Amazing to think that this is the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, the major event that defined all of the 20th Century. Nobody will ever be able to come up with an exact figure, but it is estimated that the total number of military and civilian casualties in World War I was well over 37 million. There were over 16 million deaths and 20 million wounded, making it among the deadliest conflicts in human history. The total number of deaths includes about 10 million military personnel and about 7 million civilians.
When World War I began, many Americans were reluctant to join the war. They wanted to avoid involvement in what they figured was just Europe’s problem. Most Americans didn’t think what was going on in Europe would ever be a threat to the US. The First World War saw a continuation of America’s Isolationist policy, Americans didn’t want to become involved in foreign affairs which didn’t concern them. The US kept out of World War II for similar reasons, but again was compelled to fight after the Japanese bombed Pear Harbor.
America finally joined the war after Germany sank the Lusitania, killing 128 American citizens. In late March, Germany sunk four more U.S. merchant ships, and on April 2nd, President Wilson appeared before Congress and called for a declaration of war against Germany. On April 4th the Senate voted 82 to 6 to declare war against Germany. Two days later, the House of Representatives endorsed the declaration by a vote of 373 to 50, and America formally entered World War I.
World War I ended with an armistice, not a clear win for either side. The Treaty of Versailles demanded that Germany accept the blame for starting the war and pay reparations for the damage caused by the war. Germany was only allowed to have a small army and six naval ships. No tanks, no air force and no submarines were allowed. The Rhineland area was to be de-militarized. Additionally, land was taken away from Germany and given to other countries. Any union with Austria was forbidden. Germany reluctantly agreed to all this.
The German people were very unhappy about the treaty, to put it mildly. People were poor and out of work and angry. The price of food and basic goods was high. People were dissatisfied with the government and voted a man into power who promised to rip up the Treaty of Versailles. His name was Adolf Hitler. World War II was really a continuation of the First World War.
Prior to Pear Harbor, opinion polls showed that most Americans favored giving help to Britain — but did not want to send U.S. troops to fight. Today you hear politicians on both the right and the left repeat the same lines, “Americans are war weary.” “America doesn’t want to get involved in another war.” Well, that’s right. Americans have never wanted to wage war. Public opinion throughout American history (including the American Revolution) always favored staying out of wars.
But our elected representatives use the “war weary” line today as an excuse to justify not doing anything whenever a world crisis arises. Historians have argued that had America entered the First World War earlier, it could have saved lives and ended the war sooner. Had we done the job completely then, chances are we never would have had a Hitler come to power, or Stalin who ended up killing, anywhere form 20 to 60 million people under his Communistic regime.
Putting off the inevitable just worsens the situation. And that’s where presidential leadership comes in. The case to engage another country has to be made by the president. Americans need to know why there’s a need to send American troops into war.
Because once you commit to war, you must be prepared to win that war, which means total defeat and surrender of the enemy. Someone once said that the objective of war is to kill people and break things. That’s what war is. It’s just that simple.
As much as Americans hate going to war, they cherish their freedom and liberties even more. Whenever a case has been made against evil in this world, Americans have jumped in and fought against it. However, if our leaders can’t or won’t make a case for defeating evil, Americans will prefer isolationism every time.
President Obama has decided, for whatever reason, that he will not engage the evil in the world. Putin’s Russia, Syria, Hamas, ISIS, Boko Haram, Hezbollah, China, and North Korea are pretty much free to call their own shots. Sadly, Obama’s missing in action policy has consequences not only for America but for America’s allies.
That means, for the next two years at least, Western and Central Europe is on its own. Ukraine is on its own. Israel is on its own. And freedom-loving Americans are left holding their breath.