Yet, many times the government has found itself mired in a military situation or occupation lasting far beyond the optimistic expectations that were presented on the initial assessments. Situations, which should lend themselves to a diplomatic solution, end up in a military response and the loss of life on all sides. These efforts have usually failed because they do not meet the liberal standard for humanitarian intervention, and the diplomacy has failed to account for the realism of a confrontational world.
Woodrow Wilson pioneered modern thinking in regards to a peaceful world where liberal institutions and nations diplomatically solved their differences as opposed to military action. Yet, his administration became involved in a lengthy occupation at Vera Cruz Mexico, which began as a simple arms seizure. While Wilson was seen as a man of peace, this reach across international borders in April 1914 would cost 300 Mexican lives and lingers today as a sign of Yankee Imperialism and gunboat diplomacy (Fagen 686). In his efforts to extend humanitarian intervention into Mexico, he had failed to calculate and consider the reaction of the Mexicans. He had placed the ethics of installing a legitimate government over the reality of the situation. According to Quirk, "combined with his sincere and heartfelt confidence in man's reasonability, was Wilson's almost perverse conviction that he, himself, was perpetually right. He did not seek advice. Other men's opinions did not really concern him, unless they should happen to coincide with his" (29). This is the danger of liberalistic attitudes in international affairs. They often assume an almost religious fervor.
The incident was precipitated when American citizens conducting business in Mexico were arrested by men under the charge of General Victoriano Huerta, who Wilson perceived as an illegitimate ruler. Wilson sought Congress's approval for action, but his intentions were wider and more sweeping. Wilson had begun the 20th century policy of spreading democracy and fighting for liberal values. This is indicated in his address to Congress that stated, "We seek to maintain the dignity and authority of the United States only because we wish always to keep our great influence unimpaired for the uses of liberty, both in the United States and wherever else it may be employed for the benefit of mankind" (Wilson). This was in fact a humanitarian intervention into a sovereign nation that viewed the US as an intruder in violation of their national rights. Other presidents throughout the 20th century would make this same mistake.
Lyndon Johnson made another diplomatic miscalculation in regards to the Gulf of Tonkin incident, which would serve as the justification for entering the Vietnam War. The incident further illustrates the over zealous attitude that the US takes in regards to spreading the democratic peace. The US wanted to engage the communists in an ideological war in Vietnam, and had detected some hostilities in the Gulf of Tonkin. According to Whitelaw, "On the cloudy night of August 4, two U.S. ships detected another apparent ambush. They fired their guns in response, claiming to have sunk several enemy boats. The