President Wilson’s Dealing with the Lusitania Crisis

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Many scholars believe that President Wilson was acting in cowardice in the crisis caused by the sinking of the Lusitania and that he was not ready to use his power as president of the strongest nation in the planet to influence the outcome of the war. There were also others who believed that President Wilson wanted to play God thus he ignored the opinions of other people and prove he alone knows what is best for the country. Others are also of the opinion that he was just being cautious of the impact of war on the economic interest of the country and that the president wants to stay neutral to give the country a better chance of furthering its economic activities in the European continent. In this essay, I would like to expound on the idea that the President understands the importance preserving life, protecting the interest of the nation, the use diplomatic channels and how the calculated use of force to address specific problems can achieve more compared to the indiscriminate wielding of firepower. To understand better what really happened before and after Lusitania was hit by a German torpedo, let us first look back into the history of that era. The early 20th century witnessed the start of World War I. Long before the sinking of the RMS Lusitania, the blockade has been established in some areas of the seas of Europe. The rules of blockade were not clearly defined and there were clear written terms as to what things are permissible and what are not. The Paris Declaration of 1856 was the only international declaration that set a few broad rules on setting up of the blockade and clearly, this is not enough to protect marine vessels from harm. Note that under the Paris Declaration of 1856, the following broad rules were established: neutral goods except those considered as contrabands should not be subject to capture, flying a neutral flag serves as protection for the goods of a belligerent nation in transit provided that these goods do not fall under the category of contrabands and that for a blockade to be legal it must be affirmative. Although the Paris Declaration of 1856 mentioned several times in the word contraband it did not really define what contraband means. In effect, the nation setting up the blockade is free to interpret its meaning which further made it difficult to pinpoint the limitations of the word.