tv World War I Legacy of President Woodrow Wilson CSPAN February 19, 2018 2:35pm-4:41pm EST
>> our city's tour staff recently traveled to virginia to learn about the rich history. learn about lynchburg and other stops on the tour at cspan.org/city tours. you are watching american history tv every weekend on c-span3. next on american history tv. the center for strategic and international studies host a discussion with historians on world war i and the legacy of president woodrow wilson a century after he outlined the 14 points statement of principles in an address to congress. this is about two hours.
welcome to csis, and thank you for braving today's weather. it is great to see all of the interest in world war i. for those who have not been here before, our project is focused on history that also provides insights into contemporary affairs. we are delighted to co-host today's vent with the world war i centennial commission, and the csis center, and thank you dan fundy for your support. when we think about, when historians think about what are the most important events in world history, and world war i
usually comes out at number one, and americans tend to be fixated on the other wars like the civil war and world war ii, but this is the most important, and we are here today to try to provide some additional awareness, and so 100 years ago to this very day, woodrow wilson appeared before a joint session of congress here in washington to deliver his 14 points speech. wilson had been a proare fes sor at princeton and president of the institution, and he drew upon the academic colleagues to draw on the pierce which is ultima ultimately what became the beginning. and so this is not the time the to be doing this at the time of the speech, the u.s. army and marine corps were yett to fight a significant battle in europe.
it is certainly far from clear as to who was going to win. and we were at the same time giving up ideas for peace to countries who had seen a whole generation of people killed. for those who don't remember the 14 point, i will give you a brief overview, and the panelists will go into more detail. a lot of the points concerned restoring and reblishg kcountris thatted been damaged by war. there was talk of giving a right of self-determination of colonial peoples. senator warner, if you would like to grab a seat here. so, point four talked about the need to reduce armaments. point 14 talked about international governing bodies which led to the league of nation, and in the 14 points remaining a matter of great
controversy and you will hear about some of that today. an't for some people, they are naive idealism and even dangerous and to those who are more sympathetic to wilson, they prophesied or laid the groundwork for today's rules based world order. the impact has been profound, and the 14 points greatly influenced the final year of the r war, and also very u much influenced the piece of his world view, and the 14 points are creating what is called willsonianism, and before i introduce him, senator warner, i wanted to recognize a few other people who have helped to make this event possible, and ambassador todd sedgwick, if you could raise your hand. ambassador sedgwick serves on the advisory board of the centennial commission, and came to us with the idea that it is a big event, and dan rundy of the
project for development, and his staff has been great in helping with the details, including checking people in here, and all of the administrative details, and chris metzger in particular, and is terry hanby here yet? the commissioner of the world war i commission is going to be coming here, and probably delayed by the weather as many have. hopefully, he will be getting here when conditions permit. before we bring up the panel of the distinguished historians who are three of the very top historians of world war i, we want to the hear from another member of the world war i centennial commission, the honorable john warner who is also a csis counselor, and former five-term senator from the commonwealth of virginia and secretary of the navy. at the age of 17, he volunteered for active military duty which i did not realize.
serving first as enlisted sailor in the final years of world war ii and lieutenant of marines in the korean war. and he received a presidential appointment as undersecretary of the navy and then became the secretary of navy in the conflict of vietnam. between 1974 and 1976, senator warner was confirmed by the u.s. senate to serve as administrate for for the american revolution bi-scentennial administration, d then elected to the senate and served five consecutive terms of establishing the record of being the second longest serving senator in the history of the commonwealth of virginia. during all of the 30 years in the senate, he served on the armed services committee, and his final years, the committee leaders elected him to a leadership position as a rank republican, and then he was full committee chair. so ladies and gentlemen, please welcome senator john warn er.
[ applause ] >> thank you. thank you very much for that resounding welcome. there is a resounding question of jumping to the most dangerous thing to do is to give a retired senator a microphone with no restriction restrictions of who is going to take it back. quite anxious as discuss a subject that is really becoming quite interesting all across the country. i must confess that my father,
army captain of the united states army 5th division in the world war i in the trenches. he was a medical doctor and right out there on the front lines doing the triage for the wounded. he had the difficult task of saying that we can't save that one. i remember that he had the tin army hat with the red diamond of the 5th division on it in our library, and it was -- he had admonished us, my brother and myself, i only wear that hat. that of course, was a challenge to my brother and i to steal it at any time we could and wear it. but, so i grew up with a wonderful man who had served and
seen that war and now in the opportunity of my final years of life to share with you and many others an interesting afternoon like this with five individuals who have given their careers over for a minute to put together a monologue and to share with you their own information on a vital subject. i thought that how best to prepare my very few remarks, and i went back and read about three bookses, and one of them was john eisenhower's book, and that bring brings me to just a little bit of the personal message that i'd like to give you, and that is that eisenhower clear are ally puts in here, and this is president ike eisenhower's son, and i was privileged to know him. he laid out the very carefully, and very objectively the case that the failures after the
fighting to come together internationally and at that moment in history after the enormity of the carnage and the suffering all over europe to put together something that would help foreclose -- thank you so much -- foreclose any future similar strifes like this. he said unfortunately, it was not done and i will come back to address one or two aspects of that, and then as a consequence, a mere 23 years since the armistice, we were right back into the world war ii. now, some of the reasons for that were the very serious and of president wilson, and i must
say that i am a politician. i have studied politics, and been active in it all of my life. it was fascinating to go back for my first trip to read a lot of the things that wilson had tried to do. and of course, the subject today is the 14 points, but surrounding the 14 points and with the league of nations that we were going to enter a tree the ti, and we had this opportunity, and we had shown the world that this little somewhat inconsequential collection of states had s suddenly come into being one of the major powers of the world. it is absolute clear case that the our contributions and sack ri feess led to the final victory, and the defeat of
the -- sacrifices led to the final victory and the defeat of our german allies. it is important. but what greeted them as wilson started around, they called pit league fight. i guess that was a way to demean it. president wilson toured the country to giving speeches pleading for members in the league of nation, the quality of thought or these debates is usually far more elevated than any other political debates since the civil war for american foreign policy, and this conflict elicited breadth and depth of discussion that had not ar risen before, and it remained on that since. so we got off to the good start. and there was a lot of enthusiasm. but then, it sort of began to steadily go downhill. he, president wilson was an early convert in the consoecht
collective security, and around it, shaped many of the policies before and after the world war i experience. he represented u.s. at the peace conference where he succeed ed n making the idea of a reality getting the league incorporated, and at the treaty of versailles, and the treaty was much more than the league of nation, and the article can concerned a whole lot of thing, but congress rejected it, and no matter how hard he traveled and really extraordinary in my readings that he just, he was determined to get this done. but in along the way, i mean, he encountered reluctance within his own party, the democrats, the republicans were growing in strength, and i even found this in another book. nearly every leading republican
cordi cordially, and this is an interesting use of words, but nearly every leading republican cordially despised president wilson while most of them regarded him with anger and contempt and nor did good fellowship extend within the parties themselves. wilson challenged the americans to build a new world order by joining a league of nations by staying at versailles shall we or any other free people hesitate to accept this great duty. and dare we reject it, and break the heart of the world. well, congress did reject it. but if you will go back in and as i have done, and as i am sure that our panelists are going to do it, and i want to carefully not tread in their domain, there time and time again references
to if wilson had only shown the slightest willingness to compromise, he could have seized it and fashioned a compromise agreement. but he but he refused -- this is perplexing to me -- anyone from capitol hill being among the american negotiators in paris. well, that was a direct affront to the congress of the united states. i mean, they should have been -- had seats there and, but, they didn't, and then he avoided counsel with noncongressional leaders of either party. in other words, he didn't even want to meet the senior politicians of both parties to get their viewpoints. bitterly fought midterm elections in november 1918 had the united states divided by government by awarding majorities in the houses of congress to wilson's republicans
opponents and that the tide shifted with that. that circumstance for the cooperation of peacemaking and league membership and it went downhill from there. but then we have to reflect on the sadness that he experienced in his own physical situation. he suffered a very major heart attack on his trip as a consequence of that, he had to abandon his trip across the united states urging the people to in turn come back and tell your congressional leaders, particularly the senate of the need to have this league of nations and the treaty of paris and to ratify the treaty. but all of it ended up in failure and i'm sure our speakers are going to address it in some detail.
