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tv   Reflections on U.S. Entry into World War I  CSPAN  May 27, 2017 11:20am-12:21pm EDT

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april 6, two thousand 17 marks the 100th anniversary of the united take entry into world or one -- world war i. next, a panel of historians discusses what motivated the united states to declare war on dermo germany. they also discuss the influence the great war is still having on conflicts around the world in the 21st century. relationsl on foreign in washington dc hosted this hour-long event. >> hello everyone. i am the senior price -- i am james lindsay, the senior vice president here. i would like to welcome you all to the days events. and entry into world war i, lessons 100 years later. this meeting is part of the council's lessons from history series, which has been possible from the generous support of david m rubenstein.
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i want to remind everybody that today's meeting is on the record. it is also being livestreamed over the internet on so everyone who is watching us by the internet, welcome. also remember since this is on the record, anything you say can and possibly will be used against you. it is my great pleasure to introduce the three distinguished historians we have with us today to talk about world war i. you all have complete bios so i'm not going to go through everything our panelists have written over the course of their distinguished careers, but i want to briefly introduce them. we will go from my immediate right, at least geographically.
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let me begin by introducing john milton cooper, he is professor emeritus of history at the university of wisconsin, madison, and he is written on that has written widely on early 19th-century and 20th-century history. his books include "woodrow wilson: a biography" and "breaking the heart of the world." next, professor jennifer keene. she is professor and chair of history at the history department at chapman university. she is also president of the society of military history. she too has written widely, written quite a lot on world war i. her books become -- include
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"doughboys: the making of america." and at the far side of the panel, my good friend and colleague. , thenick -- jay winik store historian in residence he. give the best selling author. his books include "april 1865, the month that saved america" and "1944: fdr and the year that changed history." please welcome me in welcoming john, jennifer and jay. we're going to talk about world war i which is a large and complex topic. i'm going to try to march all of our panelists through the big issues. i apologize if we do not get through all of the questions one might get to in a conversation like today. so let me begin at the beginning. we are going to start with you, john.
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month, thego this united states declared war on imperial germany. by that time, europeans had been fighting the war for about two and a half years. when the war first broke out august 1914, then-president woodrow wilson declared the united states neutral in that fight. the united states remained on the sidelines of the war even after the so-called rape of bolton, the brutal german invasion and occupation of belgium. remained on the sidelines of they after the sinking of the lusitania -- s lusitania, the cruiseship were 1200 civilians died. remained on the sideline after the 1916 battles inverts in burden. so the question i guess is why didn't the united states entered
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-- --enter the war earlier? youessor cooper: yet think have just asked a very loaded question. i think the assumption behind it and correct me, we should have. why weren't we in there and one thing we have to do is try not to look at it through the lens of world war ii. so much of it is, roosevelt , he might have gotten us in just like he did the second time around. you can parse that quite a bit. we did not enter world war ii any sooner, or maybe two months sooner. the apple and the orange are not necessarily incomparable. the lens that woodrow wilson and most americans look at world war i through, was early experience
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, obviously and the united , states by that time had fought in two other european wars. the american revolution was a european war, we played france and britain against each other and the war of 1812, the war of , 1812 was what wilson was the precedent. he, like most historians thought , it was a mistake. we were forced into a war we should not have gone into and fought on the wrong side as well. that is what he wanted to avoid. by the way, for a highly educated president wilson could , be surprisingly superstitious. he was worried because he and madison were the only graduates of princeton who became president, that history would repeat itself. [laughter] cooper: colonel howell writes it in his diary and
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pointed that out. with the war broke out, it endorsed to the feeling of american exceptionalism. how different we are from the thanorld, and it was more a geographical separation, it was a moral separation. the great turning point in terms of bringing the war home to america was the lusitania. quite right. but the reaction to that -- by the way i liked the book "dead wake." i think it was very good, except it ended on a false and note. -- note. it ends with remember the lusitania but there was no lusitania cry back then. -- papersrk resources pool their resources and got every reporter in the country to
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poll in about public opinion and they got about 1000 people. got to a close as we public opinion poll. i like to ask my class, how many do you think one into good to war, and they never got close because of the answer was 6%. -- not 6%, six. we knew very well what was going on there and we did not want to get into it. getting into it earlier was not an option in -- unless in 1916 when the it was german's removed the submarines after being warned by wilson. mystion -- james: i think question was a little more loaded than you expected. my question is what were the expectations for american foreign-policy going forward?
