tv U.S. Foreign Relations Before and After 1916 CSPAN February 19, 2016 9:50pm-11:41pm EST
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historians debate the 1960 re-election of woodrow wilson and u.s. foreign policy. n a session titled turning point 1916, u.s. foreign relations before and after that kept us out of war election. their observations in this hour and 45-minute program include america's relations with europe, the caribbean, central america, and mexico. >> thank you for coming out. hello, my name is christopher mcknight nichols. i'm a historian at oregon state university. scholar of the u.s. role in the history of the world. my work that most pertains to our panel today is a book called "promise and peril -- america at the dawn of a global age" out in paper back.
you can buy it down stairs. i had the distinction pleasure of being the chair and co-organizers of this really exciting panel, i think. and i hope you'll agree once we're done. 's not just really about foreign relations, but world relations. the spark for this panel is the centennial of the 1916 election in which wood row wilson ran on a he kept us out of war, despite the military interventions ongoing in meks keen the caribbean. marking the centennial of this election, this round table brings together superb historians with a wide array of focuses to address whether or not 1916 should be seen as the end of an era or the beginning of an era or was 1960 a turning point. many of us will have firm stances on this. some of us will probably equivocate a little bit.
here at the outset, i wanted to thank -- give special thanks to urbana champaign, illinois historian. she helped come up the idea co-organized with me, even though she couldn't participate on the panel at all. i would like to thank the co-founders. our aim today is to consider and reconsider how recent transnational, international, imperial, political and world historical scholarship has affected our assess. s of u.s. foreign relations in the years leading up to and following 1916. although a fundamental issue of our panel is periodization, the panelists will also share their insights on recent trends and on future opportunities in u.s. history, in world history, and in foreign relations scholarship, pertaining to the guilded age, progressive era and foreign relations.
eef of us will make brief remarks, i hope, five to eight minutes. and these are designed to be thought provoking rather than comprehensive. in addition to offering a variety of thematic expertises, panelists also contribute a range of geographic perspectives and i think this is what maybe makes our panel yuan neeg. -- unique. it stretches us to think more about areas outside of the united states, to think about europe, mexico, haiti, the caribbean, east asia and beyond. and we're hopeful of generating a zie nationalic discussion, not just across the panel but also with you all. i just wanted to say at the outset, please queue up at the
mikes when it comes time for q&a. as we begin, it's incumbent on me to talk a little bit about the election itself and then we could dispense with that to move on to some of the most fascinating detailing we have coming. so having served one term with europe and the world embroiled in the great war, alongside significant u.s. disillusionment, woodrow wilson's pass to re-election was far from certain. ultimately he became the first democratic president since andrew jackson in 1832 to be elected to two consecutive terms in office when he defeated supreme court justice hughes in the 1916 presidential election. foreign policy figured prominently in the election campaign. while it's true ultimately entry into the war in april 1917 produced a form of party truce in the interest of national unity, this did not shield the woodrow wilson administration from fierce congressional critici criticism, culminating in a
break down of that truce with the league of nations. of course, the election took place while world woor i is being fought in europe. given this, and given hughes' lack of attention to the so-called mexican problem, most scholars argue that wilson's image as an anti-war candidate was reinforced by this campaign and not just by his facile slogan, he kept us out of war. >> dap matticly, the country remained neutral, at least formally towards the conflict in europe. we'll hear more about the ways in which that formal mu federalty was actually undermined by actual trade and loan practices and other
policies. the democrats' re-election. ka pain slogan, this famous, he kept us out of war painted wilson as a peace maker and highlighted recent efforts in 1916 as january initiative to bring together all the powers of europe for a mediation conference. in april 1916, wilson defended rights and threatened to threaten diplomatic ties with germany following the sinking of sus sex by u boat in the english channel. it marked a new u-boat campaign, or one that had been planned. but the bluster by the wilson administration critics perceived this as what today we might term
leading from mibehind or diplomy from behind. there were a number of major events. we don't have enough time to go through them all. there was a series of battles which wound up being a truce that resulted in the british blockade continuing. there were many months-long battle which resulted in more than a million total casualties. so 1916 can be seen as at least a watershed in terms of the fighting of the war itself politically, in 1916, wilson had the advantage of incumbency but rightly feared the potential of a reunited republican party. much happened in the four years since the last election when wilson faced off against william howard taft, the republicans, the bull moose progressive party. in the intervening years, wilson had emerged as an even more powerful champion of the progressive agenda on the domestic scene and as a strong spokesman for american neutrality in a devastating war that was being -- that was raging across western europe.
but wilson recognized as many democrats, in fact, had not in the west and in the south that the u.s. could be drawn into the war at any moment by an act of some obscure german sub commander. therefore, while wilson advocated neutrality, he also called for military preparedness. that troubled many democrats, particularly irish americans and german americans, lead iing to some intense political vurnerability. in 1916, wilson won on the first ballot as did his running mate thomas marshall in indiana. a world association of nations maintained peace after the war in europe ended.
the delegates chaer cheered most vigorously with the campaign slogan, he kept us out of war. far more of a hope than a promise. wilson understood this all too well. he added a fourth which is prosperity. loans led to a shift back from a recession that had begun to occur early in the war. the outspoken roosevelt failed to understand the depth of the divide in the party from one election before. they nominated hughes, a fascinating character. we may get into him a little
more. roosevelt famously termed a bearded iceberg. the former vice president under teddy roosevelt, charles fairbanks, also in indiana, so wrapping up the course of this, observers were confident hughes would win in november. even wilson seemed to have doubts about his path to re-election. ever the fighter, he relished the struggle but was not necessarily optimistic about the outcome. the republican party stood united behind a single candidate and the democrats won only three presidential election since 1860. voters seemed apathetic, maybe even weary of progressive reforms and the key accomplishments of the democratic administration over the last fur years seem scant, at least at the time.
hughes' foreign policy emphasized a straightforward preparedness program which veemed far less muddled than the simultaneous calls of neutrality in the same breath. wanting the nation both in the war and aloof from it. utopian stance that we still hear from many historians and political scientists today. this seemed remarkably unrealistic, at least to his critics in 1916. famously hughes and his staff went to sleep on november 6 certain that they would win the election. it was not clear until at least two days later when the returns from california and ohio came in that wilson was the likely winner and it took another two weeks for hughes to actually concede. so what happened? in short, wilson won. he secured 30 states to hughes' 18. he won 49.4% of his popular vote. his share of the electric rat college victory was much smaller than in 1912, his share of the popular vote was 7% higher.
