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Think Peace: The Wilson 14 Points, Essay Example

Pages: 5

Words: 1278

Essay

United States entered the World War I on April 1917 and joined the Allies’ side. At this time, President Woodrow Wilson was leading the nation. The reason why the he entered the war was not only to win but also to win the peace. In his mind, the purpose was not to punish the Germans, gain territory or wealth for U.S.. It was to create an international order that would ensure no great war would occur again (Keynes and Maynard,2010). Wilson hated war. According to him, the war violated religious and moral principle and caused undeserved suffering to innocent people. Again, he was against the war because it disrupted international trade that kept America strong. He believed that nations would be best served if they could settle their differences without war and continued to trade peacefully. However, soon after entering the war, Wilson learned that other allies nations had different views.  Unknown to him, they had secret agreements to take enemy’s territory and make Germany pay huge indemnities after the war. Wilson responded to this by making it clear to the world what U.S. was fighting to achieve. Although US possessed massive pool of resource and manpower, it needed time to put together its forces for the war. For this reason, Britain, Italy, and France continued to bore the brunt of the war in 1917. As US force  were preparing for combat, President Wilson formed a committee  in September 1917 to come up with the nation’s formal aims of the war.

On January 1918, Wilson addressed the Congress in a famous speech referred to as the fourteen points. In the address, he outlined what US stood for in the war. In his address, Wilson summarized the idea that he believed represented America’s goal in the war. The president believed that if those points were implemented the world would be a democratic and a peaceful place.

The first five points represented general principles that were aimed at removing the basic causes of the war. The other eight points dealt with the territorial readjustment in Europe after the World War I. According to Wilson, all changes were to be based on what he referred to as self-determination principle. That is, the affected parties, should make decisions in a democratic way.  To Wilson, the fourteenth point was the most crucial point.

A general association of nation should be formed under specific covenants for the purpose affording mutual guarantee of political independence and territorial integrity to the great and small states alike.’ (Ambrosius, 2005)

Here he advocated for the new world organization -‘a general association of nations’ –whose main purpose would be  to guarantee the independence and the territory of every member state.  He envisioned that each member state would send its representative to the world organization where disputes among nation were to be resolved in a peaceful manner.  According to him, all decision would be arrived at through voting after well-organised debate. War would no longer be necessary as all countries could settle their difference in a rational manner.

The Wilsons fourteen points were received well by the public both in U.S. and abroad.  In fact, the points made him popular among ordinary men and women around the world. He received a heroic in welcome at Versailles, France, when he arrived to begin the negotiation of the peace treaty. However, the allies leaders  were not enthusiastic about the points.  This was because, unlike US, they possessed great empires that they were to protect had lost much to the war and were very bitter with the Germany. The leaders were also skeptical as to whether the points could be implemented in the real world. However, in public, the allies leaders supported the points because of their popularity, and because they casted them in a noble right. Wilson was determined to gain allies support.  For this reason, he tasked the various house with the lobbying on their behalf.  He also used diplomatic channel to lobby the support. Finally, he was able to secure the support of Britain, France and Italy. This led to the beginning of the peace treaty in France at Versailles (the treaty of overalls)

However, When the Paris peace conference began on January 1919 Wilson quickly realized that the actual support from allies was lacking. This was largely because of the need for preparation,  the desire to revenge and the imperial competition. As the talk progressed, President Wilson was increasingly unable to gunner acceptance for his point. This made the talks to progress slowly. The situation was made worse because, Wilson felt that he was absolute right, since his fourteen points were very popular among ordinary people.  He felt as unchallenged spokesperson of people’s right and principles of peace. Wilson felt like people’s leader representing ordinary people everywhere and not as US  leader representing the interest of US (Ambrosius, 2005). Thus, he could not tolerate disagreement or compromises.  Another problem that Wilson faced was the opposition at home. The Republicans who were against the treaty won congressional election of 1918 and gained control of both houses of Congress. This was a problem because according to US constitution, any treaty that the U.S. signed has to receive 2/3 approval by the Senate.

During the negotiation at Versailles, France, Wilson continued to push for his fourteen-Point treaty. He also advocated for a treaty that was fair toward Germany. However, he was pushed to give up a several of his points in order for the allies to agree to create a league of nation.  In the end, although the treaty was still harsh toward Germany, it could have been worse if Wilson was not involved in drafting it. In the end, Germany lost 1/8 of its territory and a big part of its colonial empire. Again, the treaty  deprived it any navy, and limited its army to  only 100,00 men.  In addition, it was made to pay reparation to the allies for the cost incurred during the war.

Despite the treaty being harsh to Germany, Wilson was satisfied with the treaty since it contained the much cherished ‘league covenant’ that laid ground rules for league nation (Coogan, 2004). One important feature of the league covenant is article 10 that allowed the league of nation to impose economic sanctions against misbehaving and aggressive nations. Again, the article allowed the league to request for deployment of troops to aggressive nation, from its member states to impose force nations.

Wilson expected the Americans to support the treaty and U.S Senate to ratify it with ease. However, he was wrong.  When Republican assumed control of the Senate, they launched tremendous campaign against the treaty and were determined to defeat it.  They felt that Wilson did not involve them in its negotiations. Moreover, the Senate was against Article 10 because they felt it took away its constitutional power to declare war. The article handed the power to an international agency- the league of nation.  The Senate voted against the treaty thrice. In the end, the Congress did not ratify the treaty and U.S., did not join the league of nations (Kennan, 2011).

Personally, I think the treaty did not ensure peace and stability in the post world war I. In fact, I believe that the fact that the final terms of the treaty ware severe to Germany planted the seed for World War II twenty years later.

Works Cited

Ambrosius, Lloyd. Woodrow Wilson and the American Diplomatic Tradition: The Treaty Fight in Perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

Coogan, J. W. “Wilsonian Diplomacy in War and Peace,” in Gordon Martel, ed., American Foreign Relations Reconsidered, 1890-1993. New York: Routledge, 2004.

Kennan, G. F. American Diplomacy, 1900-1950. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011.

Keynes, John Maynard. The Economic Consequences of the Peace. New York: Harcourt, Brace, and Howe, 2010.

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