It was 1919 when the United States properly entered the stage of international politics. Woodrow Wilson stepped into the Paris Peace Conference with a set of principles which, up to this point, had never been seriously entertained on the world stage.
These ideas came to define the world that we live in now — international institutions and law, principles of non-aggression, universal rights, self-determination and a belief in democracy. These come from the Wilsonian tradition, or the American belief in the superiority of our values.
The world may had begun moving toward principles such as self-determination before the United States stepped onto the scene. England had fought a veritable war with the Arab world to end the slave trade in the 19th century, but Wilson was demanding an entirely new world order. His introduction of moral principles into the world of foreign policy, exemplified by his desire to abandon empires and do away with balance of power as a means of ensuring peace, were alien concepts to European ears.
The American pursuit of Wilsonian principles has not been perfect; this much is obvious. Many criticize the role that the military plays in American foreign policy and the continuation of Wilson’s legacy in conflicts, such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan.
What is not in question is the debt which Americans owe to those who serve in our military. Those who have served, are serving and will serve in our armed forces deserve our respect. These are people, just like us, who have offered their lives to protect us. They will be reshaped and molded to the needs of our military, and they will keep the rest of us safe so that we are free to quarrel about whatever domestic problems are in the news.