wilson loomed so large over his party, he could take credit for the narrow democratic victory in congress. john thompson has observed aptly, not the least part of wilson's accomplishment in 1916 had been, quote, the widespread approval he gained as a mandate coming out of the election for his shaping of america's response to the cataclysmic war that engulfed europe 2 1/2 years earlier. the degree to which this achievement marked a turning point for wilson is something i hope we talk about. but to the degree this heralded a sea change in american foreign relations and world relations is our main topic today. so having dispensed with what happened in the election and some of the causes and consequences, we'll now get into the core animating concepts and debates about what the consequences and stakes were. so i'll first introduce our initial speaker. i'm very pleased to introduce professor julia erwin. she's an associate professor of history at the university of
south florida. her research focuses on the place of humanitarianism in 20th century u.s. foreign relations. she's the author of a great book, "making the world safe -- the american red cross and the nation's humanitarian awakening history of civilian aid. she's now work on a book-length study, a history of u.s. responses to global natural disaster. please help me in welcoming, professor julia erving. >> thank you very much for the introduction. and for giving an introduction to the whole round table and i promise i will keep within my five to eight minutes as allotted. so my research as chris mentioned focuses on the role of u.s. humanitarian aid in u.s. foreign affairs. so thinking about both war relief and disaster relief and the role they have played in u.s. foreign relations.
both war and international disaster assistance, u.s. diplomatic, stroo teejic relgtss with the world. borld world war 1, for 1916 and well after. so from my perspective as a historian of u.s. foreign aid, should 1916 be seen as the end of an era and u.s. relations as a wider world as a turning point in u.s. foreign relations? well, my short answer to this question is the ever unsatisfying, yet oh, so typical historians answer. yes and no at the same time. i promise i will come back at the end with a little more specific. but seen through the lens of u.s. international humanitarianism, 1916 does mark the end of an era in u.s. relations with the world in certain respects. but at the same time, i think we can identify many more points of continuity in u.s. humanitarian efforts. trends will really link the decades prior to 1916 with those that followed.
so in my brief remarks today, i would like to touch on both of these points of continuity and change. why should it not mark a turning point in u.s. foreign affairs? simply put prior to 1916, the u.s. government and u.s. citizens both took part in humanitarian operations throughout the world. for well over a century prior to 1916, the united states provided limited amounts of aid for the victims of many periodic wars, famines and disasters in other nations. u.s. involvement in overseas humanitarian aid moreover had accelerated really greatly in the 1880s and the 1890s and all the more so in the first 15 years in the 20th century. during these decades, the united states provided millions of dollars in cash, material
supplies and other forms of assistance to foreign victims of war and natural catastrophes and many parts of the world. the missionaries, charities by american corporations, by american financial houses and by private citizens. the u.s. government itself is starting to play a greater direct role and humanitarian assistance in these years, pro-i had voog increasing levels of state department support and involvement congressional funding and military assistance for humanitarian crises. one of the most memorable examples comes in late 1908, early 1909 when there's a major tsunami in southern italy. the u.s. military also cats $800,000 in disaster reto this event. which is a pretty skbanl amount for this time.
the humanitarian assistance i argue serves key strategic diplomatic and moral objectives of the united states as it was expanding its role on the global stage. this is something we can't get into in these five to eight minutes, but if you read my book, i'm sure you'll learn more. building on these foundations, though, the year is 1914 to 1916 would see further developments in u.s. foreign aid. during this era of u.s. neutrality in world war i, americans provided significant levels of food, medical assistance and other forms of relief to european soldiers and civilians on both sides of the conflict. many americans moreover delivered humanitarian aid on the ground in europe. herbert hoover and the relief in belgium are the most famous. but not the only providers of u.s. assistance in these years. wilson, in other words, may have campaigned on the he kept us oit of war slogan in 1916, but the united states was hardly uninvolved or out of the war or
for that matter outside of the world when we take humanitarian activities into account. the u.s. government and its citizens have been deeply involved in world affairs for decades prior to 1916. but here's the "but" the "nonetheless" the subsequent entry into the war. they moenlize for humanitarian assistance in 1916. the trend makes in starkly visible. counting just 286,000 members in 1916, is the american red cross would see its numbers explode to
$22 million adults and 11 million children in 1918. during the same years in 1917 and '18, u.s. citizens would give $400 million to the american red cross to fund its relief relief operation. again, $400 million was not pocket change in 1917 and '18. it really generated an unprecedented support for u.s. humanitarian aid, rates never before seen in the nation's past. a second clear shift was the u.s. government's increasingly formal involvement in u.s. foreign aid after 1916. and this is a trend that would intensify even more so as the 20th century progressed. during 1917 and 1918, the u.s. did not create its own state agency for humanitarian aid, however, the wilson administration and the u.s. armed forces did provide
assistance and subsidies to the american red cross and other voluntary organizations to help support their operations. through the wartime u.s. food administrati administration, the u.s. government would declare bold new powers to conserve and produce food for the wartime cause including most notably for foreign relief. and finally, after the armistice in 1919, the u.s. government would formalize its role in international humanitarian aid further still when congress established and funded the american relief administration. the u.s. government's first official overseas humanitarian agency. after 1916, the government would playing a much more normal role in foreign aid than it ever had in the past. and foreign aid was transformed really for the first time into an official instrument of u.s. foreign policy. something that it would increasingly become in the century that followed. so in conclusion, as seen
through the lens of u.s. hum humanitarian aid, i would suppose, i would argue, 1916 was less of a turning point and more accurately i think a new chapter in the history of u.s. foreign assistance. a moment in which trends that had really emerged in the late 19th and 20th centuries begin to coalesce and solidify and intensify. that's how i would leave it. i look forward to discussing all these issues in greater depth and hearing from the rest of you. >> all right. so next up is professor rebecca mcken that. she's an assistant professor at the history of notre dame. her book "manuscript" which sounds really excited is american em peer yal pastoral. it's a way to explore the
literal and featherweight you're tif architecture of the u.s.'s new empire. >> so thanks for organizing this round table which i'm very excited to be part of. as chris made clear, some reflection on the advantage of the u.s. philippines relations. we recognize efforts from ho chi minh to meet with woodrow wilson and make the case for vietnamese self-determination, but perhaps less remembered is in that year, some of the united states very own colonial charges, the people of the philippines were also making the case for independence, one that they had been making since the very start of the u.s. occupation. in 1912 and 1916, thanks in part
to the fact that the democrats had seized the white house and congress and also due to the consolidation of philippine nationalist politics, there were serious discussions about philippine independence in the u.s. so that by 1916, this year in question, we see passage of an important piece of legislation and one that gives us an opportunity to consider the significance of that year to the relations between the imperial united states and one of its colonies during the wilsonian moment. so in that year, the u.s. congress passed into law the jones bill. after the chair of the house committee on insular affairs, it was more formally known as the philippine autonomy act, and it was a measure that considerably altered the structure of the colonial government by effectively enhancing home rule. so on the one hand, it maintained the position of the governor general, which was essentially the top dog in the colonial administration. and the person in this position was appointed by the u.s. president. so it maintained that position,
but it provided for an elected upper house to the colonial legislature to replace the philippine commission, which was the colonial governing body that had been appointed also by the u.s. president. so this upper house would join the existing elected philippine assembly in a bicameral colonial legislature. the measure is important, too, because it constituted the united states' first declaration of its intention to withdraw sovereignty over the islands once it had a stable government, or so was the language of the law. stable government was the language that was used. so the law was consistent with the democrats' kind of long-standing position on the philippines, that independence should be forthcoming. and it followed also wilson's intention to deprive the united states of its philippine frontier as he had put it in december of 1912. this was a goal that he had put into action by calling for the philippinization of the colonial government, which is a process that had begun in 1913 that
substitutedipinos for americans in the colombian administration. so in advance of philippine sovereignty, we might say we can mark something perhaps of the global vision, the global ambition that wilson would later articulate. one, advancing what's often seen as a new relation between geography and power that turned from balance of power, old empire, territorial colonialism to the ideal of a post colonial order by international organization and the principle of free trade. so going beyond 1916, wilson would present especially in his 14 points this vision of a stable, post colonial world, rooted in the peaceful co-existence of nation states. and in making the world safe for democracy, he was aiming to make the world safe for capitalism and create what we might say are
the political conditions for capital accumulation. and this new world order would be conditioned by u.s. economic power, one backed by the specter, the threat of military force. so this aspiration for a post colonial order and one in which they would support hegemony is one the u.s. had been rehearsing. it was being worked out in at least some respects in the philippines. in f you look at the jones bill, the u.s. president retained rights to maintain the tariff, public lands, immigration, parts of the philippine economy, which the u.s.hood already significantly turned towards american interests. and it had accomplished this in part by instituting free trade by 1913. free trade in the philippines tended to benefit american exporters and also filipino elites -- or filipinos who had
been particularly well invested in agriculture. this is a relationship that will make filipino elites ambivalent about full independence in the years ahead. so we find something perhaps new in the relationship americans were forging with filipinos in 1916. or newish. because it's important to note that despite wilson's stated desire to rid the americans of their philippine frontier, and most filipinos eagerness for independence, the filipinos did not gain a time line. one would not come until the mid 1930s. the jones act was, in fact, a far less radical bill than versions proposed beginning in 1912 and versions supported by filipinos. one had called for independence within two years. and i think the law speaks in these ways to wilson's gradual approach to the philippines.
