It may seem odd that US history prior to world war 1 is relevant to today, but during that time it was especially clear what the causes of our involvement were, and how we were manipulated from being a peace-loving nation into a warlike military power.
World war one is often seen as an earlier version of WW2, but it was not. The US could have remained neutral throughout the conflict, and the result may well have been a negotiated truce less likely to have led to the second world war. Our entry into WW1 had nothing to do with principle or ideology. It was the money.
Britian and France sought loans from American banks banks in order to continue buying food and material from the US. While this was not illegal under neutrality, William Jennings Bryan, Secretary of State, knew it was a bad idea, since then US banks and corporate interests would have an interest in that side winning, and would pressure and propogandize us into entering the war. In 1914, Secretary Bryan wrote to President Wilson:
Money is the worst of all contrabands because it commands everything else.... I know of nothing that would do more to prevent war than an international agreement that neutral nations would not loan to belligerents.
Senator George W. Norris, in a speech opposing entry into the war, explained the situation clearly. Both England and Germany had declared 'war zones' which restricted the shipping of neutral powers in certain areas. Both declarations were considered contrary to international law of the time. However, the US respected Britian's, but not Germany's.
Why? As Senator Norris said,
'We have loaned many hundreds of millions of dollars to the Allies in this controversy....It is now demanded that the American citizens shall be used as insurance policies to guarantee the safe delivery of munitions of war to belligerent nations.
Senator Robert M. LaFollette, in an eloquent speech, outlined the peaceful strategy by which we could have remained neutral:
The other alternative is to withdraw our commerce from both. The mere suggestion that food supplies would be withheld from both sides impartially would compel belligerents to observe the principle of freedom of the seas for neutral commerce.'
The American people and many political leaders were in favor of peace. Woodrow Wilson was elected as a peace candidate, and re-elected because He kept us out of war. But, when the corporate interests and the banks decided we should enter the war, the propoganda started in the media, and they got their way.
Wilsom, who had spoken eloquently of the nobility of neutrality, began to advocate military preparedness Anti-German propoganda began to proliferate. When war was declared in April, 1917, a government agency called the Comittee for Public Information (CPI) was formed, which proceeded to employ the best writers and artists it could find to move public opinion in favor of war, and to suppress anti-war sentiment in the press. In 1918 the Sedition Act was passed to further intimidate those who opposed the war.
Until the attack of the propogandists, it was clear to nearly everyone that war benefits only the banks and corporations, and was to be avoided. World War One killed about 9 million altogether, including 116,516 Americans. It settled absolutely nothing, and vindicated no principles. The cost to American taxpayers was $22,625,253,000. In 1918, that was a lot of money.
Human beings are capable of understanding that most wars are motivated by greed. It has been pointed out to us many times. Yet we are repeatedly influenced by propoganda fed us by media that is controlled by those who profit to allow and even support yet another war. Can we start remembering that now?