Seventy-five years ago this month, the United States entered "the Great War" and thereby entered the world. Until that moment, the nation had assiduously followed George Washington's advice in avoiding "entangling alliances," especially with the nations of Europe. But no longer. The die was cast. America's destiny as a world power, first signaled in its war with Spain a generation earlier, was not to be denied.
President Woodrow Wilson decided on U.S. involvement, after many German provocations, on the supposition that an Allied victory would make the world "safe for democracy." Naive though it seemed at the time and in all too many instances later, it was not an idle dream. Out of the Great War came the League of Nations, crippled by the U.S. non-participation that was Wilson's ultimate defeat, doomed by the vindictive armistice terms forced on Germany, finished off by the rise of Hitler. Nonetheless, the League was to be reborn, as the United Nations, only after the bitter lessons of an even more devastating conflict.
Today, democracy is indeed the government of choice throughout the globe. It has prevailed over fascism, communism and other variations of authoritarian rule on every continent. Democracy's mighty instrument, the once-mocked United Nations, is doing the work Wilson intended for the League in Iraq, Libya, Cambodia, Yugoslavia, Cyprus, Lebanon and a host of other trouble spots.