the approach that americans ultimately took arguably was premised on long standing assumptions about racial difference and civilization hierarchiesed a indicators for self-government that had traction as the republican opposition to independence reminds us, these assumptions were conveyed in the law's preamble which implied that filipinos were still unprepared for self-government, still needed american tutoring. filipino resident commissioner manuel kazan addressed these characterizations in 1914. he delivered a speech before the u.s. congress laboring to disabuse americans of their inaccurate and antiquated ideas of filipinos, a set of ideas that we might attribute in part to the campaigns of retentionists, those who wanted to promote the continued occupation of the philippines. kazan emphasized no matter the celebrated benefits of u.s.
rule, education, material improveme improvement, material prosperity, he said these, quote, alone will not make the filipinos happy and contented under your rule nor reduce them to concede the necessity of that rule. filipinos would not forget their rights as men and as a nation. the point is this measure in not granting a timetable for independence thely tended to prolong the u.s. occupation as paul cramer has argued, too. in practice, what came to pass with the democrat in the white house wasn't all together different from the policy under the republican since the turn of the century, even if the democrats hads introduced this language of stable government as a requirement of a forthcomi forthcoming -- an independent status. and in this respect, i think we might say that 1916 was no turning point when assessed by the effect of the jones act or by the logic of continuing to deny independence based on assumptions of filipinos' limited fitness for self-government.
thanks. >> hopefully you'll all keeping a tally. maybe. no. not quite that simplistic. we'll keep moving forward. so next up we have professor nancy mitchell. she is professor of history at north carolina state university. her book "the danger of dreams -- german and american imperialism in latin america from 1895 to 1914" talk about a german threat to latin america, which laroomed large in 1916. her most recent book is "jimmy carter and africa -- race and the cold war" which will be published this sprint. spring. please help me welcome nancy mitchell.spring. please help me welcome nancy mitchell.spring. please help me welcome nancy
mitchell.spring. please help me welcome nancy mitchell.spring. please help me welcome nancy mitchell.spring. please help me welcome nancy mitchell.spring. please help me welcome nancy mitchell.spring. please help me welcome nancy mitchell.pring. please help me welcome nancy mitchell. >> thank you very much for organizing this panel. i have two brief comments to make. first i'll begin with a comment, which is imagine yourself trying to convince a haitian or a dominican or a nicaraguan that 1916 was a turning point. i ha absolutely in terms of the caribbean and central america, 1916 was not in the least a turning point. it wasn't, as julia erwin says in her paper, it wasn't even a new chapter. it was pure continuity from the 1890s, particularly from the spanish american war right on through, i think you really could make a strong argument right on through with total
continuity to the present day with a few little flips along the way, possibly with sandino and castro. if there were to be a break, a turning point, i think we might have expected it in 1913 when wilson came into office. and the fact that there wasn't any turning point in 1913 i think explains why there wasn't a turning point in 1916. wilson and his first secretary of state ed rhetorically that might have expected some naive latins to expect some change. and yet when wilson comes into office in 1913, he absolutely
continue continues diplomacy, in fact, only intensifying it both in terms of economic and military penetration of what was called america's backyard. the reason i think is very simple. by 1913, the united states had significant vested interest already in the region. and secondly, in to a cost benefit analysis, the costs of applying and asserting and tightening american hegemoigege were negligible. the benefits were great but the costs were solo. boat in terms of military -- well, in terms of military expenses of the united states. public within in the united states and the united states congress and in the united states press and also in europe.
by 1913 and certainly by 1916, europe had ceded any rejection of american hegemony, at least north of the amazon. it expanded the united states to tighten its high generalmy. it made the united states even more eager to assert, to establish stability in the region. it became even more desirable to try to impose on central america
and the caribbean. when the election of 1916 occurred and wilson said he wanted to keep the united states out of war, of course there were u.s. troops in haiti in the dominican republic and in nicarag nicaragua. he didn't need -- the united states didn't need to intervene in every country in the caribbean and central america. in a way, it's a little bit like lynching. you don't need to lynch everybody. you lynch some people and that is the lesson that people learn. it is very possible to intimidate. in 1918, 1919, intensify iing american control over the region, wilson, despite his rhetoric that he was saying right at that moment in versailles crushed revolts in the dominican republic and in haiti mercilessly.
i would say absolutely no turning point if you look at it from the vaj taj point of the caribbean and central america. the second point i want to make is it matters. it isn't just oh, hately, let's look at france and england. what would they say? no, i would make the strong argument is that it's where the united states had latitude, where the u.s. government could do what it wanted. where the united states government didn't operate under strong restraints where you get a sense of that government and woodrow wilson. if historians had reprioritized or looked at the policies in the caribbean and central america, it wouldn't be a surprise as it
seemed to have been to some readers of the new york times that wilson was a racist. it's in these regions that very important aspects of wilsonianism become very clear. >> excellent. so next we turn to professor benjamin montoya for his insights. he recently earned his degree. risking immeasurable harm. diplomacy of immigration in u.s.-mexican relations talking about how putting a quota put a policy between the two nations. he recently began teaching for the history department at university of colorado boulder. please help me in welcoming professor montoya.
