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The man who had not mentioned foreign policy at all in his inaugural address four years earlier now had only one subject on his mind: war.
For the next century, the old continent was more or less at the center of American policy.
Only today -- under a president who, like Wilson, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and has a penchant for idealism and stirring speeches -- is Europe apparently sinking into the background once again as Washington responds to the allure of dynamic Asia.
Wilson managed to win over a majority in Congress with his fiery speech.
Senator Ben Tillman described it as "the most startling and noblest utterance that has fallen from human lips since the Declaration of Independence." The New York Times called it a "moral transformation" of American policy.
Back then, though, Europe was the nerve center of the world. 22, 1917, he explained his ideas about peace to the US Senate.
By the end of 1916, the war had claimed the lives of millions of soldiers, and the warring parties seemed incapable of bringing it to an end. It was the duty of the United States, he said, to help build a structure for permanent peace.Treasury Secretary William Gibbs Mc Adoo, a son-in-law of President Woodrow Wilson, was already forging plans to replace the pound sterling with the dollar as the foremost international reserve currency.The Nerve Center of the World But his father-in-law, a lawyer and political scientist, and America's only president to enter politics after serving as the president of a university, had no such prosaic intentions.America's rise to superpower status began with its 1917 entry into World War I.President Woodrow Wilson had grand visions for the peace that followed, but failed.After the Bolsheviks had overthrown the czarist regime in Russia, Wilson spoke of a war between democracy and the forces of absolutism.German historian Karl Dietrich Erdmann characterized 1917 as an "epochal year in world history." Washington's entry into the war and the October Revolution in Russia, Erdmann argues, ensured that Europe had lost its role as the principal player in world history.The US's entry into the war in 1917 marked the beginning of its path to becoming a world power.In fact, according to historian Herfried Münkler, this was precisely the goal of some politicians in Washington.Wilson argued that goal of the war had to be the establishment of "community power" and not a "balance of power," and to achieve "organized common peace" instead of "organized rivalries." In other words, only a "peace without victory" could bring the war in Europe to an end.In his speech, Wilson staked out his position within the fundamental conflict that characterized American foreign policy at the time.