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the assumption was not to enter the war but there were a number of provocations on the way, and there were divisions in the what way and over which divisions work coming up in the war. thate of the things woodrow wilson, and his neutrality more marks -- remarks, was very concerned about was that this war could care america apart domestically because we had lots of recent immigrants that come from the nations that are at war. you can see right away different ethnic groups lining up. there are reports of fights breaking out on street corners in new yoryork a sense that america has to learn what it means to be
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american, and being american means staying out of these disputes that could in fact end up causing civil disobedience or civil unrest in the united states is really important. i would argue that in the period of neutrality, we have to be careful about what the official position of the government was and the way americans behaved. one thing that happened in the period of neutrality is americans get financially involved in the war. one is well known, and that is jpmorgan becomes a purchasing agent for the british government in in the united states, the 1915 united states is underwriting both through finances and materials a lot of the allied war effort. the second part is to not underestimate the amount of humanitarian aid that flows to europe from americans. herbert hoover organizes relief. jewish americans are very concerned about what is going on
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with the eastern front, especially with the pograms being committed by the russian army. the immigrants do not forsake their concerns with their relatives in the homeland, but they channel that aid through humanitarian efforts rather than pushing woodrow wilson to enter the war. that period of neutrality gives americans of the freedom to , express fores both sides, and you see that lost the minute america declares war against germany. >> was that policy of neutrality equally felt by the participants in the war? >> in what sense? >> the united states said it was neutral, but obviously from the german point of view that neutrality seems to be favorable towards the british and french and aimed against them. >> i think that is right. i wanted to take a minute to back up on the above john and
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jennifer said on the context of entering the war. things i want to say about this is going to war, europe's wars were simply not in the dna of america. you will recall george washington in his great farewell address warned about getting involved in the entangling alliances of europe, and thomas jefferson also repeated that same thing. we have a couple of experiences beyond what john mentioned that colored how we thought about war and plunging into the maelstrom of europe's wars. we have the laws i war with john uasi ware with john adams early in the republic. most americans felt this is not what we should do. two other wars shaped how we look at the world. one was the french revolution,
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and that is a war that started out simply in france and then swept the consonant and was marked by the emblem of the guillotine. this is something americans looked at with real revulsion. you don't hear about this often, but it plays in terms of how americans thought about getting involved in the war, and that is the american civil war. that was the greatest war we ever fought at the time and to give you context, abraham lincoln when he re-provisioned , for the war went again, he thought it would be a four-month skirmish. costs a four-year war that 625,000 lives. i might dissent a little bit saying we could of gotten an earlier. there was maybe a little running room.
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but we had to overcome habits of our very beginning and our very way of being. >> can i get you to answer my question about -- because the germans perceived u.s. neutrality as hostility, that we had allied ourselves with the british and the french because the british navy controlled the sea lanes. we had loans going to the british and the french. essentially none of that could reach the germans. the so-called tilted neutrality. >> i think it was tilted neutrality. i don't think we really need to say more than that. >> i was going to say that germany could be annoyed that america was helping the allies but to call america out on that and bring american to the war earlier was not going to benefit germany either. the last thing they wanted was america to enter the war. when they resume on restricted
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submarine warfare, the german navy is, sing the army that we will prevent the american army from getting overseas. we will be so effective, that even when america enters, they will never get enough material and troops over here to make a decisive difference. it that promise from the navy that encourages germany to push the envelope. >> we got into that war against germany because of the submarines. they used the summary. -- submarine. when they used to the submarine they did the only thing that could have involved us in war with them. we were cut off from them. britannia ruled the waves and not only the german military, neutrality was tilted because the allies were the only ones we could sell to. the germans, a lot of financiers in new york, a number of
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german-americans would be delighted to sell to the germans but they could not get the stuff through. the germans made two huge blunders with the submarine. first of all, using it in the first place. >> it was a new technology. >> right. >> sorry, jennifer. i think you have there a early example of the fascination with military technology, the new magic weapon that is going to be able to win it for you at very little cost to yourself and huge cost to the adversary. airpower would be similar primarily in world war ii. the germans only had 30 operational submarines. they could only have 10 of them out at a time. how many torpedoes could each sub carry? >> not many. >> i don't know. a dozen or something like that.
