War does not always have the simple goal of killing as many of the enemy as you can. The motives behind war are often complex and not always vicious attempts to gain power. Often times a nation must enter a war to secure peace in the future. This was the case when Woodrow Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war.
Since the early days of the war when Wilson asked the nation to be impartial in their thoughts about the war, he fought to maintain the United State’s neutrality. By sending his close friend, Colonel House and other envoys, Wilson diplomatically delayed war until the last possible moment. However, Wilson knew that war was inevitable. It was imperative for the United States to enter the war because it had become a threat to humanity and unless the United States intervened, Western civilization itself might be destroyed. (Garraty, pg. 665)
Wilson’s main reason for involving the United States in the war was to be included in peace talks following the end of the fighting. Had the United States not entered the war, neither the Allies nor the Central Powers would let the U.S. involve itself in the peace talks. Wilson knew that it was essential for the U.S. to be a part of these talks. The majority of statesmen thought that a victory on the battlefield was triumph enough but Wilson knew better than that. Wilson realized that the victory would be wasted if the winners permitted themselves the luxury of revenge. (Garraty, pg. 674) It was important for the victor to forgive and forget and begin to build a better society.
Unfortunately for Wilson, a steadfast pacifist, he had to resort to war to secure peace for the future. By entering the war the United States was able to play a powerful role in peace talks after the fighting ended. Although the peace talks did not stop keep WWII from happening, that was Wilson’s goal. He avoided war as much as he could but when he had could no longer put it off he involved the United States for all the right reasons. He worked for peace before the war by trying to stay neutral, he worked for peace during the war by trying to end it quickly, and he worked for peace after the war by trying to ensure that an atrocity of this magnitude would never occur again.
Garrity, Carnes 1998