The Election Of Woodrow Wilson Essay

The Election Of Woodrow Wilson Essay

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The election of Woodrow Wilson is remembered as a fundamental shift in american politics, particularly in foreign policy. At a time when Americans were teetering between isolationism (relying on the vast Atlantic to isolate them from conflicts abroad) and Theodore Roosevelt’s ‘geopolitical realism’ (which led to the negotiations ending the Russo-Japanese War and preserving the regional balance of power), Wilson offered a hopeful vision of America’s future. He advocated for intervention, not to preserve the traditional European balance of power but to introduce a new international order built on mutual trust. He envisioned a future when the weapons of war would be cast aside in favor of negotiations. A future where the force of public opinion would be sufficient to hold belligerent nations in check. This ideology has become the bedrock of American politics, and has shaped the foreign policy decisions of the United States since the second World War. However, where Wilson was unable to fully realize his ultimate goals due to his unwillingness to compromise on the means, FDR was a pragmatist at heart. And so while the overall trends of American foreign policy during WWII were Wilsonian, the individual actions had a pragmatism to them which was characteristic of Roosevelt.
Roosevelt’s presidency began in much the same way Wilson’s had --- an isolationist sentiment in america growing in response to rising european hostilities. Americans again saw Europe as a vast, backwards “other” which they had risen above and with which they no longer had to concern themselves, and they saw Wilson’s failed League of Nations as antithetical to American values (Kissinger 372). There still existed popular support of disarmament treaties and statements o...


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... sought to prepare America to enter the war directly. Unlike Wilson, who delayed the build up of the American military force until after a formal declaration of war, Roosevelt began to increase defence spending almost four years before the United States would enter into the war. He wanted to turn the United States into an arsenal of democracy through which he could spread the values of the country to the world (Kissinger 388). Here it was that Wilson and Roosevelt differed: Wilson advocating for complete disarmament and Roosevelt advocating for the building of an arsenal. The Lend-Lease Act of 1941 allowed him to disseminate this arsenal freely to the Allied nations. He reasoned that “without massive American help … Great Britain would fall and control of the Atlantic would fall into hostile hands, jeopardizing the security of the western hemisphere” (Kissinger 388).

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