How did WW1 change America's place in the world? Jonathan Dimbleby presents a public debate from the US Library of Congress in Washington
United States


00:00:00this is the BBC this poll cost is supported by advertising outside the U. K. thank you for downloading from the BC details of a complete range of podcasts and outcomes of use go to BBC world service dot com slash podcasts thank you and welcome to the United States
00:00:33library of Congress in Washington DC it's a real the like for us to be here in this magnificent institution in the very heart of the American capital we are here with our partners the British Council to continue this series exploration of the impact of the first World War
00:00:50around the world it's quite something to be a few meters only from where in nineteen seventeen the fateful decision was taken that America should join the great war in Europe one hundred years ago a furious debate raged in the U. S. Congress about what if anything America should
00:01:09do about a conflagration that was devastating the continent of Europe then on may the seventh nineteen fifteen the British luxury liner was sunk in the Atlantic Ocean she was one of the fastest and largest ships ever to have been built a name was Lusitania one thousand one hundred
00:01:32ninety eight lives were lost one hundred and twenty nine of these what American they had been killed by a German submarine now I want to ask all audience what that sinking means anything to you with a long is a long long time ago a hundred years ago does
00:01:52anyone have a sense of what the sinking of the Lusitania means if anything it'll yeah I come right up to see if I can up the steps of the lecture theatre on the left hip I think it helped paint the enemy as barbarous and uncivilized a little bit
00:02:07like how the terrorist attacks on nine eleven help to make the enemy on supplies and inhumane thank you very much lot of sorts any other thought yes over here I'm gonna come round we're in a block of three and I am running as fast as elderly legs will
00:02:23let me run go here next all there is some issue too is whether or not the Lusitania was carrying weapons armaments to Europe by it was strictly stated that was stripped of his only a passenger passenger ship in that says I don't think that bill controversies ever been
00:02:41settled I think you're right the I. those hand here yeah down a couple steps into the middle I think it also represents two different changes one that Americans suddenly we're not as far away from the conflict as they had thought they were previously but also its represents a
00:03:00time in which average citizens and civilians now become almost a part of the war efforts just as much as a soldier was at the time very interesting thought and not one more down here and then we'll carry on I think no one's really express the German viewpoint on
00:03:15this where the allies were blockade in Europe and starving the Germans and central powers and this was a German response trying to do the same to the British and French much food for thought in those thoughts thank you very much the sinking of the Lusitania did not of
00:03:34itself prompts the United States to take up arms against Germany it'll be two years before president Woodrow Wilson declared war on the Kaiser with the ringing declaration of his purpose was to make the world safe for democracy but the Lusitania was an important symbolic moment for American outrage
00:03:54that forced the nation to confront a profoundly disconcerting reality that the two vast oceans which girdle each side of the United States from east and west offered precious little protection from what was happening in a far away world beyond that own shoals in short isolation was not insulation
00:04:15so in this program again to explore the impact of the first World War on the subsequent history of the United States Accor question to what extent as president Wilson's decision to send US troops onto a foreign battlefield in the name of democracy shaped this nation's sense of itself
00:04:33and its role in the world later in the program we can have a special essay about the political impact of the great wall from David from former speechwriter to president George W. bush now though would you welcome to the stage to renowned historians of that era Jennifer Keane
00:04:50professor of history at Chapman university and Russ Kennedy professor of history at Illinois State University Jennifer can we stopped with the American attitudes of the outbreak of the European war in nineteen fourteen what did the American public not the politicians and diplomats in the city of Washington what
00:05:20they know or think about what was happening in the rest of the world in Europe news that war had broken out in Europe was of course distressing to Americans of all walks of life and the first message from Woodrow Wilson to Americans was to be neutral in thought
00:05:37as well as speed and he was giving this message because he knew that America was a nation of immigrants we had people who had come from all the nations involved in this conflict and he was worried that it could literally tear this nation apart people's differences opinions about
00:05:52the war but one of the big mistakes we often make in thinking about this so called period of neutrality is that we think that neutrality means a non involvement and nothing could be further from the truth Americans were all always involved in World War one we know a
00:06:11lot about the trading relationships that we maintained and expanded the financial support that we gave to the allies but one of the ways that the average American became involved in this war right from the beginning was three mana tarian as some and they sent a to all sorts
