by Justus D. Doenecke
Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 2011. Pp. xii, 396.
Illus., notes, index. $40.00. ISBN: 0813130026
America’s Road to War, 1914-1917
Prof. Doenecke (New College, Florida), takes a fresh look at America’s transition from a broad consensus on neutrality in 1914 to a general commitment to war by 1917. His approach is to look at how American views on neutrality evolved as the war dragged on. So while the opinions of men such as Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt, who came to see the necessity of war early, are given considerable attention, so too are those of social worker Jane Addams, German apologist George Sylvester Viereck (later become a noted pro-Nazi propagandist), the “American Union Against Militarism,” the nation’s leading newspapers and opinion journals, and more.
In keeping with recent research on the impetus to war (among the European powers, as well as in the US), Doenecke rejects claims that economic self-interest was a primary motivator, noting that it was the events of the war that changed American public opinion from neutrality to skepticism, through peace proposals and offers of mediation, to “Preparedness” and then to hostility toward the Central Powers. This trend began early, as events unfolded, with the initial crisis of July 1914 through the “Rape of Belgium” to German meddling in Latin America and then the prolonged tensions over unrestricted submarine warfare, all suggesting an unstoppable militarist threat to world peace and security.
Although he oddly omits a discussion of American tensions with Britain early in the war over the blockade of Germany, and although certainly some of Prof. Doenecke’s conclusions can be challenged, especially on ideological grounds, Nothing Less than War, a volume in the UPK series “Studies in Conflict, Diplomacy and Peace,” is a solid contribution to the discussion of how America goes to war.