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  • Isthmus | Definition of Isthmus by Merriam-Webster
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Define isthmus: a narrow strip of land connecting two larger land areas

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The isolationist American public had little concern if the British and Germans tangled on the high seas. The incident that changed everything was the sinking of the . The Germans felt they had done their part to warn Americans about the danger of overseas travel.

intelligence analyst Edward Snowden.


The German government purchased advertisement space in American newspapers warning that Americans who traveled on ships carrying war contraband risked submarine attack. When the departed New York, the Germans believed the massive passenger ship was loaded with munitions in its cargo hold. On May 7, 1915, a German U-boat torpedoed the ship without warning, sending 1,198 passengers, including 128 Americans, to an icy grave. The , as it turned out, was carrying over 4 million rounds of ammunition.

 

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Wilson's Secretary of State, William Jennings Bryan, recommended a ban on American travel on any ships of nations at war. Wilson preferred a tougher line against the German Kaiser. He demanded an immediate end to submarine warfare, prompting Bryan to resign in protest. The Germans began a 2-year practice of pledging to cease submarine attacks, reneging on that pledge, and issuing it again under U.S. protest.


Wilson had other reasons for leaning toward the Allied side. He greatly admired the British government, and democracy in any form was preferable to German authoritarianism. The historical ties with Britain seemed to draw the United States closer to that side.


intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.

Many Americans felt a debt to France for their help in the American Revolution. Several hundred volunteers, appropriately named the , already volunteered to fight with the French in 1916. In November of that year, Wilson campaigned for re-election with a peace platform. "He kept us out of war," read his campaign signs, and Americans narrowly returned him to the White House. But peace was not to be.

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In February 1917, citing the unbalanced U.S. trade with the Allies, Germany announced a policy of unrestricted submarine warfare. All vessels spotted in the war zone would be sunk immediately and without warning. Wilson responded by severing diplomatic relations with the German government.

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Later that month, British intelligence intercepted the notorious . The German foreign minister sent a message courting support from Mexico in the event the United States should enter the war. Zimmermann promised Mexico a return of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona — territories it had lost in 1848.

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Relations between the U.S. and Mexico were already strained. The U.S. had sent troops across the border in search of , who had conducted several cross-border raids of American towns. Failing to find Villa, the troops had been withdrawn only in January 1917. Despite the recent souring between Mexico and its Northern neighbor, the United States, the Mexican government declined the offer. In a calculated move, Wilson released the captured telegram to the American press.

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The British, with the world's largest navy, had effectively shut down German maritime trade. Because there was no hope of catching the British in numbers of ships, the Germans felt that the was their only key to survival. One "" could surreptitiously sink many battleships, only to slip away unseen. This practice would stop only if the British would lift their blockade.