so i want to conclude, though, talking a little bit about what we're doing as an organization. we're holding forums, much like this one wherever we can all across the country. we're very active. we've got a remarkable group of volunteer trustees, commissioners. they're very diligent. very attentive. this one right here in the front row, the good ambassador, is one of their leaders, the chairman as we call him, marvelous good rough and tumble tennesseean right out of the heart of the country. we've all developed a great fondness and love for him and he's just a grand fellow. sorry weather precluded his being here today. we're coming along and we're making some good progress and it
is my hope that this will continue to build in its importance but we're up against one problem that nobody's to blame, nobody really had the foresight to see it, but the pershing park was put together many years ago and selected by the powers to be to locate his statue there and along came another succession period of legislation by congress saying that there be no more memorials on the mall. well, then we were confronted now with no alternative to pershing park. we were stopped by law. but in our work as trustees and volunteers on getting pershing park ready to receive a national
memorial, we're clearly seeing the strong disadvantages and eisenhower points it out in his book and it's as follows. every single major military memorial that this country takes pride in is on the mall. every one. you start with the washington monument, our war of independence. you go to the civil war regrettably at the other end represented by magnificent structure to abraham lincoln, a very powerful president to this day idolized by people. they're the two boundaries and in between, you have the world war -- i mean, we start in succession. the first was the korean war memorial was built, then the vietnam veterans memorial was
built and lastly the world war ii memorial was built and that's why we feel ever so strongly that our national monument to world war i should likewise be on the mall and equated in significance to the other great memorials. and there are a group of us, the ambassador and i and the chairman and the members of the commission are trying to get a modest little passage through congress of a needed amendment to give the option to do it and so we haven't given up. we're in this still fighting. but this session today is another building block to drawing america's attention to the importance of this. the casualties in world war i were extraordinarily high. terry handby uses the statement
that the combined death and wounded in world war i exceeded any of the major battles that we experienced in world war ii. so i think we all have a moral obligation to see that this anniversary of 100 to the armistice coming up november the 11th of this year is done with the dignity befitting all of the sacrifices made by that generation 100 years ago and my father among them i'm proud to say. so i thank each of you for finding the opportunity to come today. i particularly thank our panel and the csis has been a second home for me for years. i was just a youngster crawling through the halls of congress when admiral burke and dave
apshar began to put together the concept of this marvelous organization. it represents the premier crew among the growing importance of think tanks in the nation's capitol. i'm going to say this bluntly. i'm free to say whatever i want to say now and i've watched in the 30 years i was in senate the concept of think tanks and you could almost name on ten fingers the number in town in those days grow to where they're in the hundreds today but they perform a very vital function. they can have forums like this. they have no restrictions whatsoever on what should be said. they're devoid of politics, most
of them. sure, plenty of politicians like myself love to come here. i've spoken here many times through the years but it's not looked upon as a political organization. it's largely supported by contributions from within the private sector almost entirely, occasionally a government grant or two, but they've done a magnificent job of really filling somewhat of a gap that is existed here between what congress is able to do and the executive branch are able to do by working together. there's a void in there and these think tanks like csis can move right in and do a lot of the analytical work and hold the hearings and forums that somehow congress finds awkward in doing. so my hats off to csis. i thank each of you and now let us proceed to get to the heart of the matter and we've said what we have to say. i listened to my introduction. i always think of teddy
roosevelt. he was about to march up san juan hill and i used to love to ride horses. he pulled his horses up for a rest and he turned to his aide-de-camp and he said, aide, whichever one gets to the top of the hill first can become president of the united states with this rather young sergeant. he said that's very interesting, i have to tell you, honestly mr. president, all i ever want in life is to return home safely and become sheriff. well, i'm now the sheriff of my own county. [ applause ] >> thank you very much.
to be able to bring you a quality presentation. the first person speaking will be jennifer keene. she is the professor and chair of the history department at chatman university. she's also the current president of the society of military history. she's published three books on the american involvement in the first world war. the first is "dough boys: the great war and the remaking of america." second, "world war i: the american soldier experience," and three, "the united states in the first world war." among the many awards she has received for her scholarships, fullbright to france and australia, fellowship in international studies. she's currently working on several projects related to the world war i centennial including a book on african-american soldiers and a new synthesis of the american experience during
the war under contract with oxford university press and she's also a member of the historical advisory board and we heard about from the senator. next will be michael neiberg who is seated next to me. he's the department of national security and strategy at the united states army war college. he, too, is the author of many highly regarded books on the first world war and also on the second world war. his 2011 book, "dance of the furies: europe and the outbreak of world war i" was named one of the five best books on world war i by the "wall street journal." in october of 2016, oxford university press published his "path to war: a history of american responses to the great war." and our third speaker will be erez manela. he teaches international history and the history of the united states in the world. he also serves as director of graduate programs at harvard's
weather head center for international affairs and co-chairs harvard's international and global history seminar. his most recent book is "empires at war: 1911 to 1923" co-edited with robert gerwarth. the book most relevant to today's discussion is "the wilsonian moment." erez held fellowships for the national endowment of the humanities, american academy of arts and sciences and american council of learned societies among other and burkhart fellow at the radcliffe institute for advanced study. so dr. keene, if you could start us off. >> great. good afternoon, everybody. thanks for coming out. i left sunny california for what i expected to be a cataclysmic icestorm. i'm really disappointed that it's just a few drops of rain.
maybe it'll get worse later on. thank you very much, csis, for organizing this event. it's really a great opportunity to talk about the importance of the first world war. so i wanted to start out today by in a sense stating the obvious, which is that it's very easy to mock woodrow wilson. and i think the person who did it the best was french premier george clemenso who offered this disparaging line. "god gave us ten commandments and we broke them. wilson gave us his 14 points, well, we shall see." i don't think he really said it, but it's a very good quote, so i'm going to repeat it, anyway. but clemenso did say this, "talking to woodrow wilson is like talking to jesus christ." now many other criticisms have come wilson's way. he's been called a hypocrite for immediately abandoning his promise.
in the first of the 14 points calling for open convence of peace openly arrived at by agreeing to secret closed door negotiations at the versailles peace conference. he's been accused of harboring a messiah complex after he was greeted in paris with newspaper headlines labeling him, quote, the your of humanity. and more recently historians and activists have rightly focused on wilson's racism as an essential rather than irrelevant part of his presidency. however, by far the most condemning insult flung his way is not to call him a racist but to call him an idealist. the 14 points which is our subject today, wilson's blueprint for the post-war world offers much evidence for putting wilson in this idealistic camp. dreaming an impossible dream. in this document, wilson called for freedom of the seas, free
trade disarmament of, quote, free open minded and absolutely impartial adjustment of all colonial claims that took into consideration, quote, the interest of the populations. but most condemning of all was point 14 and i'm going to read it. "a general association of nations must be formed under specific covenants for the purpose of affording usual guarantees of political independence and territorial integri integrity to great and small states alike." now wilson wasn't the first to advocate for an international organization for collective security and nowhere in the 14 points does self-determination actually appear. nonetheless, these would be the two concepts perhaps the most idealistic that would here after ever be associated with wilson. the portrayal of wilson the idealist is captured perfectly by the south african foreign minister who asked wilson for
ken he arrived at the peace conference this moral idealism and this vision of a better world which has born us up to the dark night under war. let us not underrate the opportunity. the age of miracles is never past. after all of that no wonder american editorial cartoons pictured wilson blowing soap bubbles into the sky. now wilson clearly had an international audience in mind with the 14 points and he was trying to introduce an element of hope in a difficult time, but i would argue that all these portrayals of wilson have obscured his pragmatic side. only paying attention to the desire to make the world obscure how much he was, in fact, responding to domestic concerns and desires. so i'm going to make an argument here that, in fact, we should read the 14 points as an exercise if pragmatism, not idealism. the 14 points was given at a moment when the war was not going well.
the second phase of the russian revolution had begun with the bulshavicks taking control. had he exposed secret allied treaties that denied conquered territories among themselves. lennon challenged the allies to demonstrate that they weren't fighting for territorial expansion just like germany and this presented an ideological reason for wilson to defend the allied cause which he did in the 14 points. in this he encouraged the russian people to demand democracy, not just a new autocracy. this fit with his ideological aspirations. but convincing the russians to stay in the war or at least remain friendly to the allies and not enter into an alliance with germany had the more pragmatic goal of trying to save american lives. in january 1918 as mark alluded to, the u.s. had only been at war for seven months. the first american troops had
just landed in france and the training of millions of new recruits was plagued by difficulties. the allies expected and feared a german spring offensive from a germany army now freed from having to defend the eastern front. getting russia on our side was only one of wilson's goals. in addition, the war had expanded for the united states since april. after the italian defeat in november 1917, the u.s. had declared war on austria, hungary, to prevent italy from leaving the war. in the 14 points he opens the door to a separate peace with austria hungary calling not for the dissolution of the austrian/hungary empire but for its development and this overture can be seen as an attempt to avoiding the military mission even further. finally concerns with german military permeate the text.