00:06:28of places Belgium Russia Italy Armenia and we see this aid being taken very gratefully from people overseas I have this great example I came across Topeka Kansas receiving of flour sacks from Belgian women they had sent sacks of flour in nineteen fourteen to help feed Belgian civilians and
00:06:53these women returned the sax to this to be the community embroidered they didn't want them refilled they want to thank these Americans for what they had done here in Washington us you have a debate about what to do or what not to do I imagine as ever you
00:07:11would have had a host of Italy competing factions with conflicting agendas yeah you did public opinion was overwhelmingly against entering the war that was one reason why Wilson declared neutrality right away was because you know traditionally the American people viewed Europe as a separate political sphere having little
00:07:30to do with the United States overwhelmingly the most intense debate the numbers early on was over defense policy over a what they call preparedness was the term they used at the at the time period %HESITATION and they're sort of two big factions one group that's very much in
00:07:46favor of increasing America's military establishment quite sharply doubling the size of the army instituting universal military training for young man this is that by Theodore Roosevelt Henry Cabot lodge in their argument he didn't pitch it as we need this in order to get into the war what they
00:08:01pitched as was we need this for the post war because after the war is over they argued that the Europeans are going to be desperate to replenish their resources and so my make challenges to the United States dominance of the western hemisphere are they also argued that the
00:08:17world had become a smaller place and that with battleships and submarines and the logistical %HESITATION intricacies of communications and railroads massing armies that you needed to have forces ready to go at the outset of a conflict and then the other group the other group is more on that
00:08:35as sort of the social worker moderate socialists %HESITATION Jane Adams was an important leader of that group %HESITATION midwesterners small town Americans who had a traditional version to a professional big standing army and didn't dot sought as a threat to freedom in the progressive period they also linked
00:08:53it to to financial concerns with banks and munitions makers and corporations what they argued was that the United States was was was safe from invasion that those ocean moats that you referred to earlier were still big enough to make make it impossible for any any country to invade
00:09:11the United said this was serious ideological and policy divisions it was a serious division because what they're really doing is there they're trying to understand what what's the definition of national security in the twentieth century a case you have this debate going on you have the powerful feelings
00:09:27Jennifer that you were describing amongst ordinary people if I put it that way the Lusitania we know there was a gap before America actually came into the world but it's seen I think is important backdrop to that and I right on that which presumes that America then hundred
00:09:45years ago was truly shocked and outraged at that sinking whatever the calls that sinking my to being Lusitania is is a moment that is in a sense very analogous to nine eleven because it's one of those moments in history where people remember where they were when they first
00:10:02heard the news of this thinking it was shocking not just because American lives were lost when the Germans torpedoed the ship it was shocking because of the speed with which which it sank it sank in eighteen minutes giving very few people a chance to get into life boats
00:10:19or make it to shore it sunk right off the coast of Ireland which meant that for days afterwards bodies were washing up on the shores and this sort of grisly sight on let rise to very detailed press accounts and one of those press accounts was an account of
00:10:36a young mother who washed up cleaning her baby in her arms and the description was so vivid that it was taken by an artist friends spear and it was the inspiration for the first American propaganda poster you may have seen this poster of a young woman with a
00:10:54baby in her arms sinking to the depths of the ocean and the poster has one word on it and that word is and list so you have these feelings running strongly powerful currents while the war is continuing nineteen seventeen roughly two years after the sinking of the Lusitania
00:11:13the decision is made Ross save the world for democracy by taking America into that will work to the key factors that precipitated the final decision you just outlined those well it in the neutrality Parrino it Wilson in some ways wasn't very neutral he %HESITATION didn't protest as strongly
00:11:31the British blockade which aspects of the way the British implemented their blockade was illegal and interfered with America's neutral rights but on the subs he took a very hardline early on and %HESITATION really threaten the Germans with a break in relations unless they backed off on the sub
00:11:47war which they promised to do in nineteen sixteen and so what happened in early nineteen seventeen was the Germany reneged on that promise that day the Germans decided for their own reasons to roll the dice and solve the subs is their best chance for winning the war and
00:12:04they sank the man I actually can chips in rapid succession yeah and that was it and then then then Congress says okay this is enough you can go to war Senate house and raise the dead yes I will let you know that point Wilson's credibility is at stake
00:12:23a Wilson also thought that the war was entering its final phases and he felt that if he stayed on the sidelines especially after of America's honor had been attacked and American citizens have been killed that he would not get a seat at the peace table okay so America
