A matter of moral agency: the religious impetus behind Woodrow Wilson's decision for unilateral belligerency in World War I
Why did President Woodrow Wilson not take advantage of the opportunity U.S. entrance into World War I afforded to extract promises from Allied leaders to commit to his postwar world vision? Wilson could have obligated the Allied governments to a postwar “peace without victory” settlement on his terms through a quid-pro-quo agreement in light of their deteriorated position. However, Wilson chose not to impose any conditions on the Allied governments in return for U.S. troops but decided on an independent course that designated the United States a wartime associate, as opposed to an allied, power. In this thesis, I examine Woodrow Wilson’s religious world view related to mankind’s political progress to investigate its impact on his understanding of the European situation prior to U.S. entry into World War I. I hope to discern how it may have influenced Wilson’s decision to inaugurate what has become the established U.S. policy of unilateral belligerency in wartime. First, I research the theological origins and assumptions of Wilson’s religious world view. Second, I examine its political and social evolution and analyze how Wilson applied his mature religious lens to the global, and in particular the European, situation prior to World War I. Finally, I focus on how his religious interpretation served as the motivation to keep the United States separate as an active participant and refrain from postwar conditions.