but wilson reaches out to berlin as well with offers for a future partnership if they make political reforms and territorial concessions. in some respects it was successful. after all, germany began seeking peace based on the 14 points. setting the same on november 9th and arm streistice agreement th incorporated most but not all of the 14 points. in a way the 14 points offered germany a fair face-saving way out of the war. there were other pragmatic domestic concerns that per permeated the 14 points. europe went to war at a time when war was considered a completely acceptable way to advance a nation's policy aims. by 1918, however, attitudes had changed and for many people modern war seemed too deadly and
catastrophic to risk again. wilson's 14 points defined what he saw as the major reasons for the war and its underlying causes, the arms race, imperialism, defense of alliances, impeded trade and the flawed decisionmaking among european leaders in the fateful summer of 1914 that saw war as necessary for self-preservation. the first task was winning the war and fashioning not just a peace but trying to find a way to avoid future wars. the international progressives and pacifists who were an important part of wilson's democratic base certainly thought that was worth the try. the speech was widely distributed at home and abroad and its very formulation borrowed from a new form of selling the war, the propaganda poster. that relied on short pithy slogans to encapsulate war goals and aspirations. in a sense, you can see the 14
points as a public relation man's dream. very unlike the very long and ponderous war address that wilson had given in april. and progressive thinking was also an integral part of the 14 points, not just in its final formulation but in the process of its creation. the final document was based on a draft provided by the inquiry, a group of experts assembled to advise wilson on the numbing array of regional issues a peace settlement would have to address. in this reliance on expertise and the use of data to solve societal problems was a hallmark of domestic progressivism. it wasn't a sense and approach that was ideologically inspired but pragmatic in application. this approach to policymaking also left a lasting legacy. senator warner talked about think tanks. well, this was the first think tank and it was a precursor to today's council on foreign relations and the many other think tanks that have symposium like this to have factual
scientifically-based policymaking. now perhaps most remarkably, wilson's vision in the 14 points to remake the world perfectly suited american self-interest. the provision for absolute freedom of the seas had been one of the main reasons that the united states had entered the war. with wilson arguing that german submarine warfare threatened national security. the freedom of the seas also challenged british naval supremacy. it demonstrated that reducing british naval strength was also a primary goal of u.s. national security policy. now the fourth point of the 14 points, i'm not quizzing you on them, but i'm just telling you which ones they are, called for disarmament is often considered one of the most idealistic. in part that's because nobody actually remembers wilson's words which were not a call for complete disarmament but rather,
quote, that national armament be reduced to the lowest point consistent with domestic safety. i ask you, wasn't that exactly what american defense policy had been before the war? the prewar preparedness movement had been controversial and mostly unsuccessful in 1914-1916. if the nation couldn't be convinced to support a large military while world war waged how likely was it that there would be support for a large military after the war? well, as it turns out, not very likely. the u.s. reverted once again to maintaining a relatively small defense establishment. and, again, i ask you, was it idealistic or pragmatic to convince the rest of the world to adopt a similar attitude toward their military establishments given that there was no political will in the u.s. to support a large military? finally, the points that emphasize territorial
readjustments were framed to satisfy the desires of many h americans. the atrocities committed by belgium -- germany. germany in belgium. the so-called rape of belgium had been well publicized in the u.s. and was a fixture of u.s. wartime propaganda. demanding restitution in point seven sat perfectly with the expectation that the u.s. was fighting the war to save belgium and france as well including the restoration of point number eight. finally, the recent waves of immigrants from southern and eastern europe to the u.s. created strong interests within these communities over proposals concerning poland, russia, italy, and serbia. other points in the 14 points. and the importance of cultivating support from immigrants for the war effort is often overlooked but it's worth recalling that one out of every five soldiers in the u.s. army was foreign born in the first world war. okay. so why should we care about any of this today? what does it all mean?
and so i've got 14, but 4 points, that i think we might contemplate. the first is reconsidering the pragmaticism in the 14 points suggest the need to stop seeing idealism and progress matism pragmatism as -- was it realistic to believe that the first world war could solve more problems than it created? was it realistic to believe that a punitive peace would prevent another war? was it realistic to think that the u.s. would accept millions of casualties silent and stowically? secondly, the 14 points asserts there's little difference between serving america's national interests and the world's interests. it's not a question of america first or america second. by making the world more secure, american gains national security in its defense, its trade, its political institutions and its way of life. as wilson states in the 14
points, quote, all the peoples of the world are in effect partners in this interest and for our own part we see very clearly that unless justice be done to others it will not be done to us. the program of the world's peace therefore is our program. third, it is difficult for the u.s. to be the voice of moral authority in the world without keeping our own house in order. this speaks more to the weaknesses of wilson's vision than it strengths. during world war i the federal government enforced the most a draconian legislation in the country launching a full-scale assaults on civil liberties. wilson was tone deaf in responding to the dramatic increase in racial violence during and immediately after the war. and finally, morale matters. in fighting a difficult war -- it is difficult to fight a war with a dispirited, divided
population. the 14 points was a terrific speech because it was vague enough to be -- to appeal to the broadest numbers of people. and i would conclude by suggesting, just like 100 years ago, there is value in inspiring words from the nation's leaders that emphasize the values and aspirations that can unify rather than divide us. thank you very much. [ applause ] >> thank you, jennifer. i introduced the speakers in incorrect order. erez manela is going to go next. we have his powerpoint slides up, so erez. >> thank you, mark. i think the order doesn't matter except that the slides are set up in a certain way. thank you, everyone, for being here. thank you mark for having me. it's a real pleasure to be here and it's especially exciting for me at least as a historian that
we're doing this event precisely on the day that 100 years ago woodrow wilson gave the 14 points address not far from here. it's something ironic about anniversaries. and centennials, right? by definition, they tell us we're further away from the event than we've ever been before, yet they make us feel closer to the event. so i enjoy that feeling and that irony. i want to begin by recalling the specific historical context which led to that speech 100 years ago and the most important part of that is, as jennifer mentioned, the bolsheviks revolution. i think there's something more important here in which -- which is that wilson saw lennon and his revolution as a symptom of a broader melees affecting
human affairs at that moment and went beyond russia, even beyond europe into the body politic of america, itself. i further want to argue to you -- grew out of the challenge of the analysis facing the united states domestically in his time. now what do i mean by that? wilson came of political age in what we now know as the gilded age. an age of profound historical transformation in u.s. history. if you wanted to sum it up, we would include a age of rapid globalization, large-scale immigration bringing new diversity and new tension into u.s. society, sweeping technological and economic changes, recurring financial panics in social dislocation, and finally, steep rise in
inequality with strains on the social fabric. in short, his time was one not unlike our own. now wilson looking at all that serving that landscape worried about the decline of democracy in america in the face of the growth of unaccountable power held in the hands of the few and he was thinking in particular of the great financial and industrial barrens of the era. let's see if this works. he was worried about two dangers to stability at home. one is the decline of democracy in the face of unaccountable power which i depicted on the right in jpmorgan and he was worried equally about the reaction to this wealth and power namely social unrest and
indeed revolution and this i depict on the left with a picture of less famous leone chalgrus who was the assassin of president mckinley. exactly. so what was wilson's answer to this as a political leader? as a president? what he wanted to do as a progressive in the sense of the early 20th century was to push for a more government role to economic stability and to advance protections for labor and break up monopoly capital. in other words, what he was looking for say third way between plutocracy and anarchy. a path of reform that would check unaccountable power and in that way stave off upheaval and revolution. that's the domestic scheme and
wilson was a domestic thinker. he was a scholar of u.s. history, u.s. constitutional history and constitutional structure. he gave very little thought to international affairs or natural relations until after he became president. and so he used the scheme that he had developed in his mind for thinking about u.s. domestic affairs to think about world affairs as well. look again at the international arena during the great war, he spied a similar dialectic at work. put wilson here positioning himself in the center and he spied in international arena was similar in structure to this. you had unaccountable power on the right, which for him was symbolized by the german kaiser but we could put the russian czar there before his abdication. on the other side you had -- for him the inevitable reaction to unaccountable power which is
revolution, that is to say lennon. and for wilson, his task, america's task in the war, in the world, was precisely to find that middle way, that third way, that path to reforming international order in such a way that would make it more accountable and, therefore, more stable and less revolutionary. now, when lennon first came to power in november of 1917, wilson knew very little about him, about his movement. we have to remember how marginal this group was before they came to power. but he knew enough to know that he didn't like their program, that their program was about anarchy, not about order. after all, what wilson wanted is
change in order to improve the liberal capitalist order. what lennon wanted was to tear down that order. they both shared the sense that world politics had to be transformed but the transformation each of them wanted was very different. wilson sought to charge, as i said, a third way between action and revolution. for lennon, lennon says this very -- lennon sees this analysis very clearly. he says it clearly. for lennon the choice was stark. you could either have reaction which he defines as capitalism and imperialism. of course, the two were, in his mind, intimately connected. or you could have revolution. for lennon, there was no third way. so this is the context, this is i think how we need to understand the broader scheme that's behind the 14 points. yes, one of the things he sought
to do was keep the bolshoviks in the war to highlight the goals he shared with them. more importantly, he sought to blunt the appeal of the revolution by co-opting some of their program. most notably, at least from my few minutes here on the stage, he soon adopted the principle of self-determination as his own with widespread, if not holy intended, consequences. so one way for us, i would argue, to think about the 14 points is as the first instance of what historian john lewis gaddeus, the cold war historian, called an american strategy of containment of communism. now gaddeus, of course, was thinking and writing about post world war ii strategy of containment of the soviet union. containment was bigger than that. containment also sought to contain communism and ideology at least as much if not more than it aimed to contain soviet
state power. and we have to remember that the 14 points were coupled with u.s. support for allied military intervention in russia that tried to roll back the revolution. but if the 14 points were, as i argue, the first salvo in the strategy of containment, it was not a passive containment that sought to restore the world before the revolution. it was a strategy that was founded on wilson's view that long-term historical trends, what we call today modernization and globalization, required -- it's not that he thought that this would be a good idea or would lead to some kind of ideal world, but that the situation, the crisis, the global crisis, required a major transformation of international order and that the devastating shock of the war, itself, about which senator warner reminded us so eloquently just a few moments ago,
devastating shock of the war, itself, made that transformation both more urgent and also more possible, more likely, by shaking the foundations of the old order. the 14 points were the first outline. not the complete articulation. they were the first outline of wilson's visit for that new order, what we call the liberal internationalist order. they called free trade, freedom of the seas, open diplomacy. they also included, a very novel idea at the time, a permanent international organization, a league of nations that would facilitate in a national collaboration for peace and stability. but the one element of the 14 points that i want to focus on for the remainder of my time is the principle of self-determination and how that fits into the broader scheme. now contrary to still common perception, the phrase, itself, self-determination, was nowhere to be found in the january 1918 speech. still, it's understandable that
it's been remembered as part of that speech because in some sense its spirit did permeate the address. for example, several points in the address called for quote/unquote, the autonomous development. autonomous development for the people of the ottoman and hatsburg empires. now wilson was no expert on the history, demography, and politics of these regions but even he knew demands for self-determination were part of what helped ignite the war. he did begin, after all, with the assassination of an austrian arch duke in the name of the self-determination of the south people. so in his mind, he wasn't introducing a new principle into international discourse. he was simply adopting one that was already out there, as he called it a necessary principle of action.
