Civilization Week 24 Woodrow Wilson’s Double Standard

Question 1: Based on lesson 117 and the reading, how has it been argued that Woodrow Wilson followed a double standard in his treatment of the British hunger blockade and the German submarine warfare? What policies did he take regarding Americans soiling on ships flying belligerent flags?

In 1914 the British Navy had been blocking any and all food being sent to the German, labeling it as contraband. This violated several international laws, as food was only allowed to be labeled contraband if headed for troupes of war. The food the British were capturing was meant for the civilians, who without it had to subsist on only potatoes and turnips. Winston Churchill said on the matter: “starve the whole population — men, women, and children, old and young, wounded and sound — into submission.” Britain had also been violating international law by laying distant blockades: mines meant to destroy any and all vessels crossing over them, belligerent or otherwise. Wilson didn’t have much to say against these two laws broken by the British, but he did have something to say against the Germans. The Germans announced that they would start using submarine warfare against any spotted ships, no matter if they flew neutral flags or not. The reason behind this is Britain would sometimes disguise their war ships with neutral flags, feigning innocence then attacking once the Germans let their guard down. This seems a perfectly reasonable response from the Germans, who were simply watching out for their own best interest. It seemed a stable policy, until a British ship holding a single American was sunk. This caught Wilson’s attention, and he began very much resisting Germany’s violation of neutral rights. His view on it was American citizens must be protected at all costs, even if they are riding on an armed and aggressive ship traveling through a war zone. Once the infamous Lusitania ship had been sunk (which contained over a hundred Americans who had been warned prior they were going through a war zone and that they were traveling at their own risk), Wilson demanded his policy to protect Americans be respected. Wilson’s policy was obviously a double standard. This weeks reading material Great Wars and Great Leaders: A Libertarian Rebuttal explained that Wilson and his men had been on Britain’s side since the start. Ignoring the horrors and broken laws caused by the British, and slamming down hard on the Germans simply for protecting themselves should be proof enough.


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