The Reasons for America's Reluctance to Join World War I

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The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie by a young Bosnian student in 1914 was the primary cause of the Great War (Mulligan, p.210). However, America remained a neutral nation until 1917 when President Wilson Woodrow declared the country into the war. The discussion explains reasons for America reluctance to join the war and League of Nations, the meaning of isolationism and proponents’ arguments about the policy and the opponents’ views about the foreign policy. Finally, the essay explains why isolationism was right for America and the world.

The reluctance of America to join World War I and the League of Nations

            According to Cooper & John (459), America maintained its neutrality as belligerent nations fought each other because of three reasons.  First, President Wilson saw the war as an opportunity to grow economically by selling the war arsenals to Britain, France, and Germany. The country achieved the objective to the extent that these warring parties depleted cash reserves and asked America to extend them credit. Secondly, American citizens were from different nationalities including Germany and Britain thus the president feared that an entry into the war would have resulted in civil war.  Finally, America, unlike the other members of the Triple Alliance and Triple Entente, was not affected directly by the war thus they did not see the point of embroiling the nation in the war.  However, Arthur Zimmerman’s letter requesting an alliance with Mexico aroused American citizens, and the nation declared its entry into the war in April 1917.

            The entry of America into the Great War dealt a significant blow to Germany and the allied nations. In 1919, President Wilson proposed the signing of the Treaty of Versailles to hold war perpetrators accountable.  The Treaty led to the formation of League of Nations a year later. However, America, just like in the world war, was hesitant and eventually failed to join the League of Nations. The first reason for the reluctance was that America did not want to suffer more casualties in wars which were purely European and British driven.  Secondly, America feared a revolution from the German citizens who felt angered by the terms of the Versailles Treaty which had put much of the blame on Germany.  Finally, America wanted to re-strategize and position itself as an apolitical nation which could lead in peacekeeping mission, and they felt that joining the war could have hindered that objective.


            Isolationism was a foreign policy which indicated American reluctance to be embroiled in European affairs.  President Wilson argued that America could not maintain world peace if the country had political allies. Besides, isolationism was meant to assist the country in economic transformation following massive investments in the war. The isolationists like Thomas Paine and George Washington argued that America had no reason to continue having casualties on issues which could be addressed in a peaceful manner (Blower, 347).  However, antagonists to the idea of isolationism feared that Germany, which was unwilling to accept the terms of the Versailles Treaty, could declare another war on the belligerent nations if American failed to form part of the League of Nations.  Nevertheless, the isolationism policy was vital because it maintained world peace for two decades and established the foundation for the formation of the United Nations as America was viewed as a neutral party.


America's reluctance to join the war was caused by their desire to gain economically, fear of civil revolution and the absence of a direct attack on its soil. Even though the country did not join League of Nations, it played a crucial role in maintaining the world peace. Besides, the idea of isolationism was not only right for America but also for the world peace.

Works Cited

Blower, Brooke L. "From isolationism to neutrality: A new framework for understanding                                                                                                                      

            American political culture, 1919–1941."Diplomatic History 38.2 (2014): 345-376.

Cooper, John Milton, and John Milton Cooper Jr. Breaking the Heart of the World: Woodrow                    Wilson and the Fight for the League of Nations. Cambridge University Press, 2001.

Mulligan, William. The Origins of the First World War. Vol. 52. Cambridge University Press,   2017.

November 24, 2023

History War


World War I

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