the point that i find most interesting of all -- let's see if this is going to work. i mentioned these. this is the point i find most interesting of all. point five, this is not the precise text of the entire point, just a summary. basically in point five, wilson called for the adjustment of all colonial claims given, quote, the interest of the populations concerned, that is to say, the cloolonial populations, equal weight with those of colonial governments. this isn't -- this isn't the full-throated endorsement of anti-imperialism, but for its time for an american president, it was quite a departure from american policy. now why do i find this so interesting? well, part -- first of all, it's we know from the paper trail of the 14 points address that we find in the archive that it was the one point of all of the 14, it was the one point that wilson drafted entirely on his own.
all the other points were based on various drafts that he had gotten from his advisers, from his experts, in one way or another. this one originated entirely with him, which i think is fascinating. it was not drawn from the recommendations handed to him by his adviser and it's especially interesting because it injects what we might call the colonial question into the discussion of the post-war order. this was a question that he didn't need to inject. most of his close advisers and certainly his closest allies abroad, the british and french, were uninterested in talking about the colonial question at the paris peace conference. would have preferred he leave it out entirely. yet, he didn't. after all, it's point five that eventually leads to what we -- later becomes the league of nations mandate system. a system that challenged, at least on principle, the
sovereignty, the complete sovereignty of colonial powers. it made them, in theory, caretaker governments accountable -- this is a keyword here -- accountable to a higher international authority. this goes back to what i said before about his sense of the need to increase accountability in international affairs. and what this tells me, the fact that he added this point into his 14 points address, maybe he didn't want -- maybe he thought 13 points would be unlucky. i think it's got to be more than that. it's got to be more than that. so why did he introduce the colonial question into his peace plan even when there was no obvious pressure to do so? again, it went to his view that governments accountable to their populations were the key to peace and stability, both at home and abroad, and to me, it suggests that despite some later
interpretations, he believed, at least in principle, that this principle of self-determination ought to apply not just in europe, but worldwide. although he also believed that its implementation, especially outside of europe, would be slow, would be gradual, would take time, and that's where he parted ways with many colonial activists who heard his rhetoric and acted on it. so, by the war's end, as jennifer reminded us, the president becomes a world-famous symbol of the coming of a new world order onto which various groups both within europe and outside of europe projected their fondest hopes and dreams and it's interesting even to this day, in prague you have various monuments and streets and avenues named after wilson. at the same time, zigman freud is a great example, despised
wilson for having ruined their hungarian empire and beloved vienna. he becomes a symbol. his words helped inspire and mobilize anti-colonial movements in regions from north africa stretching from north africa to east asia including in egypt, in india, in china, in korea. all of which exploded in protest, popular protest, in the spring of 1919 and if you're interested on more of that part of the story, my book is basically a full-length treatment and i'm happy to talk about this in q&a as much as you like. now, wilson's failure to make good on his perceived promise of self-determination led some anti-colonial activists, i also talk about that in the book, these activists include the young ho chi minh. all of whom are just beginning their political careers, indeed, arguably some of them, certainly
as true for ho chi minh, their political careers are significantly launched at that moment. they all see wilson as a disappointment and they all, to one extent or another, look to bolshevism after that for inspiration and support to liberate their respective countries. so what i put before you is that despite his failures, and they were legion, wilson made self-determination a central principle of international legitimacy where it persisted and still persists today. it was then notably revived by franklin roosevelt during world war ii where he compelled a reluctant churchill to include it in the atlantic charter. roosevelt also took it further than wilson had. for wilson, self-determination outside europe was not beyond the pale but was a low priority.
for roosevelt it was an urgent issue and if we look at the anti-imperialist zeitgeist in wartime, in wartime, you ask, in wartime, i'm referring to the second world war, apparent, for example, in something like wendell wilke's 1942 bestseller "one world" we might think self-determine would be central to u.s. post-war foreign policy but here's the thing. to wilson support for self-determination in opposition to communist dictatorship had seemed entirely consistent. remember that scheme. they were two central elements in an international order based on accountable governments and he saw the bolshoviks of something opposite. accountable governments cooperating through governments. animated by liberal traditions.
