Skip navigation

For America “The War to End War” Was Just the Beginning

Revisiting WWI
John J. Tierney, Jr.


The most enduring legacy of World War I for the United States has been the emergence of a unique set of internationalist principles, which has allowed the country to elevate itself to a self-defined pedestal of righteous virtue justifying the pursuit of its foreign policies. To this day, such supposedly righteous pursuits have pervaded U.S. foreign policy regardless of party loyalty or other circumstance. These pursuits were developed early in the American experience and were deliberate guides to policy. In advancing these ideals, President Woodrow Wilson was certainly a revolutionary to the European statesmen of his time. However, he was only reiterating a sense of political virtue that underlaid the American Revolution: a tradition that came to be known as American exceptionalism and is used to justify and explain the country’s unique role in the world.