00:12:38enters the world with a very small standing on a hundred and thirty thousand men only for this reason others think they can win the war before the United States was strong enough to defeat them and they made a grave miscalculation because of the normal speed the US army
00:12:54groups in the day four million train men in some eighteen months Jennifer why did the United States maintains such a small standing army by comparison with the huge armies of Europe relatively and in actual terms and how do they turn around so fast America had maintained a small
00:13:12thing Danny peace time army because we had a tradition of seeing a large army as a threat to political liberties at home with an amazing part of the American story in the first World War is how we turn this around and we turn it around through instituting conscription
00:13:26immediately interestingly enough we get our new terminology for what we now call the draft we called it for the first time in the first World War selective service it was going to be an honor to be selected to serve in the military %HESITATION from Wilson said a nation
00:13:43that volunteers on mass also really putting on notice the entire American population will need to be part of it was a murder over off to about that interpret that a bit in the context of what you say well because in a sense that I think the Chicago Tribune
00:14:00said it really well on the sat on the national registration day everybody registered in one day for selective service said patriots will comply willingly all others must just one doesn't pick up a little bit of that briefly with with the with the audience without knowing to I know
00:14:19we've got some military here in the library of Congress and just a source about but we've we've just heard the other still echoes of that we had little bit loft of just now echoes of that distrust that sense of %HESITATION we don't want a powerful army we we
00:14:38we don't want to be a great military power with the vast standing on me all the echoes of that or is that is that evaporated in cuts come in on that yes how're Bromberg I don't think there's a lack of mistrust deserves more respect but I think there's
00:14:53more dynamics today in terms of budgetary pressures uncertainties and then the the the phase we're in today of with this %HESITATION threat with isis is a different type of environment but I think the most trust with the federal government troops as well that is standing services is there
00:15:09today are you in the military so formally foreman that it meant what more could you at night I was reading about this very week about Texas well someone's got to illuminate me about this who's going to tell me about Texas because as I understand it from my crew
00:15:30reading the governors the governors %HESITATION having words of the minute train on a huge exercise saying excuse me what's this all about noise that form was not content is that reality is just going through the motions wall for the folks who live in Texas don't take this the
00:15:43wrong way Sir that's mere aberration you folks from across the ocean don't care don't pay any attention to it to show pass what is the Texas is you'll loft you'll know about it big story who's gonna tell me just briefly the Texas story yeah right in the middle
00:16:05as a gentleman there with dos very very briefly the military's conducting training exercises in Texas as it has done routinely for many many years %HESITATION but there is as political scientists have commented since forever a paranoid strain in American politics and there is a branch of Texas conservatives
00:16:25small but vocal who fear that these military exercise may in fact be a pretext for perfidious terror any through which the military show impose martial law in Texas for reasons which may not be articulable which may not be rational but none the less menace the good people of
00:16:43that state I can tell look we're in Washington not in Texas the impact of the United States intervention in the war made a critical difference the US navy protecting allied convoys from German U. boats the first day I said didn't begin to enter what became the army's first
00:17:16major offensive until September of nineteen eighteen and a great many American boys die to achieve that final victory two months later in November but as we touched on Ross Wilson took American to over the statement of what diplomats call declaratory policy to make the world safe for democracy
00:17:36to become an whatever we come to the peace talks Germany is effectively broken Wilson has his famous fourteen point plan for a New World order what's the there are fourteen points because the essence of what the fourteen point plan walls and the ideals that it was said to
00:17:53embody and I'm not going to give everyone of the fourteen points good %HESITATION the essence of his ideas I think can be kind of kind of boil down to sort of for one is that he's he believe that democracies were peaceful a second was collective security which was
00:18:09that the world had become so interdependent that any war anywhere affected everybody and so therefore the world should collectively respond to any threat to peace %HESITATION %HESITATION anywhere and then on another one under girding his whole vision is American leadership and with the notion of American exceptionalism exceptionalism
00:18:30exceptionalism meaning that the United States was was a unique country a country of immigrants it hadn't been a part of it a territorial ambitions that were bound up with the war %HESITATION Wilson believe they had a superior political system to other countries he deeply believed in a sense