what he missed, we now know, is the tension at the center of u.s. advocacy of self-determination and that's attention. what if a nation having gained it self-determination determines to take a path that is aananimc against u.s. interests and values, how do you choose when the principle of self-determination clashes with other principles or interests you hold dear? already in the late '40s we see washington choosing containment over self-determination and throughout the cold war u.s. both supported self-determination of emerging nations on the one hand and undermined it in the name of containment on the other. the soviets could be similar hypocritical. yet the soviet union, of course, invaded hungary in '56 then
czechoslovakia in '68 in contravention of that principle. so where does that leave us today? first, as i said, the 14 points were the origin point of the u.s. strategy of containment toward russian communism, but it was more than that. as already mentioned, it was a founding document in the construction of the u.s.-led liberal international order. an order that as solidified after 1945 has undergirded international relations for the better part of a century. specifically on self-determination, it's an order based -- this international order is based on the proliferation of self-determining states. we had 20-something states in the world around the time of world war i, around the time of the peace conference. we now have close to 100. that's self-determination at work. this led on one hand to more accountable governments and on
the other hand to weak state and inflexible territorial configurati configurations, among other problems. so thinking about the 14 points highlights the difficulties of constructing and preserving such an order, in particular it highlights the contradictions imbedded in such a project. thinking of the 14 points is a founding document of the liberal order also reminds us that it is an order that is now facing unprecedented challenges, not least from the very place not far from here in which it was drafted. now the current circumstances, and historians always have to say this, are very different from those of a century ago. still, just as wilson understood the international upheavals of his time as part of a broader historical -- set of historical processes that encompass both domestic and international arenas. they saw the same large-scale processes at work both at home and abroad, we, too, must think
of our own challenges in a way that puts developments both at home and abroad within a single analytical frame. now what do we see if we do that? we see a recent past in our time of accelerating the globalization, of large-scale immigration, of economic and teaklogic technological change tied to crises and a steep rise of inequity. challenging longstanding social contracts and political institutions in the u.s. and abroad. many of these institutions that are being challenged at least in the united states go back to wilson's own time. now, like wilson 100 years ago, america today is faced with the challenges of finding a path of reform. the third wave between plutocracy and upheaval. and one more thing. the odd coupling of wilson and lennon a century ago cannot but remind us of possibly an equally odd relationship between the
u.s. president and the russian leader today. now, putin's authoritarian nationalism may not have the universal ambitions of lennon's communist internationalism, but the two share a disdain for democracy and a desire to exploit its weakness and to destabilize and, perhaps, destroy it. in his own time, wilson understood that to face the challenges of globalization, he must push for a more responsive, accountable politics both at home and abroad. it is this insight i put before you that lay at the core of the 14 points however flawed wilson's efforts to implement it were, and i think it remains a fundamental insight today. thank you. [ applause ] >> there we go. well, i want to thank csis,
thank mark and thank senator warner for all of your hospitality in bringing us all here together. at the u.s. army war college where i teach, we tend to teach war and peace as two sides of the same coin, but it seems to me that this is too simple and not quite right. war is a reaction to crisis. something like a 9/11, something like a pearl harbor. something like germany resuming unrestricted submarine warfare in the spring of 1917. where peace is about grand strategy. what do you want the world to look like? what resources do you have to make it look that way? what barriers, what limitations do you have to face? that's one way to think about the 14 points as a vision of what the world should look like and a vision of what the united states ought to do to make it look that way. now what i want to show you here is grant's strategy is really, really difficult to do. so i'm going to focus on those shortcomings and limitation ends of what the 14 points means. and i want to do it by introducing you to somebody else
whose initials were w.w. william lynn westerman, a professor of history in the summer of 1917. he's a man from bellview, illinois. educated in the united states and educated in germany. in the summer of 1917 he was history professor at the university of wisconsin. he was a world specialist on egyptian scrolls. hard to get more esoteric than that. hard to get a little more mild mannered than that. here he is as part of this group which has come up before. the inquiry. this group that's formed in september 1917. i found the initial document. senator, i don't know if this has ever been done before in u.s. government history, but they're given the authority to spend whatever money they want. the bills are to be sent to the white house. and they put together this core group which goes with wilson to paris in 1919 but they're actually formed in september 1917, and as jennifer mentioned, many of the individuals in this image here go on to form the council on foreign relations. we really can think of them as
the world's first, or america's first, real think tank. now what's interesting to me about this is william westerman is put on this committee because by studying egyptian papira scrolls, he's somehow one of america's experts on the middle east. on december 11th, 1919, william westerman finds himself in paris discussing with the british and the french whether or not the city of constantinople should be given to turkey or to greece. and to me there's a really interesting symbolism in that. in the two years, this man like the united states, goes from having no interest whatsoever in what happens to turkey or greece or constantinople to actually having a voice in that final decision. now, as jennifer mentioned, the united states was not really bound by any agreements that it hadn't signed. the united states did not declare war against the ottoman empire, yet here the americans find themselves. i want to talk about that process in trying to work their way through in a think tank environment what this means. now westerman who went on to become a professor at columbia
university in new york where his papers are today, was joined by some other really talented academics, some of them talented but not really nice people. the man sitting in the middle on the couch is isaiah bowman, who later went on to become president at johns hopkins and later was part of another think tank effort to advise harry truman on what to do as the british were getting out of palestine. so these are interesting people whose views mattered an awful lot. but he remarked in his diary, no one knows just what is in the president's mind beyond vague phrases and beautiful ideas. now as erez and jennifer have mentioned, here's one of his vague phrases and beautiful ideas. the peoples of austria, hungary, whose place among the nations we wish to see safeguarded and assured, should be be accorded the freest opportunity to autonomous development. the professor in me immediately looks to the passive voice in
that construction. should be accorded without identifying who should accord it. let's forget that for a minute. unless one of my students is watching, then remember it absolutely for this moment. let's forget also the vagueness of the idea. as jennifer said, the united states declared war on austria, hungary, very, very late in the game and the united states was not bound by any international agreement regarding austria, hungary. the united states had no plans to get involved in the area. certainly no plans to send troops to the area. yet here was the inquiry charged with giving wilson some advice and another of the vague phrases that wilson gave to the inquiry was this guidance, "tell me what is right and i will fight for it." why? what is causing the united states to end up in this position? i'm going to mention just three that jennifer and erez have already mentioned. so i'm repeating a little bit of what they said. first the united states is in this, meaning we're in this because of the collapse of most other systems of authority. the austria, hungarian, empire,
itself, collapses from within. the united states certainly has no interest in putting it back together but no other great power other than perhaps the russians has the ability to shape its future. second, as both previous speakers have also mentioned, the universalist message of woodrow wilson. if it applies in one place, it must apply every place. and third, the need to separate the united states from the message of vladimir lenin and the russians. not want to be involved in this problem in austria hungary, it is largely spun this web for itself. or in woodrow wilson's words, to his propagandist, "i'm wondering whether you have not unconsciously spun a net for me from which there is no escape." which seems to be classic wilson, blaming somebody else for his problems yet softening it a little bit with the word, unconsciously. now the inquiry isn't way out of this. the inquiry is supposed to be progressive in the sense that it is to be scientific. it is to be rational in the sense that it is to proceed
along clearly identifiable social science methods and supposed to be evidence based. my favorite piece of documentation that i found so far in the inquiry files is this great phrase, "the truth is out there." so the inquiry got to work and i'm going to show you a couple of maps that are at yale university's archives today. they start putting together things like this. detailed analysis. what does the austria/hungarian empire look like? what is it? who lives there? how do we identify who lives there? these are incredibly detailed and as you can see gorgeously produced maps that look at oat production, that look at barley production, that look at where railroads go, where do canals go? who lives there? what do we do with them? this is a map of the languages of the austria/hungarian empire. i love the way they tried to do
this in an age before powerpoint and computer programs by shading different colors of ink to show different levels of intensity. it isn't the way i would try to breakup an empire, especially as people on the ground are saying, hey, look, these are people that recently moved in. our claim to the land supersedes their claim to the land, a particular phrase we're going to have to be dealing with. it's a progressive mindset, if you get the right data and the right experts, the right answers also follow out. as you can see from this map and from some of the other ones i'm about to show you, the answers aren't quite so simple. how can you make states that are ethnically consistent, economically sustainable and strategic defensible? i'll talk about that again in a minute in just a second. here's another one of the maps. this is an idea that they come up with. this is a federated greater austria based upon ethnic groups. in other words, if you can say language is a marker of
identity, that, itself, i understand is a fairly controversial point, maybe the best way to handle this is to draw the lines this way while keeping some sort of central authority over the entire region. now to me i'm fascinated by show that in 1919, 1945 and other parts of history there were a lot of possible outcomes. the way that history came out doesn't necessarily mean that that's the way it was destined to come out which we historians call hindsight bias. how to put them into action? let's say for just a moment this is the future you want to create. how can the americans actually do it? what modes of influence did the united states have? it's quite clear to everybody and i'll show you one person in particular that the united states has no intention of sending the united states army into that to try to straighten it out and figure it out. it is equally clear that woodrow wilson did not want to do this bill the power of economics. he did not want to tie the resources of the united states economy into figuring out how to solve the problems of central and eastern europe.
he had questions about whether it was legal for him to do so, giving that most of those assets were in private hands and he had moral questions about how to do it. i have a british colleague of mine who insists that this came from his presbyterian background. i'm not presbyterian so i have to trust his analysis on this. he's a religious historian. forcing people to convert to his ideas was the wrong way to do it. they had to see the wisdom in wilson's ideas for what they were, thus all of his appeals as jennifer said to the publics of europe over the heads of their leaders. could a league of nations do something like this? could you create an international organization that could go in and somehow monitor this new greater federated austria that you had in mind? now i have no context for the next image but i find it really interesting. this is another idea that the inquiry came up with. i don't really know how to interpret this so much. this is another suggestion for the way you might order central europe.
this was going to be four states, a czechoslovakia state which doesn't quite correspond with the boundaries they created, the claims of the yugoslavia, the claims of serbia and montenegro as they existed in 1914 and another state just called corridor. i'm not really sure what they thought they would accomplish by this but it shows the many ways that they're thinking and one problem that they quickly realize that they've run into is that it's possible, it may just be possible, to create states that will be ethnically homogenous. it may also be possible to create states that can feed themselves and it may be possible to create states that can defend themselves. it is not possible to create states that can do all three. what do you want to prioritize? this is what produces ideas like the polish corridor and the internationalization of the city.
