Aircraft of World War I by Kenneth G. Munson

By Kenneth G. Munson

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Their armed forces were shrinking day by day and they could not rely on the soldiers and sailors who were left. Their taxpayers wanted an end to expensive foreign adventures. The United States alone had the capacity to act, but it did not see itself as having that role, and its power was not yet great enough. It is tempting to say that the United States lost an opportunity to bend Europe to its will before the competing ideologies of fascism and communism could take hold. That is to read back into the past what we know about American power after another great war.

It was only in the summer of 1918, as Germany’s allies faltered and as the fresh American troops poured in, that the Allies finally gained the upper hand. When the war ended on 11 November, everywhere people hoped wearily that whatever happened next would not be as bad as what had just come to an end. Four years of war shook forever the supreme self-confidence that had carried Europe to world dominance. After the Western Front, Europeans could no longer talk of a civilizing mission to the world.

It will, I fear, cost thousands of lives. ” What, as Lansing asked, made a nation? Was it a shared citizenship, as in the United States, or a shared ethnicity, as in Ireland? If a nation was not self-governing, ought it to be? And in that case, how much self-government was enough? Could a nation, however defined, exist happily within a larger multinational state? Sometimes Wilson seemed to think so. He came, after all, from a country that sheltered many different nationalities and which had fought a bitter war, which he remembered well, to stay in one piece.

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