00:18:48that that god had chosen the United States to be a special nation to lead world progress in world civilization he may believe that he may want to the league of nations the United States Congress with its feet firmly inside the building just down the road from here rejects
00:19:06the league of nations ailes to ratify the treaty of S. signs which he put an enormous amount of time and effort living in Paris for a long time he loses power he dies in nineteen twenty four them we're gonna come on suit very soon how Wilson's ideas have
00:19:23influenced American policy in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world in more recent times but when it come to our audience again now to focus on what we've been discussing so far Lusitania about present Wilson decision to take America into the nation's first great foreign war who's
00:19:43gonna come in first down here the man the white shirt %HESITATION we've been talking a lot about the United States as it came into the war very interested in what was the role of German Americans that were in the United States at the time I think there's a
00:19:57us to seek out that there was four hundred and fifty German language newspapers in the United States and they're one of the biggest immigrant populations what role did they play in some of the policy moving forwards up to nineteen seventeen actually entering the war so if you were
00:20:12German immigrants to the United States you have to register as an enemy alien that meant you had to go down to the post office be fingerprinted have your picture taken and basically that was put on file you immediately suspect if you were German American of course you're an
00:20:26American citizen and this created a different dilemma for you if you were a man between the ages of twenty one of thirty you could be drafted many work right on there are many German language publications if you wanted to continue to publish you had to provide an English
00:20:39translation could do that you're shut down right many states get into this game they begin to outlaw the teaching of German in universities and public schools they outlawed speaking German in any public meeting which basically means people can go to church right they can't go to the club
00:20:54that they have %HESITATION and so we see a kind of mix here of people having obligation to support this war at the same time that their civil rights are being suppressed and the same time if they self silence faith based self censor themselves this is the phenomenon of
00:21:10many people changing their last names for instance so that they they don't longer have German sounding last names no question yes right down here at the front gentleman in shorts warm Washington whether my name's Kevin Matthews from Washington DC I'd like you to talk more bit about the
00:21:29war debts and the world once controversy my grandfather was in the war he served on the western front but until the day he died whether things that anger him most was the fact that the allies never pay back to war debts he always talked about little Finland always
00:21:45paying back their debts I thought Lupin was a country I would always and we're big film was such common appreciate it %HESITATION it what your %HESITATION your relative is expressing a that the depth of American public opinion wanting those debts %HESITATION up paid was very intense a even
00:22:03Calvin Coolidge the president %HESITATION you know someone complained to him about you know wanted to revise the debts or get rid of the war debts and and Coolidge is turned to them and said they hired the money didn't say so he said and you know it the the
00:22:17thing with the word that says that it really disrupted the world financial system because in a contradicted the other part of American policy which is the Americans wanted lower reparations one of the Germans to pay lower reparations in order to facilitate Germany's economic recovery and the allied position
00:22:33was walls were going to get lower reparations then you guys need to lower your war debts you know we can't pay back these high ward us if we're not getting reparations from the Germans and the American government simply refused to see any connection between those two those two
00:22:47issues of the war debts were a a major cause of that you know of the financial system in the twenties which proved to have a shaky foundations %HESITATION and it most economists believe that the word that should have been revised downward much further or eliminated than they were
00:23:09that on that note we will post it come back to our audience here again in a short while but thank you for those questions will be back in just a moment I'm Jonathan Dimbleby you're listening to the BBC world service and this is the war that changed the
00:23:28world the series where we discuss the World Wide legacy the first World War with audiences from around the world recordings what programs are available to listen to online at BBC world service dot com for this program we're in Washington DC here at the United States library of Congress
00:23:46to discuss how the great war still affects America's role in the world so now with our international basis selected by the British Council would you please welcome the writer David from a Washington insider if ever there were one writer political adviser currently senior editor of the Atlantic magazine
00:24:04here in Washington and one speech writer and special assistant to president George W. bush in fact he was part of the team though he claims no personal credit for the famous controversial phrase the axis of evil in the speech for the state of the union address in two
00:24:20thousand and two David from thank you to all good evening in the spring of twenty fifteen my undergraduate son and I drove the length of the nineteen fourteen nineteen eighteen western front from the British battlefields in Flanders through the French zone in champagne in the rain to the