it's these kinds of ideas that give lands to czechoslovakia. the understanding that the goals that you want in states, the things you want them to do are, in fact, mutually incompatible and that no matter what you do, one of those three things is going to suffer even if you can get the people who are actually living there to agree to live under these states. now one guy who immediately saw the problem was this man tasker blitz for whom the building attached to my building is named and i'm very glad that it is. the blitz was a pennsylvanian which i also have to give two thumbs up too. educated at bucknell and educated at west point. william lynn westerman called him the ablist man in europe and the one commissioner who will really study and study hard to make himself acquainted with what he must know. now when bliss was feeling
stressed out, he would pour himself a glass of whiskey and he would read articles in the original greek. bliss understood immediately that some of the core presumptions under which the united states was operating were badly false. one of which is that the american people would be willing to commit their treasure, their resources, their prestige to enforcing whatever agreement came out of versailles. now bliss in my mind is a slightly tragic figure because wilson paid him almost no attention at the paris peace conference and i think he got it as close to right as anybody that was there. they listed -- each country got five representatives at the peace conference, bliss did not make the list. this is what bliss said about these new states he wanted to create in central europe. the submerged nations are coming to the service. as soon as they appear they fly at someone's throat. they are like mosquitos, vicious to the moment of their birth. in other words, just because the state is new, just because it's small and just because it's
homogeneous doesn't mean it's -- bliss had the idea that you should put those weapons on ships, wait till the ships were over the atlantic ocean and dump them all over board. get rid of them. a second problem that bliss ended up getting involved in. i won't read this one out. this is about the turkish portion of the ottoman empire. what do with the ottoman empire? we had no war with the ottoman empire and no agreement and no necessary reason to find itself being drawn into the crisis that became the ottoman empire, yet there we were and there was william lynn westerman sitting in a meeting to decide where the most important city in the region would go. the british and the french want to operate on the basis of this map, the so-called map agreed to in 1916 and very quickly what this is, the areas in blue would
go under french control, the areas in red would go under british control, the area listed here as a would be under french influence, the area under b would go under british influence and this little yellow bit right here called palestine would be put under some yet to be defined international territory. now the america's hated this arrangement both because it violated everything in the 14 points and because the british and french had agreed to it secretly. we found out about it in moscow. so the americans don't want necessarily to honor this but if you're gonna say that you don't want to do this you have to come
up with something different. and the european challenge to the united states was if the united states really wanted to walk the walk, the united states should take this as its own area. if you guys talked about armenia for all these years and how awful the turks were, take over the mandate for armenia. take it over for palestine. put skin in the game. do what we're doing. take on the burden of operating these parts of the world. i can talk about it more if you want but i'm going to skip ahead to what bliss thought about this. bliss understood the odds of the united states coming into this part of the world and making it better were really slim. all the ideals, all the good ideas, all the wonderful things in wilson's 14 points and in other documents simply weren't going to work. bliss said this, it seems that certain promises were made to the arabs. referring to promises by the british to take all that stuff and make one arab federation out of it. in the early days of the war and now they are so unkind to insist on these prompts being fulfilled, the consequences that the matter be arbitrated by the united states.
i myself have declared that i would not touch the question even with a pole long enough to reach from here to syria unless i were positively ordered to do so by my government. bliss is saying, this isn't our fight. say out of it. according to the documents of the 14 points, the ideals of the 14 points, the united states had a reason to get involved and many arab leaders including the great leader of the arab revolt turned to the united states going to westerman, going to bliss and saying, we trust you americans in a way that we don't trust the british and french. you need to get involved. now, i don't think tasker blitz if we were alive today would be too surprised to know that we're still in the middle east 100 years later and that it has gotten more complicated and more dangerous than it was in 1919. now america got out of the syria trap but only by accident and not to anybody's satisfaction.
british diplomats proposed a compromise to undertake a fact finding visit to syria to figure out what they might want. they didn't do this because they cared about the syrians, they did it because they wanted to slow the momentum of what they saw as a solution. the french were furious because they guessed that few syrians would expressed a desire for french protection. fiezall was so elated that he drank his first glass of champagne. it further divided the communities apart and france made the decision to break the christian part of syria called lebanon away from the state of syria and this is what westerman said. the net result in syria is another bit of poison which will rot the near east until the distant day when the arabs and all the east shall definitely discard the unjustified assumption of westerners embodied in the formula of white man's burden.
syria remains a bit of poison with no obvious role for the united states to play. now jennifer mentioned one of the great critics of wilson. i've seen it at least reported in french newspapers. i think we can say that this is not fake. mr. wilson bores me with his 14 points. god himself was content with ten and the italian prime minister shouted at wilson, go to the balkans and try an experiment with your 14 points. the point i want to make is the tension between the idealism of wanting to impose the 14 points and the reality of the limits of what the united states was capable of doing. to some people like bliss this was a straight argument for the united states not getting involved in parts of the world where it could not have any real power or influence.
to others, it led to great disillusion as the united states seemed to get itself involved in all corners of the world and i didn't talk about china but i could've talked about china without having the authority to backup those ideals. william bullet who went on to become the first american ambassador to the soviet union. he was so frustrated with what the united states had done in paris that he wrote a letter to his mother right before he resigned from the american delegation in paris in which he said i'm going to go lie on the sand and watch the world go to hell. and bliss himself wrote, what a wretched mess it all is. if the rest of the world will let us alone, i think we better stay on our side of the water and keep alive the spark of civilization. i'm afraid there is no high note which to end this talk. the middle east, russia and east asia remain trouble spots and some, if not indeed all of the roots of this problem, these
problems, date back to the first world war era. a point that i try to make to my students and anybody who will listen that the problems of his era, of this modern world all date back not just to the first world war but to the particular way in which the war ended and the particular grand strategic visions that .united states and great powers tried to put in place. another thing that i tried to talk to my students about is the ways in which the world was changing that these great men didn't realize. the ways in which erez mentioned. they were not willing to accept the reimposition of european rule under the way it existed in the first world war. the paris peace conference represents a real transition and the real shift in the paradigm that very few people including tasker bliss fully well understood. even if the united states tried to ignore the fact for another generation and even if many
americans wished it weren't so because of the first world war, the united states was now fully apart of the international security environment from china to syria and beyond, a role that this country continues to play a century later. thank you very much for your attention. [ applause ] >> thank you, jennifer, erez and mark for three terrific speeches. you've exceeded all our expectations. left us with many things to think about. i wanted to pose a couple questions before we open it up to the audience. erez made the point that wilson was a historian of domestic affairs, not international affairs. curious, in one of our beliefs here is that understanding the history of international affairs
is critical to making good foreign policy. so i wanted to ask, was there -- it sounds like bliss was at least -- were there many people who actually knew military and diplomatic history having input with the 14 points or what followed with wilson and had there been no more historical awareness, might things have been different? i'll leave it up to whoever wants to take it. >> you're looking at me. i would say that it's not -- i don't like dichotomies as you can tell so i don't think that we should say that wilson needed to have read deeply in european history or even have had necessarily strong advisers with that expertise. wilson was an american historian and he looked at the historical development of the united states as a model for how new societies and new countries could form, and he did believe in american exceptionalism yet at the same time saw the american model as something that was transferrable and he looked at the history of
the united states and saw a country that had absorbed large numbers of immigrants. we had people with speaking many different languages, many different religions and we had been successful in coming together as a nation. and so in that sense, if that's the model in your mind, there's no reason that these new fledgeling european nation couldn't do the same thing. i think that event is a historical understanding did not necessarily have to be european based to have that this could be a successful model to follow. >> i entirely agree. >> you have to press the button. >> unpress it now. >> i entirely agree with jennifer. i think that wilson -- >> i love hearing things like that.
>> say that again. >> i entirely agree with jennifer. i think that wilson for example, on thinking of the league of nations, he hadn't thought about international affairs prior to becoming president prior to the war. it wasn't the league of nations wasn't some pet idea. but -- thank you -- [ applause ] >> but when faced with a colossal world crisis he reached into american history, the league of nations league of nations is clearly based on the american constitutional experiment. i will say that robert lancing, wilson's secretary of state at the time was not an international historian but an international lawyer and wilson -- he didn't -- on that principal he cut him out of the
deliberations because he really hated lawyers. he thought lawyers -- lawyers could only understand what was, they couldn't understand what could be and so he thought they were too set in their ways. he said many times i don't want any lawyers involved in the drafting of this and he -- he wasn't -- he wasn't in international historian per se but he certainly drew on his understanding of history and the forces of history to try to figure this out. i will say -- and this is me starting a conversation, mike, with you. everything you've said about tasker bliss, what he seemed to have extracted is what couldn't be done and what problems couldn't be solved, but it wasn't clear to me whether he had any constructive advice as what could be done, what he would have done differently? >> it's a great point. the first thing i wanted to say there are historians on the inquiry, there are historians who are forming ideas but history doesn't produce any straight answers either. two historians, three opinions, or in this case four historians five opinions. it doesn't produce straight answers.
