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But while the responsibility is his, actual control often rests in the hands of others. Members of Congress always take a keen interest in army matters; many of them have been or are militiamen. They have always opposed a single army which could be recruited, trained, and operated as a unit, and approved the system of State militia which makes for decentralization and gives to the separate States large influence in the formation of military policy. Even the President's control of the Federal army, regulars and volunteers, is limited by the decentralized organization of the different army bureaus, which depend upon Congress for their appropriations and which operate as almost independent and frequently conpeting units. The creation of a single programme for the army as a whole is thus a task of extreme difficulty.
President Wilson, as historian, was well aware of the tremendous price that had been paid in past wars for such decentralization, accompanied as it was, inevitably, by delays, misunderstandings, and mistakes. He was determined to create a single coördinating command, and his war policies were governed from beginning to end by this purpose. He set up no new machinery, but utilized as his main instrument the General Staff, which had been
created in 1903 as a result of the blunders and confusion that had been so painfully manifest in the Spanish War. When the United States entered the World War the General Staff had by no means acquired the importance expected by those who had created it. But to it the President turned, and it was this body enlarged in size and influence that ultimately put into operation Wilson's policy of centralization. It was in accordance with the advice of the men who composed the General Staff that the President elaborated the larger lines of the military programme, and they were the men who supervised the operation of details.
None of the processes which marked the transition of the United States from a peace to a war basis are comprehensible unless we remember that the President was constantly working to overcome the forces of decentralization, and also that the military programme was always on an emergency basis, shifting almost from week to week in accordance with developments in Europe.
* In April, 1917, the General Staff consisted of fifty-one officers, only nineteen of whom were on duty in Washington. Of these, eight were occupied with routine business, leaving but eleven free for the real purpose for which the staff had been created — "the study of military problems, the preparation of plans for national defense, and utilization of the military forces in time of war.”
The original programme did not provide for an expeditionary force in France. During the early days of participation in the war it was generally believed that the chief contributions of the United States to Allied victory would not be directly upon the fighting front. If the United States concentrated its efforts upon financing the Allies, furnishing them with food, shipping, and the munitions which had been promised-so many persons argued - it would be doing far better than if it weakened assistance of that sort by attempting to set up and maintain a large fighting force of its own. The impression was unfortunately prevalent in civilian circles that Germany was on her last legs, and that the outcome of the war would be favorably settled before the United States could put an effective army in the field. Military experts, on the other hand, more thoroughly convinced of German strength, believed that the final campaigns could not come before the summer of 1919, and did not expect to provide a great expeditionary force previous to the spring of that year if indeed it were ever sent. Thus from opposite points of view the amateur and the professional deprecated haste in dispatching an army to France. From the moment the United States entered the war, President Wilson certainly seems to have resolved upon the preparation of an effective fighting force, if we may judge from his insistence upon the selective draft, although he did not expect that it would be used abroad. But it may be asked whether he did not hope for the arrangement of a negotiated peace, which if not "without victory” would at least leave Germany uncrushed. It is probable that he did not yet perceive that "force to the utmost” would be necessary before peace could be secured; that realization was to come only in the dark days of 1918.
A few weeks after America's declaration of war, however, France and Great Britain dispatched missions led by Balfour, Viviani, and Joffre, to request earnestly that at least a small American force be sent overseas at once for the moral effect upon dispirited France. The plea determined the President to send General Pershing immediately with a force of about two thousand, who were followed in June and July, 1917, by sufficient additional forces to make up a division. Wilson had been authorized by Congress, under the Selective Service Act, to send four volunteer divisions abroad under the command of Roosevelt. But he refused to interfere with the plans of the military experts, who strongly objected to any volunteer forces whatever. Neither the valiant ex-President nor the prospective volunteers were trained for the warfare of the moment, and their presence in France would bring no practical good to the Allied cause; moreover the officers whom Roosevelt requested were sorely needed in American training camps.
General Pershing, to whom was now entrusted the military fortunes of the American army abroad, was an officer fifty-seven years old, who had undergone wide military and administrative experience in Cuba and the Philippines; he had been given extraordinary promotion by President Roosevelt, who had jumped him from the rank of captain to that of Brigadier General; and he had been selected to lead the punitive force dispatched in pursuit of Villa in the spring of 1916. Distinguished in appearance, with superb carriage, thin lips, and squarely-chiselled chin, he possessed military gifts of a sound rather than brilliant character. A strict disciplinarian, he failed to win from his troops that affection which the poilus gave to Pétain, while he never displayed the genius that compelled universal admiration for Foch. Neither ultimate success nor the stories of his dramatic remarks (as at the grave of La Fayette: “La Fayette, we are here!")