>> good afternoon. i think my comments will tally a yes vote. poncho vill a's raid in march of 1916 would mark a permanent shift in u.s.-mexican relations. after that year, the united states would never again directly or indirectly try to steer the course of mexico's revolutionary politics. after its beginning in 1910, the united states was keenly interested in what was going on in mexico and really tried to put a lot of effort into basically shaping the direction of that revolution largely through regime change and denial of arms. the bar dor under taft played a key role in orchestrating the
demise of francisco modero. the following year in 1914, woodrow wilson denied arms in mexico city by authorizing the occupation of the port of vera cruz. this action was pretty much done to aid the revolutionary enemies, who of whom included poncho villa. that following year, wilson would commit a similar act, aimed at poncho villa. this was a way to help caranz a's government, which the u.s. had recently given defacto recognition in october 1915. so by 1916, by the year of the columbus raid, wilson and the
u.s. government was -- had this idea of using intervention to kind of steer the course of the mexican revolution. 1916 brought dangers the u.s. government didn't anticipate and didn't face in other parts of central america that probably makes -- maybe speaks to the distinct nature of u.s. mexican relations. i'm not sure, maybe distincts to the nature of the degree of violence and longevity. wilson almost goes to war with mexico. it's a way to find a balance between anger about the columbus raid, at the same time, he's trying to apprehend via and aid the government. the paradox is only one of those goals is actually accomplished.
the long and short of it is this -- for the better part of a year, 6,000 to 12,000 troops in northern mexico search for poncho villa, they're never able to find him. they face trouble from the government in mexico city. throughout that year, karanza will give repeated warnings to the u.s. government that basically says the longer the u.s. troops are in their country, the more likely war will occur. these aren't empty warnings. there are several skirmishes between mexican troops and u.s. troops. i mean karaz a's forces. by the summer, war is almost brought. by the end of the year, both
countries negotiate withdraw of u.s. troops. the final contingent of troops leaves by february 1917. but there are consequences to this turning point b. while after 1916, we never will see, at least in mexico -- this won't be the case for the rest of the region, but in mexico -- we'll never see such direct pointed efforts to steer politics in that revolution. there are consequences. a lot of them are negative. most of them affect mexico. karanz a's government is destabilize. his efforts to bring stability back to mexico is hampered by the u.s. troops. a lot of the legitimacy that he tries to build from when he enters power in mid 1915 to this point is discredited. the popularity he's trying to
gain is mostly lost to poncho villa. by the end of the 1915, poncho villa's much famed division of the north has lost a key series of battles and is pretty much a shell of itself. he's forced to hide in the mountains of northern mexico. by the end of the 1916, just a few weeks before the last u.s. troops leave mexico, his movement is revitalized, not necessarily to the extent of power it had in 1914 and 1915, but for the rest of the decade, karanza will always have to consider poncho villa's movement in northern mexico and really hampers his effort to bring national peace to mexico. and finally, probably many more consequences but just the three i'm highlighting, the last consequences, the punitive expedition poisons relations between karanza and wilson for the rest of the decade and really makes u.s.-mexican relations tenuous, not only up until 1920 when karanza leaves power and is assassinated but especially through the 1920s as
both kwoun tris negotiate issues of foreign property and oil. i'll just end with a paradox, speaking to wilson's overall ideas of intervention and his idea of keeping the u.s. oit of war. while he can claim he kept the u.s. out of war with mexico, a lot of this decision making on his part was because he increasingly anticipated war with germany. after the beginning of world war i, wilson's view of the conflict in mexico, the mexican revolution was viewed through the prism of world war i. this is kind of why he was intervening so much, this idea of bringing law and order back to a country so close to the united states. by the end of 1916, this decision not to involve itself in mexico was largely in the
belief because war germany seemed inevitable by 1916, early 1917. thank you very much. >> excellent. so now last but not least is professor nicole phelps. an associate professor at the university of vermont. she's the author of u.s. hasburg relations now out in paperback. you can get it downstairs from cambridge university press. her current research sounds fascinating to me. i hope it will be somewhat involved in this talk. a project that exploring the history of the u.s. consular service in the 19th century. so please help me in welcoming professor nicole phelps. '. >> thanks very much, chris. many thanks to all of you for taking the time to be here this
afternoon. part of the reason the slogan he kept us out of war was so popular with so many americans in 1916 was because it resonated with the long-standing tradition of rhetoric about american isolation from the rest of the world. that dates back to washington's farewell address and hardly a foreign policy decision treaty negotiation or certainly electoral speech. went by without many american politicians and stressing that not only the united states continue to be uninvolved in foreign affairs but actually that it had been involved in unaffairs. certainly the debate of the league of nations totd fore very prominently and the discussions continue on into the 1940s. rhe
of isolation. many, many historians is to blind them or at least make it more difficult to see the many ways in which americans and u.s. government were act chifly engaged in international affairs in what i'll short hand as the long 19th century. one way to effectively see that american vomt in the world is to shift their attention away from great men and political speeches to look at the activities of private citizens in world aff r affairs certainly comments about humanitarian voft speakess to the benefits of that kind of approach.
specifically sthiing about the ways u.s. officials were involved in legal and normative structures and also the administrative structures that they set up. thinking about all of the things. the united states was a party, beginning with their 1783 treaty with sweden. and a lot of these treaties that set up basic relations, they tend to recycle the same language. so we might actually think about those bilateral treaties as perhaps trukting more of a multilateral web. but they're tupically created as bilateral. and what those treaties do is they set up the rules and procedures for normal relations.
and in particular for how individual people and goods cross international porders. they set up opportunities for the u.s. government to protect the lives of american citizens and their property abroad. but wernd also keep in mind that they also introduce obligations for the u.s. government in protecting the lyes and propive properties of foreigners in the united states. the united states was also a signatory to treaties, both bilateral and by the end of the century, multilateral, that detail the rights and obligations of neutrality, which was certainly something that the u.s. government was passionately interested in shaping the contours of that. one of the things that's really important. when we think about these treaties, whether they're the day to day relations or the rights and obligations of
neutrals in war is that the people who are most responsible for making sure that the united states adhere to those treaties and to make them function were not secretaries of state or presidents or even diplomats. that daily responsibility fell to consular officials. there are many, many more consular officials than there were diplomats. they're in many more places in the world, and i think we should also think about consoles as being the kind of other side of the coin to the u.s. customs service. which, even though the state department didn't have a lot of support in congress, had difficulty providing salaries for diplomats and consoles, the united states government spent a lot more money on maintaining a vigorous customs service because of the important of tariffs to the federal budget. but we should keep in mind that all of the paperwork that you need to get through customs, whether it's invoices or bills
of health or passports in certain circumstances, those are things that are issued by consoles abroad. so we should think about those two institutions as compleme complementing one another. i would also like to suggest that the united states government was deeply involved in participating but also in shaping a variety of normative structures, in particular the diplomatic culture of the 19th century. we get the evolution of all sorts of signals and language in that diplomatic culture, things like the recall of ambassadors or ministers, credential ceremonies, all sorts of things that aren't officially codified, but are essential to the operation of international relations and this is something that is more of the realm of te secretaries of states and diplomats, rather than consoles.
and so together with the treaty obligations and these normative structures, together they create a lot of everyday interaction between americans and u.s. officials and the officials and private citizens of other countries. but a lot of that normal interaction is things that americans and even presidents didn't actually see all that often. and when they did see it in the long 19th century, many of them criticized it as un-american. as i mentioned before, there were difficulties in getting appropriations for the diplomatic corps and the consular service. or they might even go as far as woodrow wilson did, which was to label all of that and more old diplomacy and blame the outbreak of the war on those practices. ultimately to get to this question at whether 1916 is a
turning point for the election and also -- well, whether the election or even u.s. entry into the war as a belligerent in the spring of 1917, i would say when we're thinking about these legal, normative and administrative structures that it's not really a turning point. that's kind of two radical of a break for me. i think we might think about the war from august of 1914 through the end of u.s. involvement in 1921 when it regularizes its relations with the governments of new central european countries. we might think of those war years as perhaps more of a prism that refracts those normative and legal structures. they're somewhat different during the war, and a little bit different after the war. but on the whole, they persist and they keep the united states just as involved in the world after world war i as they had done for more than a century previous. thank you.
