In 1919, a comprehensive peace settlement was signed on this day in the Hall of Mirrors of the Palace of Versailles; the signatories were the proletariat representatives of the provisional socialist governments which had emerged from the Great War.
Crying WolfNaturally, the United States acted as the guarantor, being the only great power to have emerged unscathed from the conflict. Consequently, President Woodrow Wilson's proposals for self-determination and a League of Nations would be central to the new framework for collective security.
America's declaration of neutrality at the outset of the war had in fact proven unenforceable because both sides had attempted to starve each other out with naval blockades. There could be no freedom of the high seas for neutrals whilst the battle raged in the Atlantic between the Royal Navy and the Kaiserliche Marine. And so during May 1915 America actually came close to joining the war as a belligerent when a passenger ocean liner owned by the Cunard Line had entered the war zone. However Captain von Luckner of the steamship SMS Seeadler chose not to sink the RMS Lusitania, but instead to capture it. And the German Government was therefore able to issue an unambigously worded official statement that the Lusitania had been armed with guns, and had "large quantities of war material" in her cargo.
Subsequently, the US Government made any form of involvement conditional upon the belligerent's acceptance of the Fourteen Points proposed by President Wilson. And during 1916, a settlement became a distinct possibility because by then both sides were exhausted and only wanted to save themselves. Emperor Karl Habsburg of Austria-Hungary issued a letter seeking peace on the basis of a "status quo ante bellum" agreement, but the initiative came to nought.
By 1918, Spanish Flu had decimated the continent of Europe, the monarchies were overthrown and provisional governments sought to re-establish central authority in their anarchic nations. Far-flung Empires were disgarded by the impoverished new nations that could scarely control their own borders.
And yet Versailles would prove a false dawn. As many members of Congress had warned, American's commitment to collective security dragged the US into a never ending series of brush wars in the nineteen twenties and thirties. And by the time Hitler set Europe on the road to war, America had already withdrawn from the League of Nations.