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the german enthusiasts were saying this would cut the allied sea lanes. i said it was like sending 10 sharpshooters out with rifles to cut off the traffic on the state highway. when they did go for unrestricted submarine warfare, they were willfully ignoring the fact that the allies had run out of money, they were broke. the only way they were going to be able to continue that was to have us on their side. they needed so much money, so fast from us. but that was going to do, a financial crisis was going to accomplish much of what the germans thought they could do with a submarine, which was cutting off this overseas lifeline of supplies to britain. they were snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. >> i want to make one quick
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point about this. one of the things we say is that -- barbara tucker wrote a wonderful book called the "march of folly." that really describes a lot of the actions taken by the germans. at the beginning of the war, the kaiser said our men will be back by the falling leaves of autumn. that never happened. edwardore like what sir grey said, the british foreign minister said the lights are , going out all over europe and i fear they shall not be lit for a long time again. germany made one mistake after another mistake, and they brought this upon themselves. >> john, you mention the issue of the german resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare. that comes in february but wilson does not go to congress for two more months. you have written a biography of woodrow wilson.
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i think it is safe to say you know a lot about woodrow wilson. explain why it was and what the mental state of the president was in those months leading up to his request to congress area -- congress. >> wilson had just begun to unveil his grand design for peace, which was the piece without victory speech. he wanted to see a stalemate, a compromise that would be followed by setting up a league of nations, which we would join. we would guarantee this. what he saw was this was being blasted away by the germans. he was searching around. he did not want to get into the war. and jayjennifer mentioned, the consequences at home, wilson beared his soul to the editor of the new york world about predicting what would happen in this country if we went into the war.
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the most eloquent argument against going into the war came from the man who took us in. he did not want to get into the war. he was searching around for neutrality. he tried it briefly. he could see that wasn't going -- work.n we would have the disadvantages of the war without the advantages of having shape to the peace. >> he was being criticized by people like theodore roosevelt for not being more forward leaning. >> that is interesting. to what inare this the johnson white house, they were more afraid of the hawkish critics than the dovish critics. those terms come from the 1960's, but they apply very well there. you have a wonderful cartoon with theater roosevelt with his six guns on one side and william jennings bryan with a birdcage on the other side, and woodrow
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wilson on the other side. the anti-interventions sentiment was much stronger. it did not get as much attention . it was much stronger, even there was still 50 votes in the house against going to war. >> i think one of the things we do not pay a lot of attention to division inlass america, but at this time this is a very important component of the anti-interventionist argument. for everyone in the eastern area that was for war, you have people in the south and the midwest who look at the control of wall street, which there has againstot of insurgency in the late 19th century. even something like the lusitania, this is not a time where anyone who is an ordinary american expects to travel to europe on a luxury liner. there is not that much sympathy because there is the argument, why did you get on a ship and head into a war zone.