>> so there was a lot there in all of those talks. and now is our opportunity to begin a bit of discussion. so please queue up at the mike and ask away. and one other thing to note is that i would love at the end to maybe problematize the turning point itself. please, take it away. >> excellent. wow. what a fantastic round table. and outstanding presentations. i'm so excited. so i would really love it if -- i mean, i guess, it's the most obvious question in connection with the philippines perhaps. but if any of you could help me reflect on -- i'm reading a lot about the mandates regime now. and u.s. disinterest in the
mandates regime. it's a little bit later than 1916, but susan peterson is saying, well, the mandates regime is part of this old diplomacy, right, because they're just more chess pieces to move around. it's not really about advancing groups to a moment of self-determination, it's just about making what she calls better -- or she quotes someone from the time saying bretter and brighter natives, right? and so one of the reasons she says the u.s. is not interested is because they're anticipating what ultimately becomes trusteeship, which however paternalistic and awful it is in various ways is still premised on this idea that eventually at the end of the line there's going to be independence and self-determination. and i wonder if you're seeing language in your era about that kind of, is it a civilizational checklist for when it's okay to have self-determination, which your remarks sort of intimated?
or is it really just about free trade and capitalism? and if that's going to affect the transformations that are needed for this next step. >> well, i think a couple of things. one is the language of the jones act in its preamble does talk about this attempt -- the goal is to move the philippines to a point it enjoys stable government. but to me there's something kind of -- i think that's a rationalization for kind of prolonged, potentially indefinite rule of some kind. i think that that is -- you know, that's something the democrats come up with that manuel kazan uses in part to curry favor with them in trying to make some kind of -- to pass some kind of law, measure that would say that independence is ultimately the goal. so there's that. and as far as -- your question is, is free trade, is that ultimately what sort of -- is
that the ultimate goal or -- >> [ inaudible ] talking about civilization and kind of a checklist for what that means. kind of means. >> stable government to me is a euphemism in some ways for fitness for self-government, which was the language that was used at the turn of the century. maybe nancy might also be able to speak to that. [ inaudible ]. >> yes, largely about race. in the years prior to this before wilson is in office, the americans under republican leadership were eager to see what they talked as the material improvement and material prosperity in the philippines. at that point, this was a sign of civilization and in that way maybe filipinos are ready for independence. that had been a piece of the story, but clearly embedded in that, even that, i think, was
not necessarily a goal, material movement was not a poor goal, but even that was another way, i think, of holding back independence and creating, as you've said, sort of a checklist. once we have this, then maybe you'll be fit for self-government, but i think that and the sort of language of stability, stable government, were both i think were ways of retaining the philippines by finding a way of rationalizing american's ideals with the fact they still had an interest in the philippines. >> hello. first of all, i would like to thank the presenters and the chair for their excellent and thought-provoking comments so far, but one thing i've found with the exception of julia irwin's paper, which is missing
from this topic, is the role of the american public and the american people in your presentations. after all, wilson's slogan is trying to find the middle ground to the appeal to the public who is war weary or scared of war but feels war is inevitable. he kept us out of war plus preparedness. the idea of a turning point when you're talking about the first half of the 20th century, you're really talking, at least in my opinion, about the american people and getting the american people ready for a greater role in the world. this continues in many ways after 1941 and the late 30s in the isolationist movement and president franklin roosevelt's fears of whether he's trying to get too far ahead of the american people and getting involved in the situation in europe and to a certain degree in china and asia. what i'm wondering is how much of a turning point is it or isn't it for the american people for their view in the place --
>> i can comment on that at least initially. i think when it came to the columbus raid, the american people responded quite strong. especially by the latter half of the year, there was a desire to respond to the columbus raid in march, but just a few months later there was a desire not to be drawn into war with mexico. i'm not sure if this says something just about mexico itself, but there was this feeling among americans of retaliation. the challenge for wilson was balancing this need for retaliation without getting into war with mexico. i think, at least in my situation, again, it's hard to gauge how much of a direct voice
the public had in these presidential politics on a certain subject, but at least when it came to the columbus raid, i think the public had a pretty big role in determining how the wilson administration -- kind of the policy options he had available to him and how he was going to implement them. >> in terms of central america and the caribbean, in this period public opinion was supportive to the extent that it paid any attention at all of the idea of stability pro-americanism and uplift. and i would agree that uplift or making the world safe for democracy, that kind of thing, in terms of haiti, the dominican republic, nicaragua, is really just packaging. and i think you see that most clearly in the lack of
follow-through. i'm not saying it was packaging for the american people who thought that's what the government was doing and who supported that, but in terms of government policies there's such a striking lack of follow-through in haiti and the dominican republic and nicaragua to seriously try to construct a democratic structure. >> i think thinking about november 1916 is the turning point. thinking about the american people's perceptions of europe i think the years from 1914 to 1916 are the pivotal moment. that has a lot to do with the american press. your average american citizen is reading more about european politics. they're seeing more images of death and suffering.
