Jacob G Hornberger |
Let’s be blunt: the 117,466 U.S. soldiers who died in World War I died for nothing. No one can deny that. In fact, that might well be the reason why interventionists changed the name from Armistice Day to Veterans Day. They wanted Americans to stop thinking about the fact that all those American soldiers in World War I died for nothing.
After the war was over, the American people knew that those soldiers had died for nothing. That’s why they were overwhelmingly opposed to the U.S. entering World War II. They had had enough of foreign interventionism. After losing 117,466 soldiers for nothing in a foreign war in Europe, the last thing they wanted was to go through the entire experience again.
The United States was founded on the principle of non-interventionism in the forever wars in Europe and Asia. That non-interventionist philosophy was captured in the speech entitled “In Search of Monsters to Destroy” that John Quincy Adams delivered to Congress on the Fourth of July, 1821. There are lots of monsters in the world, Adams pointed out. Always have been. Always will be. Tyrants. Wars. Revolutions. Civil wars. Starvation.
It all goes back to the meaningless deaths of 117,466 U.S. soldiers in World War I. That is Woodrow Wilson’s legacy. That is the legacy of foreign interventionism.
But America’s job was not to send military forces to Europe or Asia or other faraway lands to slay those monsters. Instead, America would serve as a haven for anyone who was able and willing to flee the monsters. That’s what America’s policy of open immigration for more than 100 years was all about. It told people: “We will not send troops, bombs, or bullets to save you but if you can get out, there is one place where you can come without fear of being forcibly deported back to your monster.”
The turning point came in 1898 with the Spanish-American War, when U.S. proponents of foreign interventionism were claiming that America could never be a great nation without acquiring colonies, like the other empires around the world. That’s how the United States ended up owning or controlling former colonies of the Spanish Empire, like the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Guam, and Cuba. That’s how the United States ended up with Gitmo, which would ultimately be converted into a U.S. torture and prison center.
The 1898 intervention was followed by President Wilson’s fateful decision to intervene into World War I, a brutal and vicious European war that ended up killing some 40 million people. There was absolutely no reason for Wilson to embroil the United States in the war. The conflict was none of the U.S. government’s business.
But Wilson was an academic idealist. He was certain that given America’s “greatness,” it could force those Europeans to stop their incessant wars, once and for all. Wilson was convinced that if the U.S. entered the conflict, it could ensure that this would be the final war in history. In his mind, this was the war that would end all wars into the future. Wilson was also convinced that his intervention would also finally make the entire world safe for democracy.
After losing 117,466 soldiers for nothing in a foreign war in Europe, the last thing they wanted was to go through the entire experience again.
Ironically, in other to wage his war Wilson had to resort to conscription. When one has to force men to fight in a war, that’s a pretty good sign that that is not a good war. Moreover, forcing men to serve the state, especially by killing and dying in a foreign war, obviously destroyed the freedom of those who were conscripted. What could be worse than dying for “freedom” when you’ve been forced to die for “freedom.”
That wasn’t all that Wilson did to destroy freedom in America. His goons also began arresting, prosecuting, and jailing people who dared to criticize his foreign adventure. And then they began persecuting German Americans, even making sure that the German language could no longer be taught in public (i.e., government) schools and, more important, making sure that red-blooded, patriotic Americans referred to sauerkraut as “freedom cabbage” rather than as sauerkraut. He also enacted a tyrannical law called the Espionage Act, which, believe it or not, is still used by U.S. officials today as an instrument of tyranny.
If the U.S. had not intervened in World War I, it is a virtual certainty that there would have been a negotiated settlement between the warring parties. U.S. interventionism instead brought about the total defeat of Germany, which Wilson was convinced would mean that the world would be made safe for democracy and that this would be the war to end all wars forever.
The result of Germany’s total defeat? The vengeful Treaty of Versailles, which later provided Hitler with his rationale for his rise to power. So much for making the world safe for democracy. So much for making this the war to end all wars. Wilson’s intervention into WW I was a critical factor in the rise of the Nazi regime and then World War II.
Wilson was convinced that if the U.S. entered the conflict, it could ensure that this would be the final war in history.
Can you see why Americans were so overwhelmingly opposed to entering World War II? President Franklin Roosevelt understood the depth and fervor behind that opposition. That’s why in his 1940 presidential campaign, he did precisely what Wilson had done in his 1916 presidential campaign. A few days before the election, he assured voters, “I have said this before, but I shall say it again and again and again: Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars.”
But FDR was lying, intentionally, just like Wilson had done. In fact, FDR was secretly doing everything he could to embroil the United States in the conflict. But FDR knew that he could never secure a congressional declaration of war, which the Constitution required. (This was when U.S. presidents were still complying with the Constitution’s declaration-of-war requirement.)
So, FDR began provoking the Germans into attacking U.S. vessels, so that he could then go to Congress and get his declaration of war on as “self-defense” basis. When the Germans refused to take FDR’s bait, he turned to the Pacific in the hopes of using it as a “back door” to getting into the European war. That’s what the oil embargo on the Japanese was all about, along with the humiliating demands that FDR placed on Japanese officials.
FDR’s plan worked perfectly. On December 7, 1941, the Japanese, attempting to break out of the oil-embargo noose that FDR was tightening around their neck, attacked U.S. naval forces that were conveniently positioned at Pearl Harbor. FDR got what he had been striving for — U.S. entry into World War II.
The result of Germany’s total defeat? The vengeful Treaty of Versailles, which later provided Hitler with his rationale for his rise to power.
How can the lies and machinations that led the United States into World War I and World War II be reconciled with democratic principles? That can’t be. World War II, in turn, brought about the conversion of the federal government into a national security state, a type of governmental structure that is inherent to totalitarian regimes. It also brought the Cold War against America’s World War II partner and ally, the Soviet Union, and the anti-Russia mentality that is a core element U.S. foreign policy today.
It also brought coups, regime-change operations, assassinations, torture, partnerships with brutal dictatorship, a foreign and domestic military empire, an ever-voracious military-industrial-congressional complex, out-of-control federal spending and debt, denial of due process of law and trial by jury, mass secret surveillance, invasions, occupations, and forever war, not to mention the destruction of liberty and privacy in America.
It all goes back to the meaningless deaths of 117,466 U.S. soldiers in World War I. That is Woodrow Wilson’s legacy. That is the legacy of foreign interventionism. That is what happens when a nation founded on the concept of a limited-government republic and a non-interventionist foreign policy abandons its founding principles.
Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. This article was first published in The Future of Freedom Foundation and is republished here with permission. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.