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what did you think was going to happen? if you decide to do that, you take that risk. why should the country be pulled into war because you are an idiot? [laughter] >> this is a very strong argument in parts of the midwest. this antiwar sentiment will persist. i was at a event at the pentagon, and we were talking about 1917, and the french army in 1917 have terrible mutinies. they said that year they do not even publish the number of men who refused to comply with conscription. the basic number around that was 2%. there is this question mark. i guess which number. guess what percentage of american men chose to never supply -- comply with selective service. he is thinking 5% but it was 11% which is really high and that is
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throughout the war. once you are in, you have the whole country mobilized. that sentiment does not completely evaporate in american society. >> can i draw on something related to that? it is relatively easy to declare war but then you have to fight it. the united states in the 19th century had a small standing peacetime army, and now you're talking about fighting a war 3000 miles away. not by land, but over a sea. president wilson made it clear to general pershing, commander of the american expeditionary force that he wanted american forces to play a significant role in settling the war because he wanted to have an leverage when it came time to negotiate the piece. -- peace. around he not just go
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building an army for the war? >> this is an interesting aspect of the war that makes it a turning point in american history. right from the beginning of the conflict, we decide to raise up the majority of our armed forces through a draft. we had used drafts before, but they came mid-conflict. a carrot ande stick. you would get a bonus. the thing about selective service, wilson does not want to give the impression that america is unwilling to go to war and the only way you can create an army is by forcing men to fight. they rebrand the draft as something called selective service. that is when this notion comes into being. the idea is that every man has to register on the same day in public. then you will be selected to serve in the army. those who are not selected
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to serve in the army will serve at home. it is this idea of emphasizing service, the honor of serving in the military. i just said there is a high evasion rate. on the other hand, it is a successful system. they do successfully raise an over 4 million men during the war. they do contribute to the victory. >> when the americans finally got there, they did not fight for very long. it was really only a handful of months, although the figure of men lost was about 117,000. >> about 112,000 but many died from the flu. >> that is right. there are other types of casualties. there is real bluster to the americans. when pershing arrived on the european soil, he said, lafayette, we are here, quoting the great marquee to lafayette duringped the americans
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the civil war. the americans were stymied at one point, and someone suggested retreat. one marine said, retreat, hell no, we just got here. >> jenniffer described what i would call the miracle of mobilization. we went from, what was it not even half a million? >> about 300,000. >> to over 4 million. in some ways, from olson's point -- inw, that wilson's some ways, from wilson's point of view, the war ended too early. if the war had gone on for much longer, it would look a lot more like world war ii. the bulk of the fighting in germany was going to fall to us the americans. the british had begun to perfect tanks. they were the innovators of
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world war i. bombers thatfected could carry payloads. the war of movement had resumed as we got there. the trench stalemate was over. it was a war of movement. that was going to be our war. if you look at 1944 and 1945 and you look at that fighting in germany, wilson, the 14 points saved an awful lot of lives. >> it is worth pointing out that one of the things we have to talk about when we talk about world war i and its lessons for today is remember how this war began. it began with the innocuous shooting of an archduke and it this conflagration that swept the globe.
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near the end of the war as john was talking about, one of the things we cannot forget is it swept away the russian czardom. the bolshevik revolution began and they pulled out of the war. this shows the face of war, the carnage of war, the unpredictability of war. that is another calculus we need to think about when america decides whether to get into war. >> you use a word i would build off of which is lessons. >> yes. >> presumably, we read history, study history not just for the stories, but we are hoping it can provide us lessons or guidance. i will ask each of you to answer the following actions, -- questions, what do you take to be the lesson of the american entry into world war i? can i start with you, john? >> i am known as an admirer of
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wilson's, and i make no apology for that. not as much as scott berg, i think. one thing i'm very critical of him about is when we got into the war, he neglected his role as educator in chief. he did not give enough time -- granted he had a lot of other things on his plate as commander-in-chief but he did not really try enough to communicate to the american people. he had a very complicated, i don't like the word nuance, but it applies here, why we are fighting and what we were fighting for. he said he had the same objects in mind as he did january 24 last. he was fighting in a sense to win a compromised peace. he did not want to smash the germans.