they're seeing these not only in newspapers, but things in fundraising and publicity for charities. i think there is among the american people perception of europe that may be something sort of new, but i don't know that 1916 is necessarily the moment. >> so i have one thing to add at least. you see within the party coalitions of that moment in 1916 and some fracturing related to european war. one thing wilson has to grapple with is his particularly southern marshal but not interested in fighting in this european war interest. so you're thinking of southern fire brands from pitchfork, van tilman to james. a lot of them are not interested in what's looming on the horizon. a region of the country that is thought of as particularly
martial is a group that's pushing against the preparedness programs and intervention. it's main lly important becausef the election cycle. he couldn't go much further until november 1916. it's not a shock that after 1916 that a lot of the programs that lead up to the war begin in earnest. the wet western labor interests don't want to fight a war with mexico, for instance. i think republicans were oddly unaware of that, or they didn't seem to discern the nuances of the fact that the west who is solidly democratic at the moment are also more pacifist leaning. that's a group that also supports a wilson, he kept us out of war moment. >> this question is primarily for professor montoya. it doesn't concern so much the 1916 election, but it concerns
the infamous zimmerman telegram and the background thereto. some people have disputed whether it was legitimate or not. there was an historical context to it. it was perfectly understandable that the germans wouldn't be happy about the united states continuing to supply the allies and providing munitions. perhaps they might be inclined for that reason to make problems for the united states that would divert the united states away from europe. a problem in their own backyard. as your research revealed any indication that the germans were, in fact, active in mexico for that purpose? >> i think friedrich katz probably really made that clear that the germans were active -- it's interesting. the germans were active in mexico, but their efforts were
largely hapless. they largely came to nothing. they lacked funding. lacked kind of essential purpose. the zimmerman telegram is pegged as kind of a foolhardy effort of the german foreign minister of the time. there was real german hope among intelligence services and there was disagreement within the german reich itself over how much to push this, but there were some german officials who wanted to push the united states into war with mexico. there is obvious strategic benefits to that. the arms that were going to juarta's regime were coming from german. different factions of the mexican revolution received different support from the great powers and germany was definitely one of those powers that were really trying to, just like the u.s., play rival
factions off each other. mexico doesn't have its own arms industry. throughout the mexican revolution access to arms and denial of arms was key in determining the pace of the revolution and the duration of battles. this is one of the big strings they pulled during the revolution was access to arms and the germans having one of the best arms munitions industries in the world was key in steering that. >> can i add to that? i agree completely with ben and particularly that the german efforts were hapless. in my book "danger of dreams," it is basically an analysis of was there a german threat to the hemisphere. based on german archives, what i concluded, and i think definitively, is that while the
germans talked a lot and particularly the pan-germans talked a lot about the idea of a german empire in latin america and while there were reasons to be worried, for example, there were a lot of germans living in brazil. there was a whole german colony in brazil. there is no evidence of any serious german government plan at any point to take advantage of it. the zimmerman telegram you can say is some evidence, but i really think, as ben says, it was hapless and it was in a very particular context of wanting to divert american forces before they got involved in europe. so i think that the whole idea of any concerted serious german threat to the hemisphere doesn't hold water.
>> if i could just add one more thing. a key opponent to these big power politics is factoring in the mexican government itself. i think one of the reasons the german intrigues didn't go far is it wasn't in carranza's interests to get too cozy with germany. he towed this tenuous line of neutrality. the mexican government played a role in courting some of these alliances, but in the end rej t rejecting them. in a way, it was to carranza's interests to not align with germany, even though germany made some pretty strong, you know, overtures. yeah. >> so thank you all for this amazing panel and also thank you for your collective work upon which we are all relying and probably placing amazon orders
from the audience. just a thought related to the question before last and then a small question. with the question about the american people and the responses about public opinion, really kind of highlight what, to me, not having worked in this area before but attempting to now, that there's a terrible methodical problem. with the other approach, what chris was essentially bringing in, election results. do you have any other ways of measuring in some reliable way what we might call public opinion? that's sort of one plea for help. but the question that got me up here was to say thinking about 1916 as an election year,
woodrow wilson isn't the only one that got elected. do you think there was no yl]om the rest of the elections in 1916? you know, i think initially congress -- of course, the 65th congress didn't come into session until the beginning of april, but still. it was a congress that had janet rankin in it. there are important directions at least in some areas. benjamin, what about state politics in the southwest? did it not matter at all who was governor of texas and who the sort of local political leaders were in the american southwest?
>> all right. thank you both for excellent questions. to think about other election results in 1916, at least -- well, in terms of foreign policy, i think the only thing i would go out on a limb to say to think about is congress. and wilson is very good at maintaining his executive authority in the realm of foreign policy, and so i think that there's -- whereas domestic legislation like about the eight-hour day and all those kinds of things there's a lot of democratic members of congress who are ultimately responsible for getting that legislation passed, in terms of getting the united states into the war, whatever, i think we need to be
looking outside of congress and in the white house for that. and perhaps we should keep in mind another person who was not elected, colonel house, who is doing a lot of behind the scenes diplomacy to encourage u.s. entry into the war. this segues into the question of how do we measure public opinion, which is a great question and one that drives me nuts and i spend a lot of time with my thesis students thinking about this very issue. i don't think there is a good way to really know what public opinion is because i definitely think that the newspapers and magazines like "the century," that they don't actually reflect public opinion. i think they help shape public opinion. at least for foreign policy one important tool is to think about who actually is involved in
making a foreign policy decision and whose opinions matter there. you can somebody like robert lancing who says the american public wants to enter the war, and he's basing that on an editorial he read in "harper's" because that's what he wants to hear. in some ways i'm not sure how much public opinion actually matters, but the people who do make decisions, their claims about public opinion is what matters. >> thank you very much for this question. i think it is complicated because a lot of southwestern officials were very concerned with mexico. their rub to it is a lot of them had business interests or property in mexico. it was not just southwestern
officials. people like william randolph hurst. william jennings bryant had a lot of property in mexico. colonel house led his group of texas politicians who were concerned about their property and business interests in mexico. this is why they tried to strike this balance of intervention to retain their property, but also intervening in mexico. pancho villa fell out of favor. carranza seemed like the right person, but his main advantage was he brought stability. zapatta in the south was not even a consideration. he was pegged as a communist. it's complicated. this is where the balance -- where they try to strike the
balance. they're trying to steer the course of mexican politics to protect their interests and bring stability back to mexico. not just for their interest, but also for these larger concerns. a stable mexico can allow the united states to look to europe without any concern and the columbus raid, the punitive expedition, carranza represents constant trouble that the u.s. can't figure out for most of that decade. >> i think a good place to look is voluntary agencies and their membership numbers and money. are americans putting their money are their mouths are, what their thoughts are? this is this nation of joiners. they join all sorts of associations everywhere. comparing something like membership numbers and the preparedne preparedne preparedness movement and the
american unit against militarism might be a good way to see where americans directed their opinion. >> it's not so much in terms of seeing they're writing an article or op-ed for preparedness. what are they responding? what arguments are they picking out to fight against? gra it exists in that historical moment. if you find enough of those, i think you can create a pretty good sort of correlation. you're thinking letters from constituents. you get a bulk of those. at least you get a good sense of a given place and who those people in congress are likely to be taking seriously in terms of
policies they're promoting. that's another place i would like. even after the area of polling, polls are problematic. even when the 1930s when you finally get gallup, it's not like we have a definitive sense of public opinion. public opinion is shaped as much by the questions are asked. when you look at letters to the editor even in the world war i era, some of those questions are very much about the german aggression and threat. what kind of response are you likely to get in that scenario? most likely people are perceiving the threat rather than peacemaking or mediation claims from the american union against militarism or the wpp or other kinds of organizations. i wanted to point out about the west if this is a pivotal election and it pivoted on just a few states, like california, that's largely i would argue
based on hugh's foreign policy stance. you can look to regional figures who are also major players in the senate. then johnson goes on to be irreconci irreconcileable. >> thanks for a terrific and thought-provoking panel. i want to ask a little bit about wilson and race. and the caricatured version i had of this going into the panel is this. he can be prodded into nationalism, but not when it comes to the colonized world because he is also a racist. therefore poland yes. haiti no. that's the story you get from a book. i got the sense rebecca that was
kind of the story that you were giving us. but strikes me that something different is going on between what wilson is doing in the caribbean in the parts of the caribbean that the united states does not formally control and into the u.s. empire. rebecca, at the end you said it is pretty much more of the same because the philippines can be independent when it is a stable government and nobody defines stability. but wilson supported a stronger legislation. he was ready to give philippines a four-year time schedule independence. you said it already. the turning over of government to filipinos. then there's this other jones act passed the next year in 1917 which makes puerto ricans citizens. i have a hard time reconciling -- this is genuine befuddlement. i don't know how to reconcile
that, which really does seem to me to be a new leaf with what he's doing in the caribbean. does he believe non-whites are capable of self-government or not? it seems like what's going on in the colonies he seems to be interested in divesting his interests. >> i think to some extent that's part of what i'm saying here. it is under wilson. once you have democrats in congress -- you have to keep in mind what's happening in the philippines too. you have this consolidation of philippine national politics that, yes, independence will happen. is that the goal of the u.s. to withdraw sovereignty at some point? yes, that clearly is the goal. i think you're right in that way, but i think a question might be why is it that a timetable for independence -- why does that not manifest? why does that not pass?
