Many Americans concluded that America’s involvement in the First World War was a huge mistake, many were pleased when the senate had rejected the Treaty of Versailles and the involvement in the League of Nations.
President Wilson’s proposal of ‘Peace without Victory’ had positives and negatives. Wilson believed that the Treaty of Versailles would influence the world of the good that America does, and show the ideas of liberal democracy and capitalism. Wilson put forward the idea of self-determination, which gave the people of the world a right to choose their own future and type of government, this policy would address any problems that were seen before the war. However, this policy may cause problems in the future for certain states such as the Polish state, in which they were consistent with self-determination. Poland were weakened unless they would be given access to the sea, if their territory was taken from Germany, but many Germans were under Polish rule, this could cause a problem in the future.
The Treaty of Versailles was much harsher on Germany and their allies, and Wilson didn’t seem to be bothered with this. Wilson’s argument was that his new concept of the League of Nations would be able to tackle any issues that may rise, and the League would be able to make any changes to the treaty if there was any injustice. One of the terms for the treaty was that Germany had to accept responsibility for the loss and damage of the war and were subjected to pay reparations to the allies. According to British historian R. Henig, ‘The Treaty represented an uneasy compromise between Wilson’s idealism, French security requirements, and British pragmatism’, quite clearly none of the victors had gotten the peace they had wanted. (Kelly, N. and Lacey, G. 2001, Modern World History, Oxford: Heinemann). This ultimately was the one of the reasons of the Treaty’s failure.
Article 10 of the League called for required members of the nation must commit troops if war broke out, this caused the senate to oppose as they believed they have no reason to join a war that they have no interest in. The senate were in fear that the membership to the League would reduce the sovereignty of the US and its own control over their foreign policy and military actions. Losing their own men and economy in a war that had nothing to do with them is what the senate wanted to avoid, especially after the First World War in which they had over 116,000 casualties.
Despite all of Wilson’s campaigning the League of Nations was voted down by congress. President Warren Harding assured the American citizens that his policy would be of ‘Normalcy’, this will avoid excessive government intervention at home and low priority to international affairs. (Rowe, C. 2008, USA, 1890 – 1945, Cheltenham: Nelson Thornes). Harding believed that America’s role in the world was of economic not political. America had attempted to step back from foreign affairs with policies being introduced. Immigration laws were put in hopes of keeping ‘America’ American’, but the laws cut out Asian applicants which was considered racist and caused relations with Japan to worsen.
The US also rose their tariff to protect their goods, but these high tariffs made it hard for European economics to grow and this worsened during the 1930s. Even though the congress rejected joining the League they could not retreat fully from world affairs when it came economically.