Milestones: 1914–1920

1914–1920: World War One and Wilsonian Diplomacy

During his tenure as president, Woodrow Wilson encouraged Americans to look beyond their economic interests and to define and set foreign policy in terms of ideals, morality, and the spread of democracy abroad.

President Woodrow Wilson

President Woodrow Wilson

The United States continued its efforts to become an active player on the international scene and engaged in action both in its traditional “sphere of influence” in the Western Hemisphere and in Europe during the First World War. The Wilsonian vision for collective security through American leadership in international organizations, like the newly established League of Nations, appealed to the American public, but the United States ultimately declined membership in the League due to Article X of its charter that committed the United States to defending any League member in the event of an attack. In voting down American participation, however, Congress challenged the informal tradition of the executive branch determining U.S. foreign policy.