00:24:48American cemeteries and monuments shut up the area San Quentin below would they are gone the nearer we approach the American sector the fewer tourists share the sites with us under the Menin gate that you press a massive memorial to Britain's lost we were jostled among have a thousand
00:25:09men and women boys and girls the overwhelming mothers are gone cemetery the largest American military bearing place in all your we stood alone a Twitter follower offered me a memorable explanation of the week cold of the first World War upon the American consciousness Americans hero to me preferred
00:25:31the sequel better villains big wreck's motions there's something to that but if this earlier war has faded from national memory its aftermath shapes American culture in the United States the first World War is a rare example George W. bush's Iraq war is another of a war that became
00:25:53more unpopular after the fact then while it was being waged the first world wars horrific human and economic costs the disappointment of hopes that the war would somehow reform or redeem society the failure to achieve an enduring peace the subsequent Great Depression that indicted the liberal world order
00:26:15for which so many Americans believe they had fought the wood ceiling collapse of democracy in so many European countries slide toward the second World War all those experiences of the two decades after the first World War systematically made mockery of every ideal and hope and promise which Americans
00:26:35imagined they had joined the fight in April nineteen seventy somebody had to carry the blame but who that question would dominate the political debate of the inter war years the response offered by many post war critics of president Woodrow Wilson's war leadership would slow the American response to
00:26:55the rise of Adolf Hitler and cast an influence over foreign policy debates into our own time the criticism continues to this day from nineteen eighteen through the Iraq war Wilsonian is the only world in the American foreign policy lexicon that remains both a proud boast and a cutting
00:27:15insult the question confronting the United States in nineteen seventeen with the same question the confronted Americans in nineteen forty one and again after World War two and now again as China rights who will shape world order the United States and its liberal democratic traditions or challengers impelled by
00:27:34aggressive authoritarian ideologies of one kind or another Americans are susceptible to the belief that their country is somehow not a state like other states it is either something purer and higher or something unforgivable he worse if it's not fighting and war in the rash phrase often mistakenly attributed
00:27:55to Woodrow Wilson then it's fighting for JP Morgan and munitions makers yet there was one of Wilson's genuine phrases that did aptly describe what the issue was in nineteen seventeen and what it has been ever since in it April second speech to Congress asking for a declaration of
00:28:12war on Germany Wilson insisted that the world must be made safe for democracy not democratic safe for democracy Wilson wasn't promising to impose democracy on imperial Germany he was promising to defend democracy from Germany the first World War had not begun as a conflict between democracy and authoritarianism
00:28:37Great Britain was not a democracy in August nineteen fourteen czarist Russia certainly was not ditto Japan Italy and Romania all fought for the Entente none the government selected by more than a small fraction of the population even in France the most democratic of the original allies elected leaders
00:28:56did not fully control the government never mind that the third Republic ruled over a vast colonial empire and tonight about women by the time Wilson delivered his safer democracy war message however the war had taken a new form the sar had been overthrown Britain would emerge from the
00:29:13war as a country in which all adult men voted and soon adult women to China under an elected government since nineteen twelve would declare war on Germany in August nineteen seventeen a smaller neutral nations of Europe notably Denmark the Netherlands and Sweden democratized during and after the first
00:29:31World War the nation's it gained independence as a result of the war the Baltic republics Czechoslovakia Finland Poland organizes democracies at least start Italy and Japan to experiment tragically briefly with liberal democracy in the early nineteen twenties meanwhile the central powers receded from democracy during the war where
00:29:53the central powers organize new governments notably in Ukraine they instituted authoritarian or military regimes most notoriously the German authorities subsidized Vladimir Lenin in exile and then provided him safe conduct to destroy rushes brief experiment democracy in the spring and summer of nineteen seventy had the western allies lost
00:30:14the first World War European democracy would have failed the test that American democracy Sir mounted in the civil war the test of survival in the competition between nations and regions human beings admire winners in the year nineteen forty when democracy looked a loser and moral Lindbergh hail German
00:30:34fascism as the wave of the future at imperial Germany prevailed in nineteen eighteen they would've been many argue that Otto von Bismarck vision of the future iron and blood had decisively triumphed over his contemporary Abraham Lincoln's government of the people by the people for the people the great
00:30:53American hope is the country can win a final victory over dangerous enemies and they never think about the external world ever again when that hope is balked when the armistice does not deliver eternal peace and self balancing security many Americans blame themselves if the external world is were