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this was a complicated thing. instead he let george creel lose. -- loose. >> that is the head of our public propaganda. >> he let that loose and he had a big speaking tour for september of 1918. he was going to go out. you might say that is late, but then the germans sued for the armistice. if you're going to get a war without a pearl harbor or fort sumter or something like that, then the clear about making your objectives clear to the american people. that is something he did not do enough of. when people ask about lessons of world war i, i like to change the question a little bit and speak about the relevancy of the first world war for our present
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day. because it happened one hundred years ago, we think we should talk about it because it happened 100 years ago. why? does that really make it worth thinking about today? i think it is worth thinking about today not because of the accident of 100 years ago but when you look at the first world war, people were facing a lot of the same dilemmas we are facing. john mentioned one. if you have expansive goals to remake the world through war, is that really realistic? i point to the difficulty of the first world war of balancing the demands for national security and civil liberties. theof the things wilson administration does is down on national defense. we have the espionage act, the sedition act.
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clearly, we want to stop sedition. . that? we balance articulateson principles about democracy had minds of americans as far as what their aspirations domestic democracy and the roles internationally areas wilson did not ask next people to take his words of the way they did. civil rights, the suffragists. not the people he was talking to. they took it. they built on it. that becomes the vision they aspired to throughout the 20th century for these important social movements. rhetoric can develop a life of
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its own. argue woodrow wilson is one of the most important people to understand in the 20th century. >> what he said in the war address was of the world must be made safe for democracy. he would not have used passive voice unless he meant it. he had a much more limited down to earth vision. and he did not coin the term self-determination. >> that is right. people latch onto these ideas. that is what we take you to mean, and you lose control. >> he did have an expansive vision of galvanizing the american people, not simply going into war to remake the balance of power. he wanted to make the world safer. a world safe for democracy. you can think of george bushes second inaugural.
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>> he said that that kind of democracy spreading and advancement goes back to theodore roosevelt, not through wilson. anything else to add? >> i could say more, but i will not. >> let me say quick, three things about lessons. the lessons are deep and profound and something all of us who think about foreign policy, this is something that matters to us a great deal. the first thing is leadership, the second thing is intervention into conflicts and the third is shaping the peace. in leadership, i think it is still worth pondering. when a president is shaped with -- faced with outrage, even if he has public opinion going against him, and the same is the case for woodrow wilson, fdr, and abraham lincoln, how do you
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shave public opinion and galvanize the american people to do something that you think will be necessary? that is the task of leadership in warfare. the second question is the question of intervention. one of the things we have to think about and that we see is had america not intervened in , world war i, who knows what been the results what would have been? america became the dominant superpower on the world stage even as the cold war was about to begin with the bolsheviks. america is an indispensable voice. intervention is necessary, but is it always helpful? we saw in vietnam it was perhaps ill-timed and folly. the lessons can be straight and winding but are not always clear. the final lesson is how to shape the peace.
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i wrote about this a lot in terms of the reconciliation after the civil war, at the end of world war i, we had a treaty of versailles that was seen as punitive by the germans and because it was seen as so punitive, there was no real reconciliation and in many ways that led to the rise of adolf hitler's who used it as propaganda tool and led to the rise of the nazi party and then to the 20 years of crisis and then to world war ii. these are profound lessons to take and are for all of our statesman to ponder. >> at this time i would like to bring the rest of the room into the conversation. let me remind everybody that this meeting is on the record. i would ask for you to wait for
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the microphone. please stand, state your name and affiliation and in the interest of time, i ask everybody to keep their questions short, and i'm going to ask my panels if they can keep their responses short as well. we will go here to the front of the room. >> thank you. i'm with prime policy group, i don't believe i heard you mention the zimmerman telegram as reason why we got involved in the war. how much credit do you give that as a reason beyond unrestricted submarine warfare? >> not a lot. >> maybe you should say what that is for people who are not familiar. >> that is the german offer to mexico to come into the war, if they came into the war they would recover their lost provinces. texas, arizona, and new mexico. they did not mention california. that caused a sensation and
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certain papers like "the chicago tribune" converted to intervention. as far as we can tell, it did not change many minds. >> ok. back of the room, ellen? if someone could bring ellen a microphone, i would appreciate it. >> thanks, jim. to just briefly mention the story of henry simpson stepping down as secretary of war to serve in an artillery battalion in france. at the time, was that seen as heroic, sentimental or foolish and whether or not there were any other senior american officials that wanted to experience the war? >> he was no longer secretary of war. he went out with the tax administration. he had not been secretary of war since 1915. >> he served in france and came back and served as the government again, i thought there was a connection.
