President Wilson won the 1916 Presidential campaign by promising America that he would keep the country out of the war in Europe. George Washington, in his farewell speech, warned against getting involved in foreign wars and many Americans expected President Wilson to follow this advice. But with the rise of German aggression in the form of attacks on allied ships and an increasing pressure to enter the war, America eventually entitled World War One in April of 1917 and after over 100,000 American casualties, the war was won and a new peace was forged.
However, Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points and the League of Nations were not adopted and some say, left the path wide open for another world war. Wilson’s foreign policy eventually met an untimely death when future generations would need it more than ever in world history. Perhaps World War II, with its 55 million casualties could have been avoided if Wilson’s foreign policy, specifically, The League of Nations had been adopted. The world will never know. Woodrow Wilson’s foreign policy can be seen in his famous “Fourteen Points.
” President Woodrow Wilson articulated what became known as the Fourteen Points before Congress on January 8, 1918. The Points were the only war aims clearly expressed by any belligerent nation and thus became the basis for the Treaty of Versailles following World War. The Fourteen Points included, abolition of secret treaties among countries, freedom of the seas, disarmament, decolonization and a League of Nations. Wilson intended the Fourteen Points as a means toward ending the war and achieving an equitable peace for all the nations.
”Wilson spent six months at Paris for the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. He worked tirelessly to promote his plan. The charter of the proposed League of Nations was incorporated into the conference's Treaty of Versailles. ” (Notter, 1987. p. 46) However, only four of these points were adapted. The problem may have lied in the fact that President Wilson did not confer with any other European leaders but relied solely upon an extended group of his own advisors.
“Opposition to the Fourteen Points among British and French leaders became clear after hostilities ceased: the British were against freedom of the seas; the French demanded war reparations. ” (Notter, 1987. p. 78) Wilson was forced to compromise on many of his ideals to ensure that his most important point, the establishment of the League of Nations, was accepted, although was not a lasting institution as too many allied nations wanted Germany to pay for, in their minds, starting the war in the first place.
As a result, stiff penalties were levied upon Germany which caused extreme inflation and a deep depression that lasted into the 1930’s. The resulting bitterness in Germany laid the seeds for the rise of Fascism in the 1930s and the acceptance of Hitler’s hate speech. The key point of disagreement was whether the League would diminish the power of Congress to declare war. “Historians generally have come to regard Wilson's failure to win U. S. entry into the League as perhaps the biggest mistake of his administration, and even as one of the largest failures of any American presidency. ” (Link, 1982.p. 137)
Nevertheless, Wilson was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1919 for his attempts at peace. Such attempts at peace were praised even more after the end of World War II when it was realized that the existence of a League of Nations might have prevented the war that had just ended. But it would be too little and too late. President Wilson also inspired independence movements around the world, including the March 1st Movement in Korea. However, history shows that, despite his idealism, his foreign policy was largely a failure, though not from lack of trying or a heart for peace.
Adding to the failures of Wilson’s foreign policy was the United States Senate’s refused to ratify the Treaty of Versailles, making it invalid in the United States and effectively killing the League of Nations envisioned by Wilson.
Link, A. (1982). Wilson’s Foreign Policy: 1913-1921. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina. Notter, H. (1987). Origins of Foreign Policy. Baltimore, John Hopkins Press. U. S. Government Printing Office. (1971) Foreign Relations of U. S. : 1914-1920. New York: Kraus Reprint Co.