Similarities between WWI and War on Terrorism

based on Theodore Roosevelt's book "Fear God and Take Your Own Part"

Analysis by Mark Fennell



The beginning of World War I is almost identical to the War on Terrorism. It is this similarity which I will focus on today, as I quote from Theodore Roosevelt.

I finally understand WWI. I never really grasped it before (blame it on public education). Thanks to Theodore Roosevelt, now I do understand. We entered WWI for similar reasons that we entered the War on Terrorism.


WWI as compared to War on Terrorism

The similarities are amazing. In the years prior to World War I, we were repeatedly attacked, but did not fight back. The most significant event was the sinking of the Lusitania. Yet the Lusitania was not the only event.

The Lusitania was torpedoed by a German submarine, without warning, on May 7th, 1915. Hundreds of innocent people were killed, including women and children.

Germany attacked, we did nothing, Germany attacked again, we did nothing...and so the story goes. This is very similar to recent times, where terrorists attacked, and we did nothing, so the terrorists attacked again.

Also similarly is the lack of response by the President. In the years building to WWI, the President was Woodrow Wilson. Attack after attack, President Wilson did nothing. All talk, no action. Similarly, in more recent times, we were attacked numerous times by terrorists during the years of President Clinton, yet Clinton did nothing. (We can also look upon the history of 1915 as similar to the UN and lack of action taken against Iraq.)

Theodore Roosevelt, in brief, was telling the public that by not defending ourselves, we invited more attacks. By not going to war, we were actually doing more harm to our future. TR also found it repulsive that we would let innocent Americans die and not take action. I think President George W. Bush has similar views.

Note that when Theodore Roosevelt refers to the "President", he is referring to the then current President, Woodrow Wilson. (TR had already served his terms.)


Quotes by Theodore Roosevelt

Now, for some TR quotes. The similarities to recent events, regarding terrorism and regarding pacifists, are very eerie. These quotes give me chills.


TR quote #1

"When the Lusitania sank, some twelve hundred non-combatants, men, women and children, were drowned, and more than a hundred of these were Americans."

Theodore Roosevelt, responding to the attack, May 1915


TR quote #2

"The day after the tragedy the newspapers reported that in Queenstown there lay by the score the bodies of women and children, some of the dead women still clasping the bodies of the little children they held in their arms when death overwhelmed them."

Theodore Roosevelt, responding to the attack, May 1915


TR quote #3

"In another column, the newspapers reported the glee expressed by the Berlin journals at this 'great victory of German naval policy.' It was a victory over the defenseless and the unoffending, and its trophies were the bodies of the murdered women and children."

Theodore Roosevelt, responding to the attack, May 1915


TR quote #4

"Come back to the case of the Lusitania. When that ship was sunk, scores of women and children, including American women and children, paid with their lives the penalty of a brutal and murderous attack by a warship. This warship was acting in pursuance of the policy of the German Government.

President Wilson sat supine and complacent, making on the following night his celebrated statement about a nation 'being too proud to fight,' a statement that under the circumstances could only be taken as meaning that the murder of American women and children would be accepted by American men.

These men, women, and children of the Lusitania were massacred because the German government believed that the Wilson administration did not intend to back up its words with deeds. The result showed that they were right in their belief."

Theodore Roosevelt 1916


TR quote #5

"As the direct result of our failure to act in the case of the Lusitania, came another hideous misdeed, the sinking of the Ancona. Over two hundred persons, most of them women and children, were murdered as a result of this submarine attack on a helpless passenger ship. Nine of those murdered were Americans.

The deaths of these poor women and children on the Ancona, and on the various other ships that were sunk under similar circumstances, were due to the cowardice of our action in the case of the Lusitania."

Theodore Roosevelt 1916


TR quote #6

"About the Lusitania, the President wrote note after note, each filled with lofty expressions and each sterile in its utter futility, because it did not mean action, and Germany knew it did not mean action.

Then came the Ancona as the direct result of this policy of shuffling timidity and delay.

And after the sinking of the Ancona came the sinking of the Persia. After the sinking of the Persia, came the proofs of the activity of Germany's official representative in the campaign of murder and arson against our munition factories."

Theodore Roosevelt 1916



TR quote #7

"Serbia is at this moment passing under the harrow of torture and mortal anguish. Now the Armenians have been butchered under circumstances of murder and torture and rape that would have appealed to an old-time Apache Indian."

Theodore Roosevelt 1916



TR quote #8

"For three years the United States Government has been engaged in sending notes and diplomatic protests and inquiries and warnings and ultimatums and penultimatums to Germany, to Mexico, to Austria; and not one of these notes really meant or achieved anything."

Theodore Roosevelt 1916


TR quote #9

"Eight months have gone by since the Lusitania case. American ships were sunk and torpedoed before and afterward; other American lives were lost; and the President wrote other notes upon the subject; but he never pressed the Lusitania case."

Theodore Roosevelt 1916



TR quote #10

"The policy of the Administration has not invited respect. It has invited murder. It has not secured peace.

By the way, peace probably could have been secured by a policy self-respecting strength and firmness. Peace is now in jeopardy, because weakness and timidity invite the constant repetition of actions which will in time goad any nation into war."

Theodore Roosevelt 1916


TR quote #11

"We have so acted as to convince other nations that in truth we are too proud to fight; and the man who is too proud to fight is in practice always treated as just proud enough to be kicked."
Theodore Roosevelt 1916



TR quote #12

"If, after the firing on Sumter, Lincoln had immediately in a speech declared that the friends of the Union might be 'too proud to fight' and had spent he next four months in exchanging 'firm' diplomatic notes with Jefferson Davis, he would have received the enthusiastic support of the ardent adherents of peace - and we would now have had no country."

Theodore Roosevelt 1916


TR quote #13

"The countrymen of Washington and Lincoln, of Jackson and Grant, ought to hang their heads in shame at seeing their representatives in Washington thinking not about the slaughtered women and children, not about the wrongs done to the helpless people, but only about the best way to escape from the situation without being required to show either courage or patriotism."

Theodore Roosevelt 1916



Analysis and Compilation of quotes by Mark Fennell