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>> later. he is governor general of the philippines, goes to nicaragua and then become secretary of state under hoover. he was out. >> were there others who wanted to experience the war? >> i get asked this a lot especially by my students who kind of have a vietnam war image in their head, thinking the draft was only going to take educated people -- non-educated people. during world war i, you had many educated men going to fight. you had men resign from political positions, businesses to go fight the war. this was what the wilson administration feared happening. they had seen that happen in britain. out of patriotism they would go, but who is left to run these agencies, these businesses, left
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to run the government? in a way, the selective service system, by giving you an exemption and you can wear a pin that you were legally exempt, gave people a path to stay a job -- stay in these jobs and be considered patriotic. >> you did not mention the most famous would be volunteer of all. theodore roosevelt. he went hat in hand to wilson. raise theease, let me division. every ambitious officer in the army was clamoring to get into position, including captain eisenhower. yed havoc with any kind of orderly raising of the army. >> i know we have filled a room here with people interested in
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this, but essentially world war i remains a blip on the american consciousness. i once had a deputy national security adviser fall out of his chair when i told him we lost as many military casualties in world war i as we did in 10 years in vietnam. is it because there was television in vietnam, or what? why does world war i barely register on the general american consciousness? >> j, you want to take a crack at that? >> i do. i'm not sure of the answer. in the publishing world, they say if you want a bestseller, writes about the american civil war, do not write about world war i. it has not seeped into the public consciousness but i would say kudos to the council of foreign relations for holding this event because world war i really is, it is a titanic battle, a titanic war, all the
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major issues we think about matter. death, carnage, the face of war, escalation the role of america , in the world, how to shape the peace. all these things are brought by world war i. world war i was at the edifice that shaped the rest of the century. for those of you who say it does not matter, i expect you to spread the gospel. >> i was just going to add that world war i was not forgotten by the generation that experienced it and i like to say world war i is the war hidden in plain sight. washington, d.c. is a perfect , example. there are monuments all over the place, not just official monuments. add a worldush to
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war i monument, but the already have one. the tomb of the unknown soldier is a world war i memorial and that was a huge moment when that was erected. i was at dupont circle walking around and i walked by an apartment building named after a major battle fought during world war i. every community has world war i monuments. it is just that americans forgot. the generation did not forget. i think world war ii overshadowed it and world war i is not the good war. it does not have that feel-good narrative to it. when you say why did we get in? nobody can give you a good answer. when you say what did we accomplish? there is no good answer. we like wars to have clean narrative and this war does not have that. >> in britain and the commonwealth it is called the great war. that name never caught on here. >> it was a european war. >> it was called the war to end all wars. >> wilson never said that.
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hg wells said that. i didn't say wilson said. >> larry, they are going to bring a microphone to you. >> let's assume that germany had not started unrestricted submarine warfare and the united states had not gotten into the war, which all of you are inclined to believe had that not happened we would not have entered into the war. the question i have for you is what would the likely result of the war have been? isn't it almost inevitable if not likely that the germans would have won and what was the result in europe have been and how would we have countered that? >> who wants to take a crack at the counterfactual? john.
