Pax Americana - Interwar Period

Interwar Period

The United States had been criticized for not taking up the hegemonic mantle following the disintegration of Pax Britannica before the First World War and during the interwar period due to the absence of established political structures, such as the World Bank or United Nations which would be created after World War II, and various internal policies, such as protectionism. Though, the United States participated in the Great War, according to Woodrow Wilson, to:

to vindicate the principles of peace and justice in the life of the world as against selfish and autocratic power and to set up amongst the really free and self-governed peoples of the world such a concert of purpose and of action as will henceforth insure the observance of those principles.
for democracy, for the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their own government, for the rights and liberties of small nations, for a universal dominion of right by such a concert of free peoples as shall bring peace and safety to all nations and make the world itself at last free.

The United States' entry into the Great War marked the abandonment of the traditional American policy of isolation and independence of world politics. Not at the close of the Civil War, not as the result of the Spanish War, but in the Interwar period did the United States become a part of the international system. With this global reorganization from the Great War, there were those in the American populace that advocated an activist role in international politics and international affairs by the United States. Activities that were initiated did not fall into political-military traps and, instead, focused on economic-ideological approaches that would increase the American Empire and general worldwide stability. Following the prior path, a precursor to the United Nations and a league to enforce peace, the League of Nations, was proposed by Woodrow Wilson. This was rejected by the American Government in favor of more economic-ideological approaches and the United States did not join the League. Additionally, there were even proposals of extending the Monroe Doctrine to Great Britain put forth to prevent a second conflagration on the European theater. Ultimately, the United States' proposals and actions did not stop the factors of European nationalism spawned by the previous war, the repercussions of Germany's defeat, and the failures of the Treaty of Versailles from plunging the globe into a Second World War.

Between World War I and World War II, America also sought to continue to preserve Pax America as a corollary to the Monroe Doctrine. Some sought the peaceful and orderly evolution of existing conditions in the western hemisphere and nothing by immediate changes. Before 1917, the position of the United States government and the feelings of the nation in respect to the "Great War" initially had properly been one of neutrality. Its interests remained untouched, and nothing occurred of a nature to affect those interests.

The average American's sympathies, on the other hand, if the feelings of the vast majority of the nation had been correctly interpreted, was with the Allied (Entente) Powers. The population of the United States was revolted at the ruthlessness of the Prussian doctrine of war, and German designs to shift the burden of aggression encountered skeptical derision. The American populace saw themselves safegaurding liberal peace in the Western World. To this end, the American writer Roland Hugins stated:

The truth is that the United States is the only high-minded Power left in the world. It is the only strong nation that has not entered on a career of imperial conquest, and does not want to enter on it. There is in America little of that spirit of selfish aggression which lies at the heart of militarism. Here alone exists a broad basis for "a new passionate sense of brotherhood, and a new scale of human values." We have a deep abhorrence of war for war's sake; we are not enamored of glamour or glory. We have a strong faith in the principle of self-government. We do not care to dominate alien peoples, white or colored; we do not aspire to be the Romans of tomorrow or the "masters of the world." The idealism of Americans centers in the future of America, wherein we hope to work out those principles of liberty and democracy to which we are committed This political idealism, this strain of pacifism, this abstinence from aggression and desire to be left alone to work out our own destiny, has been manifest from the birth of the republic. We have not always followed our light, but we have never been utterly faithless to it.

It was observed during this time that the initial defeat of Germany opened a moral recasting of the world. The battles between Germans and Allies were seen as far less battles between different nations than they represent the contrast between Liberalism and reaction, between the aspirations of democracy and the Wilhelminism gospel of iron.

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