at danger, more at risk, rather than more safe. it was now time to step up and take positive action to make sure that the that the country didn't end and the world didn't die. i think what happens is, by november 1918 when the germans put down their weapons, people
like mary roberts reinhardt think the job is done. they don't want to follow woodrow wilson into the high ideals that jennifer mentionedded the last time. that seems to me is why the american people got into the war. it is of course why the american people had such debate, such controversy and such disagreement what the war meant then and what it still means today. with that let me stop. thank you for your attention. i will be happy to answer questions as long as rena wants to let me. [applause] >> [inaudible] >> any questions? yes, sir? >> reflects on all the periods, in the last week, things have changed. people have reflected on previously we were getting
isolationist posture, and then within one week the question of american ideals and the question of what we stand for perhaps has come back into the equation. so i wondered, what your thought about that? based on what -- >> certainly don't want to talk about current policy, what is going on. i'm an historian. my answer is 50 years i will be happy to talk to you about it. seems to me the first world war, why the first world war to me doesn't feel old. it is the same question. what are the things this country ought to stand for? is there conflict between our values and our interests? what is the best way to defend those values and interests? is it by waiting being isolationist or being active member of the international community. those questions seems to me are as relevant today, they are really started 100 years ago. to me at least the first world war doesn't feel old, it doesn't feel like something that belongs to a distant past. and i sort of wish that this
centennial were generating those questions across the country. they're doing it at symposium and other specialized events. this doesn't feel that long ago. it is the same set of debates. how do you want to deal with this issue what are you fighting for? is it promotion of universal values thought or narrow interests what theodore roosevelt and others thought. i don't want to talk about current policy, i want to see where it plays out. seems to me absolutely a reflection of this. yes, sir? >> was the lusitania a major factor when the germans sunk it? >> what i think the lusitania did, it wrought to the front, to the american people, a, the war was not going to be short, and b, you weren't going to be able to sit it out. you would have to make a decision. there are a number of different things come out. some like william jennings
bryan, say europe is a lost cause. shut ourselves off, quit doing business with them, quit traveling, just stop. there are folks like theodore roosevelt, say no, the answer is build the biggest, baddest, army knave you can they will stop doing this to us. they will take us seriously. there is degraduation in between. nobody argues for going to war, but the question becomes what should we do? do we want to keep our heads in the sand which is what bryan wanted or do something about it? what i alluded to earlier, talking about defense policy and building an army, what kind of army do you want to build? that is where the american people can not agree. what should the army look like? what should you build it for? should it be based on national guards or national army? what should it look like? on that why nobody could agree. they duck it in 1916 and don't make the decision that they should have. >> so during these years, did the american people reconcile
the fact that britain, the allies, also had half the world colonized, serfdom, this great crystal vision of freedom and so on, didn't really jive with that? was that on the radar screen at all? >> there are some americans, theodore roosevelt is one, cone y'all system step on the way to that. colonial imperial argument they're making and british made too, by being connected to the europeans you're giving them a better chance at civilizational growth. that argument obviously hasn't worn well over time. the other argument that is often made this, is key for the irish-american community, if the united states wins world war i, then what wilson can do, go back to the british and say, hey, national self-determination means you have to give the irish a voice in their own affairs. you have to let the irish become independent. irish-americans by 191, are
making this argument. that the united states can not fight a war for british interests a american victory, distinct american victory in the war can happen for ireland. what they don't know woodrow wilson determined ireland isn't a nation. it is adequately represented through london. this is the argument that they make. so irish-americans who at beginning of the war 1914, neutral or pro-german, by the time get to spring of 1917, very much imperial argument, bet ways to break up the british empire, for the british to win the war and wilson to say no, we'll do it this way. it is complicated. there is a wonderful book at harvard, wrote the book called the wilsonian moment he talks about people in korea, india, egypt believing that wilson will end imperialism. wilson had no intention of ending imperialism. national self-determination meant central eastern european only. his book is about that dissolution. yes, sir?