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>> germany would have won. all you have to do is look at 1917, at this catalog of allied disasters. culminating in russia leaving the war. after that, a financial crisis would have at best severely interrupted the flow of supplies to the allies. that is a recipe for their defeat. germany, michael kazen and i had the debate. >> he is a history professor at georgetown. >> he had a piece in the washington post called "five myths of world war i." he says that it would have been a stalemate if we never got in, and you would not have the third reich and all of that. being on the winning side to did not inoculate italy against fascists. of course, the german defeat play a huge role in the rise of
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hitler. a german dominated europe would have been very bad news for us. some president at some would point have had to deal with that. >> tom. >> tom davis, senior fellow, i was just thinking of that organization formed as the army ordnance association at aberdeen. we never got any heavy equipment to the u.s. army to fight this war. and therench tanks french howitzer. the question i had is a little bit off the path of what you are talking about. i did a dissertation years ago and i wonder if anything has happened to us then. it was about the ramifications of world war i as it applied to the middle east and it was a whole series of things that went
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on in the middle east, and woodrow wilson himself was trying to sort out what his thoughts were and organize a commission he sent over there in 1919. it seemed like so many of the things we are wrestling with in the middle east go back to either what one could describe as british diplomatic lack of coordination or duplicity, one of the two. do any of you have an idea about how british efforts in the middle east, was there any grand strategy or were they simply taking tactical steps to get through day-to-day given what you describe as their situation? that the the things middle east at this time across the ottoman empire in this territory is not an issue that you could galvanize american interest around.
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one was the balfour declaration. the idea that there was going to be a homeland in palestine, this became something to reinforce their commitment to the war and the idea that this could be accomplished. the second was what happened in armenia. there was a lot of publicity about the armenian genocide in the united states and america was supposed to take armenia as a mandate and wilson said the americans owed that to the armenian people. obviously that doesn't happen. i think that a lot of the that,l, the specifics of this is not where we fought or thought we had national security interests at the time. they are much more focused on eastern europe. >> the other thing i would add
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is that with the end of world war i, we saw not only the close of the war but the sweeping away of empires. we saw the sweeping away of the ottoman empire, the russian empire, and in that sense the middle east was ripe for being redrawn, and it was the beginning of a process, not the end of a process. it is something we live with to this day. >> you said british duplicity, don't leave the french out. [laughter] arms control association. in 2002, george w. bush introduced to the idea of preventive war into u.s. security doctrine. i assume 100 years ago, the idea of attacking first did not have legitimacy among the american public. did the fact that it was austria invading serbia and germany invading neutral belgium, did that play a role here or was it very minor in comparison to
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submarine warfare? belgium, in terms of opinion, not necessarily wanting to get in, but opinion belgium, i'm , sorry to put it this way but belgium gave the german a pr black eye they never got over. somehow you talk about cap again that and all of this stuff -- propaganda and all of this stuff. british propaganda, germans had a much better financed and organize propaganda machine in the u.s. it just never got the traction. it was intended to make that maybe they are both bad. >> i think in a sense a germany was part of the power that has preventative war on its mind. as they are trying to figure out what to do in reaction to the austrian hungarian ultimatum in serbia, there is this sense that better now. nowre in the best position
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to solidify our position as the leader of europe because if we do not do it now all we will see is an increasingly strong russia which has a new mobilization plan. our situation will only get worse over time, this is at the moment to start. -- this is the moment to strike. they were the ones acting in that notion of preventative war. >> preventive war, it is a richer and more complex and murkier subject than people realize. the american habit was to manipulate the other side into a point where war became inevitable. if you think about what abraham lincoln did when he re-provisioned for sumter, he knew what was to come. he wanted to make sure the south fired the first shot. as he put it, and then the war came. that was typically the way americans treated wars. go ahead, sir.
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>> thanks for a fascinating discussion. you talked about the efforts by private americans to aid the allies and was there a private effort by german-americans and how bad was the tension in society? >> yes. there was an effort. the german community in this country was very well organized. there was an umbrella organization called the german-american alliance. its chief public policy objective before world war i was to fight for prohibition -- fight prohibition. think about that. the great german breweries. at the beginning of the war, they started pushing for an arms embargo. they would not sell arms to anybody. that sounded like a great idea. but it violated all rules of
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international law. if they can come and get it, you can sell it. the allies were the only ones that could. there was an organized campaign for that. they were trying to help. >> do you want to speak? >> i was going to say that one of the problems was to get their aid to germany, there was a british blockade, even sending money became difficult. there were a lot of similar aid efforts. german-americans made a good point, which is that you are bent out of shape about the lusitania but what about the german children starving as a result of the british blockade. isn't this targeting civilians. >> food was being used as a weapon. >> exactly. we can lament the death of women and children when a passenger ship is sunk but you are ignoring the greater cost on the german people.
