The United States in the Supreme War Council: American War Aims and Inter-Allied Strategy, 1917-1918

By David F. Trask | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER 8
The Pre-Armistice Negotiations

THE First World War was a limited war. The contending powers never completely dismissed the possibility of a negotiated peace. The impassable gulf which divided the warring coalitions during World War II did not develop during the earlier conflict. When in October 1918 the Ger- man leaders realized that victory had slipped from their grasp, they turned to diplomacy in order to salvage as much as possible from defeat. The Allied leaders proved willing to treat for peace if clear-cut guarantees were obtained to. insure against a resumption of hostilities.

In relative terms, the United States and Great Britain did not differ fundamentally in their conceptions of the peace settlement, although distinctive areas of disagree- ment on territorial settlements existed. Together they con- stituted a restraining influence on the vengeful French and the grasping Italians. Britain, however, had signed a series of "secret treaties" with other Entente Powers which im- posed distinct limitations on her diplomacy, and British imperialism in Africa and Asia created Anglo-American tensions. President Wilson's strenuous efforts to maintain diplomatic independence enabled the United States to discuss the peace settlement with both the Central Powers and the Entente Powers unencumbered by imperial com- mitments of a territorial nature or by binding treaties with other nations.

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