to your question, i've only been through the bliss papers a couple of quick times but from the letters he's writing to his wife which is when i think he's most honest and most unguarded, he sees the biggest problem of the growth of bolshevism. everything else you are doing doesn't matter if half the globe goes to lenin. so the focus ought to be on figuring out ways either militarily or nonmilitarily and he's of the mind that it's going to have to be -- the united states aren't going to go to the war over the future of hungary. they aren't going to do it. so they went to war as bliss understands it and i understand it to protect themselves. now that the germans have laid out their weapons, what are you doing? what are you trying to accomplish? in what letter he writes to his wife which i find quite remarkable, when it's not clear that germany will actually sign the treaty of versailles. if they don't the war starts again. he writes her and says don't come to europe.
i can't guarantee your personal safety if you come here. if the germans don't sign, it's worldwide revolution p. that's his big worry. a, how to compel the germans to sign the document that is grocery unfair and what to do about this growing threat. that's where the focus ought to be, not the borders of poland. >> thanks. another question. you've ably covered a lot of the criticisms of wilson and how unfair many of them are. another one is often made is that wilson had a naive view of human nature and his system of the world depended on humans being better than they actually behave and practice and states behave and practice. do you think that is a fair critique that he had an unfair realistic view of the future? the other 14 points and his ideas? >> well, since i spent 20 mince
talking about how pragmatic he was, i guess i don't agree with that as a completely holistically formulation of woodrow wilson. he was a politician. he understood politicians. he is not naive -- the only ph.d. ever to become president, i don't think you're a naive person in terms of forging that path. he understood politics. but i do think that what he was trying to do was again to suggest that you don't have to make a choice between pursuing your self interest and being as president responsible for the nation's international security and also thinking about what could be, and reordering international relations to him was, yes, a kind of plan, a dream, a hope, but at the same time were the alternatives better? to go back to a balance of power system, to end these wars with these empires intact, how could you go to all of the people who
had suffered and lost and hoped and tell them this is the outcome of the war. if you think people are disillusioned because of the versailles peace treaty, imagine how people had felt if that had been the outcome of the war. we always read the 14 points back from the versailles peace treaty. people forget about the treaty is yes you had the league of nations but you also had wilson on the side promising to have a bilateral defense alliance with france, which he never got through the senate, but that shows that he's not just thinking -- this was what he had to do in order to get the french to agree. so there was a sense, too, which would have been a hard sell because we didn't have those kind of alliances as well. that would have been as hard. it would have been as hard a sell to america as the idea of
joining a league of nations. we have been -- idealistic as the vision that he was presenting. so that's, you know, i think in a sense of understanding the different politics of that time, which i think he did. >> it's a hard -- it's an interesting question to ponder, hard one to answer partly because i think in order to judge definitively whether wilson understood human nature. i would have to understand it first myself. i'm not quite there but i'm close. i think one of the things we tend to forget when we talk about wilson international relation is that he was quite an effective domestic politician both as governor of new jersey and then as a domestic president. his presidency was quite transformational. i alluded in the talk that many of the institutions that today were questioning were put
together in his time starting with the federal reserve only early in his term and ending with the constitutional amendment that gave women to vote in the federal level. all that happened in a domestic arena under his administration. all sorts of bad stuff happened too, but the point is that he was quite an effective politician, he understood the system, he understood how to get things through congress. he understood how to work public opinion. cooper, who's probably the single biggest wilson expert alive. he wrote the big biography a few years back, in the end says it was his deteriorating health in early 1919 that explains much of his deteriorating function in the peace negotiations
themselves and then especially the latter part of his negotiations when they're doing all that stuff. the first part was league of nations covenant that got through and afterwards when he came back and by september he had the stroke and he was out of commission. and so i think trying to pin wilson down as a fixed target and say this is how he was and that's it, it doesn't really work because he changed over time his views, then his health also changed over time. we don't like that explanation as historians because it's not really more ality tale. it's just stuff happens but it does. >> i think i'm reminded of a comment that never presume that human beings are persistent. we have tagged woodrow wilson with these universal themes and studying the first world war as long as i have, i think i understand other people more than i will understand wilson. he's not always consistent. he's a politician. he moves sometimes in the direction he thinks he needs to
move. i'm not sure to say that i agree with jennifer and erez on that. >> we got time for a few audience questions if you will state your name and affiliation and pose a question and avoid providing a speech. >> can you hear me? my question is to erez. point five of wilson, if you see the wording, it's direct quotations from the manifesto. so if you're looking for the genesis and antecedents of point five because the movements had already taken place, i just wanted to point it out.
thank you. >> [ inaudible ]. >> hi, i'm a scholar at george washington university. and at university in the netherlands. thank you very much for fascinating discussion. i could agree of course this statement is very much about laying out a blueprint for american power in the post war moment but i'm curious as to why exactly wilson seeks to institutionalize this international order with the creation. of the league. as part of that effort he uses the word peoples rather than nations, even though the league is an effort to constitutionalize the nation states. i'm wondering if you could say something about the contradiction inherent in that
idea and whether that's been an inherent criticism of british and french internationalism and modes of european empire? >> [ inaudible ]. >> thanks for three excellent presentations. i'm paul asham. i teach israel at the university of maryland. i want to address one point that professor neiberg brought up that who would enforce all of these ideas and i'd say from that we can understand that the world wasn't as open at that point because there clearly wasn't any overarching power and
we can see that after world war ii in the contrast when there was at least one power that was ready, willing and able to change things. so it seems to me that versailles really couldn't have accomplished the things that they -- they're universe of options really wasn't that large. >> i guess the bay i would respond to that. i'm also struck by just how incredibly quick these changes are. so palestine just to take the part of the world that you referred to had been under the ottoman empire for 1,500 years, forever, right? 500, of course.
forever. and there's no british plan in 1914, 1915 or 1916 to change that and then in the course of 1917, in the course of a few months, the british decide they will change it and allen b marches through the gate. part of what's happening i think is a shock of how unbelievably fast change is happening and the change is happening faster than the international system can catch up with it. so what bliss particularly in the americans are looking at in all of this is, okay, if you're going to make palestine international, what does that actually mean? who controls it? who runs it? what do you do with it? frankly, no one's really thought about what the answers to these questions are. part of the answer to the point you made would be just how unbelievably rapid change is happening and how fundamental that change is. the ottoman empire is gone. the austrian-hungarian empire is
gone. these aren't small changes. these are massive tectonic shifts. if i could pick up on your point, he's talking about peoples, not nations. nobody has a sense of what reaches the threshold of nation. so wilson doesn't think the irish are a nation. they're a people, not a nation. what do you do with them? how do you understand their governance and are they properly represented through london? are the indians properly represented by london if you change the structure? these are questions again nobody's thought of. in 1916 i wrote a book on this. nobody in america's thinking about these problems in 1916. two years later, they're all on the table and you can reshuffle it any way you think you can. so i think that's part of what's happening here. it's this intellectual confusion of how fast change is coming. my guess is historians a generation or so from now are going to look at the end of the cold war in much the same way. almost anything was on the table. >> thank you for the point on the international congress.
i would be -- i would be very surprised if wilson had known about those texts that you mentioned. the general idea expressed in that point five was had been occurring for decades prior but it had never been expressed in that way by a western leader at that level as a principal for international order. it was certainly claimed by colonial nationalist or had been claimed for a long time. absolutely, absolutely. >> [ inaudible ]. >> absolutely, yeah. >> to the question about nations and peoples, i think it's so interesting and mike wrote the book about it so i'll just give my own sense, which is generally speaking wilson was a social darwinist in the sense that he believed societies evolved.
they're not fixed through time. they evolved both at the center both in terms of their norms and culture and at the edges in terms of what's in and out. i would -- there's an interesting exchanges. a couple things i'd like to say. interesting exchange he has with a british journalist when he just lands, he crosses the atlantic to go to the paris peace conference but doesn't start for a few weeks so he has this tour of england and italy and france and he gives this interview to a british paper and i don't have the exact quote here but i'll paraphrase. the journalist asked something that implies that the brits and the americans are anglo-saxons and that they have this racial affinity that ties them together and wilson says -- i'm paraphrasing here so bear with me.
