The Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations

President played a dual role in the U. S. involvement in WWI. During his first term, he worked to keep the U. S. out of WWI. Former President Roosevelt took the opposite stance and desired to begin a military build up in anticipation of the possibility of war. Those opposed to U. S. involvement in the European war believed that a U. S. military buildup would further provoke war, but Germany's U-boat actions on the high seas upset even Wilson who strenuously opposed the German actions on the high seas.

Wilson's efforts to avert U. S. involvement in the War continued throughout his entire first term, but ended just one week into his second term when the U. S. war more or less forced into the War by German provocation. After Germany began unrestricted submarine warfare very early in 1917, the U. S. broke relations with Germany on February 3, 1917 and on April 6, 1917 the U. S. formally entered the War. During his second term, virtually all of Wilson's actions as President were focused on the War.

His efforts to avert U. S. involvement in the War during his first term, his leadership during the War and his peace efforts at the end of the War are his most significant contributions as President. His efforts at peace did more than just win him the Nobel Peace Prize. They showed his foresight into the problems that plagued the world at the time and his efforts to deal with those problems head on. It is unfortunate that he failed to even respond to H? Chi Minh's request regarding Vietnam.

Britain, France and the U. S. had different views as to how Germany should pay and be treated for WWI. France wanted to humiliate the German people, permanently cripple Germany's armed forces, gain control over German factories and create a demilitarized zone in the Rhineland as a buffer against future conflicts. Although the British were not as vengeful as the French, Britain also desired revenge from Germany and also wanted to maintain their supremacy on the seas.

Britain took a middle ground between the U. S. which wanted out of European politics and the French who wanted revenge. In the heated debate and the atmosphere for revenge at Versailles, President Wilson's attitude was perhaps a bit naive. Yet, subsequent world events make it apparent that the goals President Wilson desired to achieve went to the very heart of the issues that made the world unstable and continued to lead to conflict in Europe. President Wilson desired "Fourteen Points" as a means to end the War and achieve a lasting peace in Europe.

He was less intent on punishing Germany and rather, wanted to ensure that Germany would be able to maintain favorable trade opportunities. He worked vigorously for his plan, part of which introduced the concept of a League of Nations and he spent six months in Paris at the Paris Peace Conference to promote his plan. He was the first President to Europe while in office. (Miller, 1991)  When he introduced the idea of the League of Nations, Wilson's goal for the organization was to help preserve the territorial integrity and political independence of all nations.

(Stone, 1967)   Wilson compromised on the Fourteen Points in order to create the League of Nations, and organization that the U. S. never joined even though it was President Wilson's idea. Although his efforts failed, Wilson won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1919. Wilson's Fourteen Points included a desire for open peace covenants, freedom of the seas, the removal of trade barriers, the evacuation from all Russian territory, an independent Polish state and an association of nations to guarantee political independence and territorial integrity of all states.

Britain and France did not agree with President Wilson's points. Britain, which had sovereignty of the seas at the time desired to maintain that sovereignty and France demanded war reparations. Ultimately, Hitler referred to the harsh attitudes and demands of Britain and France as justification for WWII. Hitler, a veteran of WWI, felt that Germany had been humiliated by the treaty that ended WWI and he wanted revenge for the harsh treatment of Germany. After WWI, President played an indirect role in the future U. S. involvement in Vietnam. In 1919, H?

Chi Minh requested that a Vietnamese delegation be present at the Versailles Conference to work on Vietnam independence from France, but President Wilson essentially ignored H? Chi Minh's request and Vietnam remained a colony of France. This eventually led to Chinese support for North Vietnam in the Vietnamese War and the U. S. involvement in Vietnam after WWII. This has little to do with regards to President Wilson's significance as a President or as a person, but it did nonetheless combine with the Truman Doctrine in 1947 to pave the road for U. S. involvement in the Vietnamese War.