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Exhibition Echoes of the Great War: American Experiences of World War I

For or Against War

With the world around them at war, Americans' debate over the conflict often centered on the issue of military preparedness and the wisdom of making loans and selling arms overseas. Many feared that a large army would threaten American democracy and that an expanded arsenal would menace other countries. This fear of militarism also reinforced antagonism toward Germany, a well-armed and authoritarian monarchy. Preparedness advocates, however, believed that defending the country's security and borders outweighed other considerations, especially as the revolution in Mexico made the United States seem unready to defend itself. Some war opponents believed the greed of munitions makers, bankers, and others who stood to profit from war might draw Americans into an expanded conflict. Peace activists, pacifists, and others dreaded the inevitable loss of lives and drain on the economy that going to war would bring.