chapter  2
14 Pages

Wilson’s Order and European Power

By the end of the first two decades of the twentieth century the United States stood in a decisive position, its forces tilted the balance in the First World War and President Wilson (1913-21) proposed an ambitious agenda for the peace. In the next two decades, during the 1920s and 1930s, the United States retreated from these visions of engagement in world affairs, largely as a reaction to the proposed Wilsonian order. The retreat from political engagement ushered in a period of isolation, conventionally understood, even though US trade and culture remained international. In fact, during the age of competing empires commercial engagement was considered an absolute necessity. Still, Wilson’s political ambitions were defeated by the European powers at Versailles and by his Republican opponents in the United States. But in the first two decades of the century, and especially during the Wilsonian period, Washington exercised a decisive impact on the immediate situation and introduced diplomatic concepts that ultimately provided shape to US diplomacy throughout the twentieth century.