00:31:12cost trend America must have provoked self accusation is as American as self assertion and as based on illusions America has acted as it has over the past century not because it is so good or so bad because it is so rich so visible and so strong American strength
00:31:34sways real politics even when it is not exert any aggressive illiberal power must fear the United States is the ultimate check on its aspirations so it wasn't Germany in nineteen seventeen so it is with Iran today the Kaisers generals reckoned that the planet was not big enough both
00:31:54for their ambitions and for American power Americans for a long time hope otherwise but their adversary saw more clearly and force the issue that has happened again and again in the century since it is happening again now and will continue to happen as long as the American state
00:32:13holds the power advantage it is held since nineteen seventeen may not be a very long time indeed not always consciously not always perfectly pressed gently but consciously impressively enough the best American minds of the first World War years perceived what was at stake the kind of world they
00:32:32wish to build and hostile world they would confront if they failed their efforts went largely wrong in the years after nineteen eighteen and the ensuing frustration brought odium on the whole project but we have the advantage of knowing more of how the story developed and we should have
00:32:49more sympathy for the difficulties faced by those who had to start the job without a guide precedent in our time too we wonder what this world is safer democratic regimes under anti democratic challenge our motives to are mixed as human motives always are but a better understanding of
00:33:06history can at least emancipate us from the isolationist polemics that caricature the why and how and what of US entry into the first World War and protect us from the dangerous indifference to the rest of the world such polemics hope to spread in the nineteen thirties and the
00:33:22nineteen seventies and now once more again and I thank you David from thank you very much for that fascinating perspective now you're with us over here beside the podium from where you were speaking with professors Jennifer keen and Russ kinda want to pick up with your date if
00:33:52I may one of the things you said the stranded has continued to run of making the world safe for democracy from Wilson right up to the present day you of course were in the White House in the weeks and months following September eleventh two thousand one but as
00:34:06for passenger planes attacked sites in America source to the twin towers in New York the Pentagon here in Washington on the fourth plane that was intended to hit the hearts of this capital city had it not been for the heroism of its passengers that brought it down when
00:34:23the White House deciding what to do in the aftermath of that how to confront al Qaeda retaliation punishment destruction of the enemy how how much did Wilsonian ism have space in which to have any consideration a toll Erica foreign policy debates when history is invoked are dominated by
00:34:44two presidents Vietnam and World War two World War one is dangerously overlooked in the immediate shock of that day by day I remember very well it felt bike Pearl Harbor Pearl Harbor had happened in New York rather than in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and the prevailing
00:35:04mood was one of self defense there was not a lot of scope for Wilsonian ideals however imperfectly understood we reached back into the Wilsonian past later as the Iraq war neared and I think for some of the same reasons the United States did not go to war in
00:35:24Iraq for democracy but when the United States went to war in Iraq for what the bush administration perceived as important national interests it was left with the question what would happen then one alternative of course is not to think about that question nuts was our policy in Libya
00:35:41we went to war we overthrew more more I got Alfie and no one was ever interested what would succeed if you are going to have a plan what is that plan going to be one of the things that is really important understand about Woodrow Wilson who is a
00:35:52powerful and sophisticated mine seen sometimes of as progressive and sometimes as a conservative but race was absolutely central to his thinking Wilson was not as much of an enthusiast for democracy as he sometimes remembered he strongly believe that democracy was only possible for countries of European descent and
00:36:11not all of them one of the ways one of the ways of the world has changed for the better since World War two especially since nineteen eighty nine as we have seen liberal democratic institutions often imperfect flourished in all kinds of places were Woodrow Wilson to believe they
00:36:25could not possibly gain a footing in East Asia and Latin America and other places and that change of mind was a big influence on policy makers as they contemplate the future of Iraq why couldn't work in the Middle East to okay I'm Jennifer even listening that and building
00:36:42and shaking your head at the same time of depending what was said when you hear what David from has said his his analysis his commentary is that idea as well whether it's effectively delivered or whether he is damaging the delivered is that SO in bed heat in the
00:36:59nation's DNA that sense that democracy is in Portland I think that it's the popular understanding of what America's role in the world should be I think that it's difficult to frame for the American public any conflict simply in terms of self defense the strategic goals obviously have to
