Wilson and the Great War
Published 06 Mar 2017
There were several ideological results of Woodrow Wilson declaring World War I as “a war to end all wars” and a war “making the world safe for democracy”. The first was the fact that the war did neither. Second was the fact that the war did not settle any of the major disputes. It did not disarm Germany or Austria-Hungary, nor did it address the issue of French colonies in question (i.e. Vietnam). Also, the American portion of the treaty did not make peace with Germany and did not authorize the participation in the League of Nations, the precursor to the United Nations. Additionally, the treaty of Versailles ultimately was not a violation of Wilson’s high ideals because Wilson, while an idealist, was also a pragmatist, and got the best deal he could from the countries that were participating in the treaty negotiations.
The war did not settle the issues that caused the war in the first place. Germany was still dissatisfied by her place in the world. Her goal was to get a warm water port and international prestige. Additionally, the treaty did not disarm the country, only limited the size of the army, allowing no aircraft or tanks. They could also have no more than twelve ships and no submarines. The reparations placed on Germany led to an international monetary crisis that led to the crash of the world economy.
French colonies were not addressed, which were a major bone of contention. Ho Chi Minh visited the conference with a solution for a free and independent Vietnam, but he was rebuffed.
The League of Nations was also a major bone of contention. Wilson rallied for the inclusion of the League as an integral part of the peace process. Wilson realized the need for consistent dialogue would help prevent other misunderstandings from happening again. In this respect, the treaty did not compromise Wilson’s high ideals. Wilson, however, was failed by his own Senate. They refused to ratify the agreement as it stood, instead the agreement cut the United States out of the League of Nations and maintained a state of War with Germany that was not resolved until after the second world war. It can also be said that the League failed because the United States was not a viable participant in the world process. By not being an international player, the United States was unable to prevent the rise in hostilities that led to World War II and the tragedy that followed. This was perhaps the failing of Wilson. He was distraught by the fact that he was failed by his own government and that his high moral ideals were put by the wayside for political expediency and the need for post-war isolationism.
Wilson’s ideals were not ultimately compromised by the treaty, as he achieved most of his goals. Where he got betrayed was by the Senate. Their desire to maintain the isolation that had existed prior to the war was what doomed Wilson’s work from the start. The fact that Japan, Italy, the United States, Great Britain and France had dominated the treaty talks from the start played little role in the final outcome. It was going to be what it was going to be, and Wilson’s personality was going to be the moral guidance that was so desperately needed. Without him, the idea of an international union would have been non-existent, and perhaps the war would have continued despite the armistice. It was only through Wilson’s toughness and willingness to work within the confines of the peace process and interject his own moral standards into the process that Wilson did not compromise his own morals.
Carlisle, Rodney. Eyewitness History: World War I. 1st. Infobase Publishing, 2007. Print.