World War I

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This source is an editorial titled, “Notes from the Capital,” author unknown, published in The Nation, in 1915. This article is commenting on the impending war that President Wilson faced, and compares other foreign policy issues that prior presidents had. Specifically, it refers to the actions of former President Benjamin Harrison, and his Secretary of State James G. Blaine, and their increased expansionist policies in the 1880s. The author calls for Wilson to act strong, much like Harrison, and succeeding presidents did regarding several issues that came up in their time with other European nations in America. With the recent sinking of the Lusitania a few months, this article echoed American views on why the US had to join the war. The gradual build up of American intervention in world affairs for the past 30 years made joining the war a clear choice in the eyes of the public.


“War is just a racket. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of people. Only a small inside group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the masses.”

– Smedley Butler, 1933

This is an excerpt from the famous speech, “War is a Racket,” by General Smedley Butler, given in 1933, and recounts his experience as leader of the United States Marine Corps for 34 years. During the time Smedley led the Marines they were used multiple times to intervene in several nations in the Americas. In his speech Smedley makes several claims regarding the role of the military, espousing it as a military arm of American business interests. Referring to himself, he states, “In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism,” and explains how he believed all of these military interventions were motivated by economic reasons. Many of these so called “Banana Wars” occurred in the early 20th Century, and did indeed work to secure economic interests with interventions in Cuba, Panama, Honduras, and other American nations. This policy of intervening directly would continue until 1933, when President Roosevelt announced his “Open Door Policy” to have more peaceful relations between the US and other American countries.