>> what was the american opinion on the end of the war? and after the armistice. how do they view what happens with that? >> there is no agreement. there are folk, theodore roosevelt is one of the big voices what we should do, go in, germany is the aggressor, they're the bad guy. punish them. let's go back home. then the idea of wilson what we're going to do, jennifer showed we'll literally remake the entire world. the key is very modern, very presentist, the eggerment ever woodrow wilson the best thing the united states can do create international organizations like league of nations and play a leading role in them. then there is the argument, when americans use the phrase isolationist in 1919, they don't mean innothing the world, what they mean we'll be operating unfettered by any international agreement at all. we're america. we don't sign agreement on equal terms with ecuador. we don't. we're america. the world will be better off if
we operate independently. that is the debate going on. as you probably know, wilson in the paris peace conference pushed this international universal vision and when it got to the u.s. senate, the u.s. senate rejected it. that is a debate that is very fresh. obama administration wanted to be involved in those international organizations and trump administration at a lot of has said it doesn't want to do it that way. again that is 1919 debate. so there is no one american position. that is what makes it so complicated and so fun. yes, sir? >> last question really raises a really interesting question in my mind which is, in the postwar period how prepared was america's diplomatic service, negotiating ability, to prepare the peace with the british who were masters of back room diplomacy and so forth with the french? >> they were not prepared.
one of my favorite quotations, the president of the prime minister of france saw the 14 points, his famous was reaction was, god himself only gave us tin. so there is this idea that the americans are coming in with high ideals. the mistake i think wilson made, he didn't realize, as fully as he probably should have, that america's power in the post-world war was going be economic. wilson for all kinds of complicated reasons including his own religious background did not believe economics was the moral way to do international diplomacy. november 12th, 1918 americans are arguing hey, get our troops home. what that means the american army will not be wilson's instrument of power. without the army, without any real diplomatic finesse on his part, without, with unwillingness to use one weapon he actually had it is easy to see why the europeans said we'll pay lip service to this guy but we're not going to follow his
vision at all. very famously said i will put france in the leagues of nations but want it as permanent anti-german alliance. it will not look the way wilson wants it to look. i don't think they were well-prepared. wilson fully believed the power of his rhetoric and power of his ideas could fuel war-weary europe and could put pressure on their own politicians to get the thing to go you through. the european system doesn't work that way. david george, another great quotations was criticized not doing well in the paris peace conference. i didn't think i did too badly. i was seated between napoleon and jesus christ. >> [inaudible] american interests, even some political -- >> yes. >> was this information well-known to the public? >> yes. >> how come people reacted like that? how come they weren't more pro-war? >> they were really angry. so the question comes down,
again it's a modern-day question, right if you can prove those germans blowing up railroads and doing all the sabotage, if you can prove beyond the shadow of a doubt they're in the pay of german government it is an act of war. if you can't, then they are what we would call today lone wolf attackers. the question becomes, we know there was a german that tried to blow up the wellington canal in canada or railroad bridge between maine and canada. we can't prove he is connected to the german government. if we can't, we can't go to war. even when the evidence convinced awful lot of people wilson was saying look, not a cause of war. i don't want to go to war over this. this is not defense but it is a explanation. some of the anti-german sentiment happens once the war begins is based on this. we know german agents are here. not to defend all the crazy anti-german stuff americans did, but to say it doesn't come out of nowhere. the question comes down to, can you prove the actions of those germans doing those things, the
guy that shot jpmorgan and blew up the telephone exchange in the vice president's build something one of those guys. they can't prove the german government was behind it but it was obvious this guy was mentally unstable. this is act of domestic terrorism, that is what we would call it but you can't trace it back to the german government. the simple answer to your question a lot of people, including theodore roosevelt were really mad, they didn't know if they had enough justification to go to war. thanks for the question. >> we need to stop the formal part of this. there may be opportunity to ask questions of the authors. thank you for -- [inaudible] >> thank you. [applause]