America has always had a variety of reasons to choose from in explaining their decisions to go to war. The three wars that Americans fought between the end of the 19th century and the mid point of the 20th century involved reasoning as varied as economic benefits or international tranquility.
When the United States finally declared war against Spain on 25 April 1898, those in charge of making such decisions had an event with which to convince those who were unsure that war was necessary. The explosion of the USS Maine, an American battleship, on 15 February 1898 provided the impetus for declaring war ostensibly under the feeling of national security. In trying to persuade Congress that declaring war was absolutely necessary beyond all other possibilities he neatly summed up the four prevailing opinions of those Americans who had wished for sometime for the United States to become involved in halting the Spanish actions in Cuba. The first reason that McKinley highlighted was the humanitarian aspect of such a mission, for some time Spain had been perpetrating a number of atrocities against the Cubans. Spain’s reconcentration program had devastated the local population through active violence, destruction of foodstuffs, and razing farmland. The second reason that McKinley proclaimed as a reason to go to war with Spain was the belief that the Cubans deserved a government that would support their interests, not the interests of an imperial oppressor, something that should have resonated deeply with Americans, as it was the same thing that the Revolution was fought for.
American economic interests constituted McKinley’s third reason behind his desire to go to war. This aspect was arguably the least reasonable, yet the most likely to stir with the American businessmen who had been hurt by the Spanish invasion and who controlled the nations money. The finally, and the best reason for America to go to war, was as McKinley put it, that a conquered Cuba would present a clear and present danger to American soil. Obviously, the reason that McKinley was able to get Congress to declare war was the destruction of the USS Maine, however, there was strong popular support for the war even before that occurred.
The decision to entire World War I is perhaps the most fundamentally sound decision for war that could be imagined, or the most absurd. Certainly there are many solid reasons for the American decision for war, but the timeline of the events based on when the United States finally declared war, bring questions into reasoning. The most obvious reason for America to enter the war was the destruction of the Lusitania and other similar attacks on vessels carrying Americans by German Submarines. However, the destruction of Lusitania, the best publicized of those events occurred in 1915, it was not until 1917 that President Wilson asked Congress to declare war. At the start of the war, the United States had declared itself to be neutral, yet its economic...