The reasons for the United States’ entry into the war in April of 1917
The main reason for the United States acting on the side of the Entente was the desire to participate in the upcoming division of the extraction by the likely winners. The official reason was the Declaration of unlimited submarine war by Germany on January 9. In March, the United States published an intercepted letter from the German State Secretary for Foreign Affairs to the President of Mexico with a proposal to attack the United States if it declared war on Germany, and with a request to Japan to terminate the alliance with the Entente and also attack the United States (Tooze 11).
The resentment caused by the letter was further increased by the message about the new sinking of American vessels. Wilson used all of this, and on April 2, 1917, he appealed to Congress for permission to recognize Germany’s challenge as a declaration of war and take immediate measures.
The effect of World War I on the United States
The United States was the only country that did not lose anything, but on the contrary, gained from participation in WW1. Having profited from military supplies, the States had entered the war when it was coming to an end, and the forces of the opponents were exhausted, and the outcome of the struggle was close. The participation of American troops in military operations was limited: they lost 130 thousand people killed and about 200 thousand wounded. The European powers suffered incomparably great losses. Located on a different continent, the United States did not feel the terrible consequences of the war.
Not a single bomb or shell fell on its territory. The international financial status of the United States has also changed dramatically. From a debtor of European countries, it has become one of the largest creditors. All this allowed the US leaders to set the task of establishing global dominance.
The effect of the United States on the course of World War I
The United States made a decisive contribution to the victory in the war, which turned the whole of Europe into a field of bloody battles and ended only after the entry of American troops into it. Tooze states that “there was only one power in 1916 that could truly transform the balance of the war, the United States” (34). The allies were suffering severe losses, and their resources were depleted during the three years of positional warfare.
America’s entry into the war played a crucial role in stopping the German advance. The arrival of American troops in the last months of the war strengthened the ranks of the allies and broke the fighting spirit of the enemy. Together with the allies, The US armed forces repulsed the German army’s advance on the Marne and won the battles of Cantigny, Chateau-Thierry, Belleau Wood, and Saint Mihiel.
The US role in WWI before officially entering the conflict
After the campaign of 1914, it became apparent that the war would be protracted and would require a massive amount of weapons, ammunition, and various equipment. In November 1914, a representative of Morgan went to London to negotiate with the British government about financing allied military orders in the United States. From the beginning of 1915, the United States got an abundance of military orders from the Entente countries. American capital has received a vast new market; the main flow of American military products, raw materials, and food went to the ports of the Entente. Germany could not place large orders, as it was blocked from the sea.
It was profitable for the United States to lend to the belligerent powers to increase its own production. The Entente countries borrowed money from the United States, and those funds were used to buy weapons, thus returned to America. In 1915, England and France signed the first large loan in the amount of 500 million dollars. This loan was not enough to pay for considerable supplies to the Entente countries; hence, new loans followed.
How did the war affect parliamentary or (partially) democratic rule in countries that were fighting? How did the war affect the United States’ (partial) democracy?
The First World War aggravated political, social, and economic contradictions in the countries participating in this political conflict. Its consequence was the collapse of empires, accompanied by revolutions and the creation of the National States on the former territory of Austria-Hungary, the German and Russian empires. In the middle East, there was a colonial redistribution of the legacy of the Ottoman Empire.
The First World War accelerated many internal state and political processes in Europe and Asia. It prompted the formation of new political regimes, the modification of the legal-state structure: for some, it was the strengthening of government power or the democratization of the political system, for others – the growth of political totalitarianism. The impact of the war on Asian countries was particularly significant. There, the formation of national States, the collapse of semi-feudal monarchies, and the liberation from colonial rule accelerated.
In 1913-1920, democratic President W. Wilson implemented the “New Democracy” program. It was about the fight against unfair competition and market monopolization, a reduction of customs duties on imported goods, a system of progressive taxation (1913), the creation of the Federal Reserve System. Moreover, it also included the Clayton Act (protection of the interests of unions and striking workers, restrictions on children’s labor, mandatory insurance against industrial accidents).
At the beginning of the XX century, democratization became a global trend, which was facilitated by a broad social movement. Democratization provided for the expansion of the powers of parliaments, the fields of activity of various political and public organizations, and the introduction of universal suffrage. However, WW1 led to the restrictions of political rights and civil liberties. Military censorship was implemented everywhere, which extended its activities not only to purely military matters, but also to political issues, and to the possibility of criticizing the actions of governments. Restrictions were imposed on the freedom of movement of citizens, and it was forbidden to hold meetings and gatherings that were not authorized by the government.
What effect did the war have on workers’ fight to change the horrible conditions of working-class life?
The war had a tremendous influence on the economy of the warring countries, which was rebuilt for military needs. Hochschild claims that “the war gave business and government the perfect excuse to attack the labor movement” (82). Mass development of new military equipment began, and methods of warfare were improved. At the initial stage of the war, the governments enlisted the support of the population under the slogans of patronymic protection. However, the prolongation of military conflict led to an increase in social tension. The working day has been extended, and a card system for food distribution has been introduced.
Nevertheless, in 1917-1918, the working masses continued to actively fight for their rights and interests, protesting against the war, high prices, and the advance of capital. During these years, there were many strikes by oil workers, shipbuilders and dockers, miners, loggers, and other groups of workers. The increased organization of the workers had a particular significance. Due to the economic recovery in 1915-1918, the growth of employment, and the lack of labor, workers achieved a certain improvement in working and living conditions, shortening the working day, for instance, shortening the working day.
Hochschild, Adam. “When Dissent Became Treason.” New York Review. 2017, pp. 82-85.
Tooze, Adam. The Deluge: The Great War, America and the Remaking of The Global Order, 1916-1931. Penguin Group USA, 2015.