i think that would be the distinction i would make. it is kind of my measure -- maybe it is a tall aorder. does the action sort of follow the rhetoric? i think in this case that's what i'm saying. there's a newish kind of thing that's happening here. there's a commitment or a vision that's being laid out of a post-colonial world and peoples like the filipinos are seizing on to be sure. i think what wilson is saying in the philippines is yes, we want to deny ourselves of this frontier, but it is going to be gradually. it's not going to be on the timelines that filipinos want. maybe this is somewhat semantic for you, daniel, but that's what i'd suggest there. >> i would also suggest that we should be thinking about kind of
scientific racism ideas at the time and how they intersect with political theory and certainly wilson is willing to draw a color line in the united states and globally. if we can put the best possible spin on why he thinks a color line is a good idea in the united states, it's because democracy only functions when everybody agrees.biologically incapable of agreeing, then they shouldn't get to vote because american politics won't work properly with them in it. i think that argument also applies in the support that he gives for creating national
states in europe. so yes, poland because poland means, in his mind, nationally homogeneous poland. he wants those clear lines so that everybody who is capable of having a democracy can have a functioning democracy in their own country and they're going to have it because they're all sort of biologically the same in the electoral pool. >> to amplify that question slightly, if i may, i want to ask nancy to what extent does this conferral of citizenship rates actually represent a shift of the continuity that we're arguing of foreign policy in the region and what extent is it
emblematic of empirical politics? >> i don't want to be reductionist, but i do think it comes down to a cost-benefit analysis to a certain extent. haiti represented a challenge that the united states felt that -- that the wilson administration felt that i needed to establish stability in haiti in a way that it didn't feel that need in puerto rico. so there's a possibility of being more, quote/unquote, generous in puerto rico than in haiti. race is such a complicated
factor for so many reasons. race is complicated and you have to infer it. you've got the sexy comments you can quote to prove wilson is a racist, but it's interesting to compare policy toward haiti and policy towards the dominican republic, to think about the differences of race there. and i think that you can make an argument that policy toward haiti was more paternalistic than towards the dominican republic and to a certain extent puerto rico would fall in that spectrum. on the other hand, the ignorance of the administration as to even the racial make up of these countries that they were
dominating makes it difficult to come to any hard and fast conclusions on that. i don't think that puerto rico indicates a shift or a turning point. i think the overwhelming evidence is that there was a continuity in the american ti t tightening of homogenity in the backyard. >> we're ready for more comments and questions from you all if you're up to the task. i had one more sort of broad question that maybe brings us all together. it is where we started when organizing the panel. to the extent which world war i shapes all world relations in
this area -- very often i've given talks about world war i. many of us have been thinking about it because of the anniversary and trying to add a global perspective on the war. famine relief is contingent on part of the devastation of the war. how did the fighting of the war change, amplify, enhance, alter the other patterns that we're talk about here geographically or at other levels? one of the ways we organized this panel is to think about transnational actors, currency, goods, race. what does the war to inject a set of changes or something else? should we think of this in other words as a wartime moment? if 1916 is a turning point and world war i, to what extent should we think of this as a
mistake? it's a sort of problematic piece of hindsight that we as professional historians should avoid. big question. jump in. start us out. >> i think for mexico, as i alluded to at the end of my comments, i think world war i is huge in shaping america's response to mexico. as i made the points i think after 1914 wilson is looking increasingly east. he's noticing deteriorating relations with germany and this really gives him even more desire to try to bring law and order back to mexico, which puts his finger on the button more for intervention. at the same time it raises this concern of actually getting drawn into war with mexico. and i think because of the war, wilson concedes more to the mexican government than he would have before world war i.
an example is the actual negotiations that brought the end to the expedition during the latter half in 1916 when it was clear the expedition wasn't going to work. the u.s. tries to get guarantees from carranza. they tried to get concessions basically saying will you protect american property and business interests. wilson gave it up. it's this kind of interesting episode where he concedes unilaterally to just withdraw the expedition and he got nothing in return from it. what he got out of it was not going to war with mexico, but mexico conceded nothing by protecting its sovereignty. so in this case i think it very much shaped how wilson really pulled back in 1916 this overbearing mind-set about mexico because what was taking
place between the u.s. and germa germany. >> what's been useful is to the extent we're decentering europe from our discussions of u.s. foreign relations in the latter half of the 19-teens. if we think about this in terms of the perspective of an ordinary person living in haiti or vera cruz, things have not changed in a lot of ways. i think we have to think about the perspectives the people we're talking to and looking at. the u.s. was deeply involved in the world militarily, economically, diplomatically prior to its entry into the europe war the following year, and i think we need to remember that when we teach this period, when we think about this period. it is not just the u.s. and its relations with europe.
it's u.s. and its relations with the entire world throughout the western hemisphere and throughout other parts of the world as well. that said, i do think u.s. entry into the war, especially does change a lot of things. we can point to a number of ways in which -- i have talked about humanitarianism and the size of and the expansion of the u.s. military. i do think it is really important to think about the fact that it is u.s.-european relations are not the only foreign relations that there are and that we need to look at these other areas too. >> just continuing on that, i think you can probably predict certainly from the standpoint of the caribbean and central america i don't see world war i as the key moment. the spanish american war is a much more important turning point in looking at relations,
as julia says, from that perspective. >> again, i think depending on the kind of story you want to tell, if we're going to tell a story about domestic change in the united states, i think world war i is really important because it creates all of this impetus for the american government to adjust all of its citizenship laws for pretty much every population. and if we want to think about the story of the expansion of the federal government in particular, world war i is crucial for that story, especially for thinking about things like what becomes the fbi and the ability of the federal government to play a role in law enforcement. but if we're thinking about -- if we're telling a story about world history or even u.s.
