War and Revolution
There are those today who see the winter of 1917-1918 as one of the great turning points of modern history, the point at which there separated and branched out, clearly and for all to see, the two great conflicting answers -- totalitarian and liberal -- to the emerging problems of the modern age: populousness, individualism, urbanism. . . . The one concept was indeed personified, and sharply defined, by Lenin; the other, dimly and less adequately, by Wilson.
-- George F. Kennan, The Decision to Intervene1
On 2 April 1917, President Woodrow Wilson appeared before a joint session of the United States Congress and asked for a declaration of war against Imperial Germany. As the reason for his request, he cited the German decision of January to conduct unrestricted submarine warfare in the waters off Great Britain. The submarines would wage a war against all nations, including the United States: "American ships have been sunk, American lives taken." With its attacks, Germany would violate American rights to trade as a neutral. The right, Wilson said, "is more precious than peace, and we shall fight for the things which we have always carried nearest our hearts, -- for democracy, . . . for the rights and liberties of small nations, for a universal dominion of right by such