00:37:21be thought through V. expectation is that America will do more than just defend itself it will in fact leave the places where it engages in conflict in better shape than when it first arrived but I wanted to also make the point that what I find powerful about Wilsonian
00:37:41ism is that with these ideas are released and what that means is that when there were at least America actually loses the ability to solely define what those ideals mean and we can see from nineteen nineteen until the present how those ideas have inspired uprisings throughout the time
00:38:03and there are times in the past of peoples against dictatorships with the belief that America will be on their side if they take those actions and Wilson confronted that unintentionally inspiring anti colonial movements in Korea and Vietnam but which is then into China in India all the way
00:38:24to the Cold War in terms of Poland %HESITATION ended now we're talking about the recent past so I think that it then also breeds not just the sense of disappointment with in America that we fail to attain these goals we set for ourselves but disappointment in America as
00:38:39the rest of the world also shares and this disappointment so Wilson set the bar high for us you bring me perfectly to what I want to do next with the audience I want to ask you as it were a Wilsonian question America by far the most powerful nation
00:38:57in the world still militarily economic ten most powerful how do you think the United States should exercise that power we taught touched on the Middle East the Gulf got the South China Sea as well as Europe is America's task to make the world safe for democracy who would
00:39:17like to let's just say on that quickly yes the woman over here about five rows back hi my name is Mary Alice and I'm Washingtonian Maryland energy in the air and I actually think this is going to make me very unpopular that knows that isolationism had its place
00:39:38and we should have stuck with it and now there is I feel as a teacher this kind of expectation that whenever there is some kind of conflict the blood that America gets it from both then you know if we intervene and here comes Big Brother saying old look
00:39:56what we can do because we are so strong and then regardless of whether we fail or whether we are victorious in whatever our goals are there's also this idea that wire me there once again like wire American troops American people in other people's business we don't win no
00:40:17matter what we do thank you for that sort it'd make you very others may make you very unpopular find out yes guy just yet John dies Arlington Virginia I believe the United States foreign policy needs to be based on its national interest I believe that its national interest
00:40:33because of the size of the United States it because of the size of United States and its power its national interest is to promote democracy around the world and to hopefully have international partners that can help preserve the balance of power my question to the folks in the
00:40:50UK to %HESITATION to Europe are you really effectively able to exercise your role in the balance of power yes gentleman down here with the bed is the color of my head grayish I think Mr from got it about right it's our job to make the world safe for
00:41:10democracy not to provide it yes the man with the glasses right in the middle about twelve rows back and my name is Stuart Appleby on the George Washington University my grandfather was at the Paris peace conference he was the geological adviser to president Wilson and his primary memory
00:41:30of the Paris peace conference was they were like two negotiations there was Wilson and his constitutional approach operating at one level and then there were the British and the French dividing up the world at a different level I think Americans are still confused about what our role is
00:41:48there a very clear parallels we'd be talking about a hundred years ago and today the debates what America should be what America shouldn't be is alive and well and kicking certainly here in the library of Congress I want now to to move on the just turn it to
00:42:02remind ourselves this is the war that changed the world on the BBC world service and we with our partners the British Council and an American audience at the library of Congress in Washington DC we've been discussing isolationism the Cold War Lusitania making the world safe for democracy the
00:42:20response to nine eleven and its aftermath who would like to ask our panel here any questions about what you've heard from them now is your chance to put your questions yes the guy down here about five in the second row thank you I'm John Shetler from falls church
00:42:38Virginia we seem to swing back and forth in our history between and our ideals to spread democracy and then we when things don't go well we react against that and we've had the Iraq war which by almost any standard didn't go very well and we're seeing president Obama's
00:42:56been very reluctant to get us involved in the Syrian civil war are we facing another lengthy period of isolationism in US foreign policy public feeling on this Jennifer well I I think it's it's problematic to really define it the America as isolationist except for a very short period
00:43:14in the nineteen thirties I think that if you think about Americans in the world right American businessmen are in the world American tourists in the world American philanthropic efforts are in the world now American troops are in the world I don't think we have any longer have a
00:43:31choice between should we be in the world or should we not be in the world the question is how should we be in the world that's what Wilson has presented to the American people not if but how quickly those of us who are the baby boomer and post