foreign policy, is world war i the story we should be telling about the teens? i guess i might say the story we should be telling -- you can kind of leave out the war as long as you get the treaty. the paris peace treaties are actually really important in shaping the norms and international law, creating the league of nations is an important precedent for multilateral approaches to things. and we should keep in mind that given who wilson invited to help participate in planning the peace, we get a lot of geographers who are really interested in latin america and the u.s. goes out of its way to get latin american governments to participate at the paris peace conference, which i think we should keep in mind -- it's like world war i is everybody
but latin america, but the peace is latin america too and that makes it truly global. >> i would just sort of say -- i guess my comments might connect back to daniel's question in some way because i do think that the politics of philippine independence, the context of which we were happening with wilson concerned about war, one wonders what the politics would have looked like were that not in play. so it is not just race, but it is also those particular circumstances that shaped a sense of what's possible. that's one thing. the other thing is that i believe that filipinos tried to meet with wilson. they were very eager to meet with wilson after the war, but he said, no, i can't meet with you. i'm going to versailles to make the case for self-determination, right? and i think i would just concur with nancy about spanish american war, philippine
american war, is the key turning point. it's in the 30s it's in the context of depression that philippine independence becomes -- american protectionists and nativists are those who are pushing for philippine independence. >> i'll take my prerogative to answer a little of my own question. i think there's two ways that world war i or the comments that have been made so far -- if we're thinking about or trying to teach some of wilson's errors later, i think a surprising win in 1916, holding a 12-seat majority in the senate, managing to get a narrow majority in the house is part of that process. he's emboldened through the political process and therefore has real consequences in the
diplomacy and the way the diplomacy plays out. this isn't 1916. how the u.s. enters the war i think matters a lot. particularly if you study ideas about isolationism and internationalism. the u.s. did not enter as an ally of any nation in the world. the u.s. entered as an associate power. it's essentially not true until 1949 and the u.s. joining nato that the u.s. had binding collective security agreements that the u.s. would find around the flags of other nations. the u.s. comes into world war i on its own terms unilaterally explains a lot about how this plays out and the interwarriors, which are also problematic. the u.s. comes in an as associate power, comes in late in the process, has an outside sense of itself as important in
paris and elsewhere, and the emboldening of wilson seem to fit together to show a kind of world war i shaping effect, an atmospheric effect, especially on the american politics, but as they ramify through the international political scene. i have one big question looming about turning points, but i want to make sure we don't have any more questions or comments out of the audience at this point in the stage. feel free to pipe up if you have something for us. if not, i'll jump into that. we've seen this a lot in recent years. there's been recent criticism of how historians don't do public history very well. but when we first started putting together this panel, of course people wanted to quibble with is 1916 better than 1917? when if we start with 1914? we're talking about the election
of wilson. that's a moment that you could have thought it heralded a lot more change. american liberal critics, progressives, all thought this was a plastic or elastic junction for progressive reform. there's a lot of different moments we can look to understanding the lost promise or the consequences of this moment. what should we do with this turning point concept itself? we have all taken a stance because we were asked to on the panel, but also that it seems to have a wider sort of traction with bigger audiences. the turning point seems big. turning point, changing direction, means very -- do we buy it? then to what degree is 1916 one?
>> i have a beginning of an answer i'm starting to formulate. my new project -- i'm moving away from world war i and i'm writing on u.s. foreign disaster assistance. we have sudden onset disasters. a disaster caused by an earthquake or a tropical storm. it happens like that. we have slow onset disasters caused by drought or famine. these take much longer to happen, but both types of disasters cause tremendous suffering, death, dislocation, upheaval, but one of them seems to make the news more easily. the earthquake, the sudden cataclysm. i think in some ways this is a stretch metaphor maybe, but thinking about history in the same way we can all say, for example, pearl harbor or 9/11 was a pretty obvious turning point in u.s. relations with the world in a lot of ways. but i think what we've also been
talking about here is thinking about these slower, longer term processes that we need to be able to map. maybe wilson's entire first term as president from 1913 to 1917, maybe u.s. relations with the caribbean from 1898 to 1917. so i think we need to do both. there are these sudden onset turning points that we can identify, but i think our job is to teach the public to look for these long term trends and continuities. >> i would agree with julia. maybe rather than turning point is moment of opportunity maybe. sort of more comfortable with in some ways, but i think julia is right that there are particular moments and events that we can largely agree on that are turning points. largely working as a cultural historian, i tend to see the layer upon layer that yields a certain set of circumstances or
an event for that matter. i think my tendency is there. as far as the public, i've wondered the public would welcome other sorts of stories and it doesn't have to be the turning point. that's the one that most kind of captivates us. i sort of wonder if we diminish our audiences in some way if we think that is the kind of history that has to grab audiences. >> i like julia's catgorization there. i think there are turning points, but i have two provisos. one i think is we need to be careful to contextualize them. when we talk about turning points, i think we should try to make it as clear as we can. turning points in what context.
what story are we telling where there is a turning point? clearly the election of 1916 is a turning point or was a turning point in some context, in some stories, but it isn't in other stories. i think that's something we need to be careful and we need to not assume that the euro-centric stories are the important ones. secondly, i think it's also important to nuance these turning points because the government is so big and so bureaucratic that it might look like it's a turning point. but when you dig deeper -- it's like one of the people i interviewed for my book on carter. he said when carter came in, the order came out that the united states could no more give covert aid to a city in angola.
but he said it's like a computer screen and the computer screen goes dark and you think, oh, i've lost everything. then you just touch it and everything comes back again. even when it looks like there's this dramatic turning point, the same bureaucratic structures, the same inertia, of government is there. >> i think i was the only one on the panel saying yes to it be a turning point. there can be turning points, but you also have to remember the context and as i highlighted in my comments the consequences. i think for what i'm looking at there definitely was this shift in diplomacy between the u.s. and mexico where the u.s. meddled less in mexican affairs, but that doesn't mean that good things followed.
if you know anything about 1920s diplomacy between mexico and the u.s., there were moments where it got heated. from 1920 to 1923, the u.s. didn't even recognize mexico. a lot of this is based in tenuous relations in things over oil and property. the u.s. continued to have problems with mexican leaders all the way up to the 1930s. if he would have been president in the revolution instead of in the mid 20s, there might have been war. but i think there can be turning points, but, as nancy says, we have to remember the context and what follows from those turning points could actually make those situations worse and definitely more complicated. >> i definitely think turning points are useful as we are trying to tell stories and make the past somehow useful to us
today, but i think we shouldn't overemphasize them. two of the things that i kind of stress with my students a lot -- i'm always troubled with accounts that end -- it's like the heroic struggle and at the end of the story a law is passed and we all live happily ever after. the passage of the law is a turning point because the legal system was one way before the law and it's another way after the law, but -- well, two things happened. one, part of the story is how the law is enforced is really important. but also when there's an election or when a law is passed, all the people who contributed to make it didn't like just drop dead when it was passed. there's a continuity of agents involved in the story.
there's memory that continues, and those things that happened before the turning point continue to be relevant after the turning point. they can be useful in giving us some sort of cohesion, but we shouldn't overemphasize them. >> we'll conclude with that and just note that there are obviously multiple nuances and contexts for turning points. in 1916 is a great moment to see some of the shadings of that. thank you for coming out. thanks to the panel. and let's continue the conversation. [ applause ] supreme court justice antonin scalia passed away on february 13th. join us on saturday for live coverage of his funeral