How did the WWI era show that dissent during a war is a problem for a democracy?

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The World War I era shows that dissent in wartime is a problem for democracy because the United States government had a hard time knowing how to handle dissent during that time.

World War I called for a much greater mobilization of society’s resources than had been necessary in the US since at least the Civil War.  This was, then, the first time in decades that everyone in the US had been needed to pull together to make the war effort succeed.  This led to a great deal of concern on the part of the government.

The government was worried that allowing dissent would erode the war effort.  They did not trust that people would support the war if they were left to their own devices.  Therefore, it imposed such laws as the Sedition Acts, making it illegal to criticize the war effort or otherwise impede it.  It interpreted that to include a ban on speaking out against the draft.  This shows the difficult with dissent in wartime.  A democracy needs to protect the rights of its citizens even in wartime.  However, the government in a democracy can feel that it needs to infringe upon those rights to ensure success in the war.

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