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Blog Post 10/7

I find it interesting how Zinn is almost always defiant towards the stances of the government.  And, a lot of it is with credence, Zin realized that the government uses war in order to serve its own needs.  As, “War is the health of the state”  While its own citizens are dying in a war between almost all nations their governments are thriving.  In America Zinn claims that we didn’t go to war out of a need to protect our citizens but because of, “The balance of power and economic necessities.”  Further, “But by 1915, war orders for the Allies (mostly England) had stimulated the economy, and by April 1917 more than $2 billion worth of goods had been sold to the Allies. As Hofstadter says: ‘America became bound up with the Allies in a fateful union of war and prosperity.’”  So, Wilson entered the war out of spite, and because of economic interests.  And, while the US was ultimately successful I think we all agree it’s not worth it for 116 thousand Americans to die out of economic interests.  

Zinn takes the stance of popular resistance like many socialists during this time.  And, Zinn realizes that the war was massively popular during this time.  Mostly because of the booming economy, which is basically the reason why we entered the war.  But, Zinn claims this is mainly because of government propaganda.  Writing, “The government had to work hard to create its consensus. That there was no spontaneous urge to fight is suggested by the strong measures taken: a draft of young men, an elaborate propaganda campaign throughout the country, and harsh punishment for those who refused to get in line.”  Wilson realized that if the war was unpopular they would be largely unsuccessful, as public opinion is everything in a democracy. 

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  1. Julia Borger Julia Borger

    I was also struck by the idea that the US makes many big decisions based on economic interests. I believe these interests are definitely important when making large decisions for the entire country, however I do not think they should mask all other reasons for doing things, as it is not the only important factor in making a decision, especially one that has such catastrophic effects. The US has always been a nation that puts their economics before everything else- from the beginning in the colonies with the exploitation of the natives, to today. I wonder if there will ever come a day when our number 1 focus is not on economics, or if it is too late for that.

  2. Annie Waters Annie Waters

    I honestly really appreciate Zinn’s perspective on American government conflicts. I was always taught about American history from a patriotic perspective (as I assume many other students are) so I think it’s really thought-provoking to analyze American history from a perspective that’s more critical of the government. Whether this criticism is valid is of course a matter of personal ideology, but I think Zinn introduces a lot of strong arguments about opposition to the war, namely the simple need for the passage of the Espionage Act. It’s of course very telling that litigation arose in response to defiance toward the act, but what’s equally significant is the fact that it had to be passed in the first place. If a volunteer military wasn’t sufficient to fight in the war, it may be reasonable to include there wasn’t much civilian interest in participating in the war. I think it’s really interesting to consider the public opinion around the conflict from this perspective.

  3. William Coben William Coben

    I find your point about the prioritizing of economics interesting, but personally believe the idea is much more complex than you are making it out to be. While on paper, the saving of 116,000 lives is more important than fixing an economy; however, thinking analytically about this, a failing economy could actually be more harmful and end many more lives than 116,000. A tanked economy would shut businesses down. in theory, if the producers of insulin failed due to a failed economy, way more people would die than did in WW1. I think it is important to acknowledge that there is much thought and consideration when entering wars, not just “let’s do this to boost our economy”

  4. Charley Blount Charley Blount

    I wonder if WW1 is the first time the US government so explicitly censored the American people. I understand that this was legalized (at least for a bit) by the Espionage Act in 1917. Does this mean that it was illegal before 1917 and therefore not done? Also, who was responsible for the suppression of anti-war rhetoric? Seems like a job for the CIA, but they didn’t exist yet.

  5. Christina Glynn Christina Glynn

    I agree especially with the surprising facts about the US making decisions solely thinking about economic interests. This mindset of making decisions based off of economic interests is still very prevalent in the US today. This seems like a contradicting idea because during the war in the fight for economic interests lives were lost.

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