The chapter opens with the story of Major General John "Black Jack" Pershing and America's
entry into World War I. In 1917, Pershing and his American Expeditionary Force (AEF) arrived on
the battlefields of France in an effort to force a German retreat and end the horror of the three-
year-old war into which American forces finally had been drawn. Pershing's stubborn efforts to
protect the autonomy of his army and avoid the pitfalls of European-style trench warfare reflected
America's larger struggle to identify its interests in World War I and maintain its national
independence. America entered the war at the height of the Progressive Era, and President
Wilson, although a reluctant participant, hoped that the war would uplift the United States and the
entire world. But just as Pershing battled to preserve the independence of his troops and fight the
war by "American" methods, the war challenged America's idealism and ultimately marked the
end of the Progressive Era.
Woodrow Wilson and the World, pp. 790-797
Although he had built his career on domestic concerns, Woodrow Wilson's administration dealt
heavily with foreign affairs. He championed the principles of liberal democracy, including
individual liberty, national self-determination, peaceful free trade, and political democracy, which
he intended to achieve through righteous behavior. Yet he proved that he was as ready as any
American president to apply military solutions to the problems of foreign policy.
Taming the Americas
Wilson wanted his foreign policy in the Western Hemisphere to differ from those of his
predecessors, Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. His goal was to encourage justice
and democracy in the hemisphere, while at the same time promote and protect American
commercial interests. This democratizing spirit, however, caused him to intervene in the affairs of
several Latin American countries in order to help them develop safely into democratic societies.
Nicaragua, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and, especially, Mexico were visited by American
troops before 1917. The results led to conflict and great resentment toward the United States.
The European Crisis
War began in Europe as a result of imperial rivalries and nationalist desires. Before the war, the
great European powers sought greatness by building navies and empires throughout the world.
The rivalries created by their actions caused international competition and conflict. Conflict and
distrust turned into war when two sets of alliances, originally set up for defensive purposes, were
mobilized after the assassination of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne on June 28, 1914.