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that was a rhetorical propaganda battle they did not win but they had an argument to make. >> there was a real campaign against german-americans. what one might see as the treatment of muslims after 9/11. was calledraut liberty cabbage. >> towns around the united states had their names changed, berlin iowa became lincoln, iowa. the day after they declare war, my grandfather never spoke german again. >> professor, you said wilson was not a good educator in terms of educating the american people about world war i. when you look at the wars in korea, the amount, iraq,
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vietnam, iraq, afghanistan were the presidents involved in these wars good educators? >> no. -- wilson, you go back to 1912 and the greatest campaign we've ever had was him versus theodore roosevelt. it was two men expanding political philosophy. tr spoke of evangelizing and preaching. e was almost certainly a religious skeptic. woodrow wilson, the son of presbyterian ministers, his model was education. what you want to do is educate the public. he sees that as a two-way process. the public will educate the leader. that is what i see as a terrible
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failure on his part and he recognized this and is going to take steps to try to remedy it, related steps. -- belated steps. >> his propaganda committee was called the community of public information. >> he deliberately kept the word propaganda out of it. >> time for one last question. i will remind everybody this meeting has been on the record keep your could question short. >> the war marked the beginning of the administrative state in this country. besides selective service, what were the successes and what were the failures? >> who wants to take a crack at that? >> when we think about the administrative state, some people think about the security state, they think about the way
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in which surveillance was dramatically increase after the first world war. the expanded the apartment of justice. we have the fbi coming into existence, this idea that we need to -- public safety depends on a federal investigative apparatus. we gained a lot of experience in terms of mobilizing the economy, there is a national takeover of the railroad. there is a food administration that launches probably the most significant propaganda campaign of the war in trying to pressure local communities to get them to conform. we see that structure percolating into communities. these things are seen as analogies which the new deal builds on in the future, the capacity of the government to effect changes on how they live their daily lives. that is a lesson learned from the past. and i would not underestimate the way which the modern army comes into being as result of the first world war. in the civil war, 90% of men are
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combatants. in the first world war, it is down to 40%. your building a large bureaucratic titian. that becomes a major component of the state. there's no doubt that the first world war is an important moment in state building. >> on this question of surveillance, how much was it a function of deliberate government policy and how much of it was social norms and communities in terms of treating -- intruding in people who chose to dissent? >> there is no doubt that at the beginning of the first world war, the federal government did not have the capacity to undertake the kind of surveillance it wanted. it could not have enforced the espionage act without help from americans, and when you look at these files, they are full of letters of people from their community ratting people out. you did not buy a liberty bonds.
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his person refused to salute the flag. there is a sense of if you're not with us you are against us and people are afraid, they are concerned about winning this war and the idea there has been dissent, how can you trust people who speak out against the war, all these become elements. it becomes a shared enterprise. i think that is important to recognize because a lot of time you look at wars and say the state has so much power that he get so much power because we enable that, we are asking the state to exercise that power. if there were strong opposition on the part of most americans, i'm not sure it would be so simple. >> that is continuing threat of the alien and sedition act, from john adams to 9/11. >> on that note, we are going to end. i want to ask the room to join me in thanking our guests. [applause] >> thank you, everybody.
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[captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2017] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] you are watching american history tv, all weekend, every weekend on c-span3. like us on facebook. >> american history tv, historian john langellier discusses his book "fighting for uncle sam: buffalo soldiers and the frontier army." we will hear about the all black regiments order to defend the western frontier. the consequences for native american and african-american soldiers, and the buffalo soldier experiences through colorado. this was reported in denver. -- recorded in denver. >> tonight, we are gathered to hear dr. john langellier bring


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