00:43:47baby boomer period are inclined to think of isolation them as a pendulum we had after World War one swung back the other way during World War two the Cold War swung reversed itself during the Vietnam years I think that way of thinking is obsolete I think that the
00:44:02defining factor the twenty of the century from American entry into World War one until now has been that the United States was overwhelmingly the single strongest entity on the planet financially technologically militarily if America didn't participate in the world system the world systems didn't work it collapsed on
00:44:20and that's the story of the nineteen thirties that's what was averted after World War two the next century is going to look a lot more like the period before nineteen seventeen for the first time since the Germans imperial Germany lost United States faces a geopolitical rival in China
00:44:36it is not only militarily but also technologically economically and financially company seven union was not all those things Hitler's Germany it wasn't all those things and the world is going to be a much more evenly balanced place for better or for worse I think we're going to like
00:44:51what happens next a lot less so thank you Ted dailies my name I'm from a %HESITATION in New York City think tank called the center for war peace studies I'd like to ask the panel to comment on a phrase the David from Houston and he said it was
00:45:05mistakenly attributed to Woodrow Wilson and that is the assertion that this was the war to end wars because I've never understood it Jonathan what is the case what is the argument why did anyone think that this could be the war to end war Ross Wilson thought it would
00:45:24be because with American leadership in a new international organization the league of nations with collective security with %HESITATION arms reductions with his whole vision he really believed that something like World War one would not happen again here he said at one point it if Germany you don't had
00:45:42known in advance that the United States would have reacted to its aggression and entered the war that they never would have done what they did and and he really believe that he thought that that did a new institutional a change in how the system worked would would banish
00:45:58great wars and up here Jim Johnston of Virginia and I have a question about presidential leadership and Wilson at the end of war one is his failure in leadership and the Versailles negotiations where it was pushed around by the French and the British he was out maneuvered then
00:46:25he came back to the United States and was unable to lead our Congress to adopt the treaty provisions was this due to his lack of experience with the failure to deliver Congress for the treaty of Versailles in experience Ross of well I I I wouldn't consider Wilson I
00:46:48have really failed it per side he didn't think that he failed at first sight he thought that he got more or less the tree that he wanted %HESITATION he in the allies agreed on most issues it they agreed on disarming Germany they agreed on most of the borders
00:47:02for the guard to German issues they agreed on that on the treaty ratification there're Wilson's health seems to have played a role in his failure to to broker a compromise with the Senate very briefly dated from Woodrow Wilson's failures the presidential leadership start earlier and go deeper on
00:47:21the start with his refusal to be prepared for the war that was a deliberate decision on his part at the same time as he refused to exert leadership over the allied war purchases that in fact mobilize the United States at the behest of governments outside the United States
00:47:38United States got a commitment to the allies that was by the end by my nights of did too big to fail he failed at entirely understand the financial and economic aspects of the war on the worst failure for side was not the the the treaty of peace it
00:47:53was the system of economic the economic system that was not built afterwards to cope with America's new financial role illness was a big part of this but so were the limitations of this man put many many great gifts but who unlike Franklin Roosevelt was really not the right
00:48:10man in the right job at the right time last word to you on this child just ended with thinking about Woodrow Wilson successful leadership he successfully took America into a war had mobilized and train and transport an army to do something it had never done before and I
00:48:29think his greatest success and give to us is he presented us with a better vision of ourselves and I think that that is an ideal an inspiration to to it to live up to it's the imperfections of the man that we certainly want to acknowledge but I think
00:48:45it's the loftiest of his vision that continues to inspire us we've discussed the subject which a lot of people in America maybe don't always think about we discovered this is also what I palaces said what you've been saying just how important the first World War was Woodrow Wilson
00:49:06balls to the developments of America with you agree or disagree with them from then until now it's been fantastic for me to be here with you you've been a great audience would be lovely to have heard from all of you but in the time of her life on
00:49:20radio you never have it thank you for your questions your comments your stories my behalf of our partners the British Council my producer Charlie Taylor and everyone here at the United States library of Congress in Washington would you join in on spanking our panel Jennifer keen loss candidate
00:49:37and David from the buyer there are dozens of different boat costs now available from the BBC including used documentaries science business out sensible go to babies com slash polka

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