“Milestones in the History of U.S. Foreign Relations” has been retired and is no longer maintained. For more information, please see the full notice.
1914–1920: World War One and Wilsonian Diplomacy
During his tenure as President, Woodrow Wilson encouraged the country to look beyond its economic interests and to define and set foreign policy in terms of ideals, morality, and the spread of democracy abroad.
The United States continued its efforts to become an active player on the international scene. It 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 U.S. leadership in international organizations, like the newly established League of Nations, appealed to the public. However, the United States ultimately declined membership in the League due to Article X of its charter that committed the United States to defend any League member in the event of an attack. In voting down U.S. participation, Congress challenged the informal tradition of the executive branch determining U.S. foreign policy.