he said something along the lines, look, american nation is no longer an anglo-saxon nation. if it was once it no longer is now. if we brits and americans are connected by something, it's by our ideals not our lineage. he says that as he himself is exploring in his touring his own british heritage. he's also well aware that the american body politic has changed. the other point i wanted to make and i wanted to put this in the speech -- in the talk but i had to take it out just for time. when wilson goes over on that boat ride he has a draft of the league of nations covenant that he prepared himself. he was probably the last president who actually wrote his own speeches on his own typewriter. there was no staff. the white house was a bare bones operation at this point. so he has this draft and one of the articles of the draft i forget what the number was, but it said something like the league of nations will guarantee
the territorial integrity and the security of the member states, semicolon, but it will also be able by a majority -- i'm paraphrasing, by a majority of three fourths to make changes and boundaries and territorial definitions as required, i think he said, by changes in social or economic conditions or by changes -- there are a couple of different criteria that he outlines there for how these changes would be made and i think he imagines the league would be this ongoing process of debating and redrawing without an end point necessarily based on what he saw was inevitable evolution of peoples and so the nation would be continuously the nation as a political entity would be continuously redefined. what happens is robert lancing sees this and he's flabbergasted and his other legal advisers are
hunt hunter millers and others are flab are gasted. they get rid of the whole thing after the semi coal yob alon an becomes the league will guarantee the league of the member states. this becomes article 10. so this is not a well known story. i wrote a little piece about this some years ago. but apparently it hasn't percolated. few people know about this. that the original concept of article 10 was a precise opposite. of what it ended up doing which is redefining the borders of a particular moment in time. we are still struggling with this problem. how do you change borders in a peaceful way? it is a huge major problem in our structure. he was thinking about this but you know, other people saw it as dynamite. that was a very, very dangerous way to run thing.
lawyers. >> exactly. >> one more set of questions. like this here, three in a row. you three. >> stanley koeger. i was wondering what this analysis does to the democratic peace theory. the idea has been, you get rid of the dictator and the people will spontaneously resolve their differences. it doesn't seem to work. the bliss quote is wonderful about the mosquitos. what's the alternative? once you win the war, then what are you supposed to do? are we stuck with lobiathon. >> this deals with money. france is a complicated country and so is great britain. did they somehow see from
germany after the war, did they foresee that how the appropriations and huge amount of money was to be distributed and handled, did they ever see that there could be complications in the future since being a complicated country that france was preworld war i and also britain preworld war i, did they somehow see that huge amount of money could somehow be used in another manner? i was just curious about that. >> final question. >> the 14 points are often characterized or mischaracterized as pressing of rules based worldard. if if it didn't happen after world war i, it seems to be a model happening after world war ii and the whole last half of the last century and maybe up to the current administration and
with the u.s., with institutions and processes, which the u.s. was a leading member and guarantor, was this a myth to begin with? is there no rule within the u.s. law for the institutional structures and is it over? >> jennifer -- >> and with all these questions, i think the first thing was that if you think about money and we think about the reparations payments as being this big transfer of money that's going to occur to help post war europe, at least britain and france, rebuild, i think we should also realize that the flow of money from the united states to europe continued in post war period. and it continued through private philanthropy. so herbert who led this fill
intlopic over germany and occupied areas, continued with the fill intlopic and had most of the aid into eastern europe. a lot of the aid was for epidemics, famine, british blockade during the whole peace treaty process was still in effect. it was matter of feeding the populations. so the idea that united states could also use soft power that it could use economic aid and develop trade relationships that it could begin to connect with portions of the world that had not traditionally seen a strategic interest in, this was increasingly in the mind-set. as you just point out, in the prewar period while hoover was directing a lot of aid to britain and france, there was the jewish joint distribution committee. which came into existence. very famous for helping the survivors of the holocaust after world war ii. but that is a world war i
organization created to help jewish refugees fleeing on the eastern european front. every time the army moves 200 miles a bunch of civilians are running in front trying to get away. there was a huge refugee problem that we haven't addressed that also had to be handled in post war period. and of course, the idea was that hungry people -- or thought is that hungry people are more likely to turn to bulshevism than people who are well-fed. it was just in the hand of the peace treaty and setting up some international law and this will handle all of the world's problems is a false way to look at a more integrated approach that people are taking in the post war period. it is not just this is the answer and there's nothing else that we can do. and i would really underline what erez is saying earlier
about the intended flexibility about the organizations. the 14 points itself is an blue way. it is not my way or the highway. there is vagueness and flexibility intentionally so. wilson intended this to be the opening conversation starter. he knew and he campaigned on this when he was pushing for the league of nations. i know there's problems in the peace treaty, absolutely. you know thousand help them? be part of the negotiations. the bill was immediately lowered. the french occupied after that, there is no more military aspects to that. we lose sight the way to
approach this and this problem of restoring europe. because american needed europe to be restored. it was still our primary trading partner. our post war economy could not thrive without a strong europe just like after world war ii. that is much longer, sorry. >> again, i agree with jennifer. yes, i mean, the league was never intended and whole treaty was never intended to be an end state and setting up of a process. and the notion or the conceit was not that it was an achievement of some sort of perfection or rather preferable to what would be preferable to what proceeded the war. will s wilson is very clear about the graduated system he thought the league should carry out to mitigate conflicts. first stages, three-stage
process, first stage is arbitration. if arbitration didn't work then economic sang economic sanctions which is coordinated through the league. if that doesn't work then you again coordinate through the league and actually we may think this is utopian. this is exactly the system we still used to through the united nations. economic sanctions. there is lots of stuff that happened outside of that but that's still there. we have security council and peace-keeping forces and all of that is intended to be part of system. i think, yeah, that really touches on the question of rules based. the united states in the early toth century in early international law. american lawyers and american league of profession are in love with international law and they think international is great and it will solve everything. and in some sense wilson's thinking built on that but he
thinks it is insufficient and too inflexible. and his sense is if you have law you need to have bodies that both create law and manage -- there has to be politics in it. you can't have law without politics. that's his insight from constitutional skol parp the league is intended to be a kog nate of the u.s. congress where the various states can meet and do politics that will then make the law be effective. he thinks law is night but nowhere efficient and that's where he wants to have the additional institutions. >> quickly, because i know we are nearing the end. i want to express the complexity of this time period and number of options on the table. in terms of money, yes, absolutely they knew. what they recognized was this any economic structure you set up, wealth will transfer from one party another party.
whatever do you, someone will win and someone will lose. and to lower the amount of debt that everyone owed to everybody. the problem is when you do that, there are american banks who say we loan money in good faith. we are are a private in institution. so as jennifer pointed out, they become a way to encourage good german behavior by lowering them if germ answers are behaving well or punishment behavior.a a well or punishment behavior.n a well or punishment behavior.s a well or punishment behavior.ans well or punishment behavior.nsw well or punishment behavior.swe well or punishment behavior.werl or punishment behavior.ers are or punishment behavior.rs are b or punishment behavior.s are ber punishment behavior. are behavi punishment behavior. they understand as a tool. but there is no way around it. the peace treaty question, if you have an answer to that one, i have a job for you at the u.s. army war college. i don't think the french believed in democratic peace theory at all. he believed as, as roosevelt did, he was the first of the police department, this is an intercation of one state, germany, having committed a
crime and germany had to be punished. you prove to the world if one state gets out of the line, you smack it down. george and the british believed that what happened is the system got imbalanced and what you needed to do is recreate that balance. everybody has their own idea about what is going to make this right. i have to confess in the eight years i've been teaching at army war college i'm more inclined to the balance of power theory than the peace theory. democratic states can certainly go to war. and third the international organization's point you brought up, i'm sympathetic to a french friend of mine who says the difference isn't that americans turned their back on american institutions, the difference is the united states no longer dominates them. that unnerved americans. so on international law, international law is very much the perceiving of american enforcing laws. what has changed is that the united states can no longer enforce its dominance over the
international organizations. there are states that challenge the organizations from outside. nonstate actors and simply ignore those organization answers organizations that the united states used to be able to come to depend upon and follow the systems that no longer do it in quite the same way and recent reaction in the past couple of years has been, a response less to the institutions themselves but america's relationship to them. i have to say i'm sympathetic to that argument. >> thanks. that's the last word. thank you all for braving the weather and coming here and please join me in a rund of applause for our three great panelists. [ applause ]rund of applause for our three great panelists. [ applause ]iouyrund of applause for our three great panelists. [ applause ]rund of applause for our three great panelists. [ applause ]rund of applause for our three great panelists. [ applause ]rund of applause for our three great panelists. [ applause ]rund of applause for our three great panelists. [ applause ]orund of applause for our three great panelists. [ applause ]urund of applause for our three great panelists. [ applause ]nrund of applause for our three great panelists. [ applause ]drund of applause for our three great panelists. [ applause ] of applause for our three great panelists. [ applause ]
c-span's history cases, landmark cases, begins february 26 at 9:00 p.m. eastern with a look at the supreme court decision mccullough v maryland heard in 1919. farrah peterson, associate law professor at university of virginia and mark killenbeck law professor at university of arkansas. mccullough v maryland, securing nation. watch live monday, february 26 at 9:00 p.m. on c-span, c-span.org or listen with the free c-span radio app. order a copy of the book for $8.95 plus shipping and handling. for an additional resource, there's a link on our website, the national constitution centers interactive constitution.
next presidential historian richard norton smith discusses how george washington's vision shaped the role of president. mr. smith talks about founding fathers john adams, thomas jefferson, james madison and james monroe and their legacies as presidents. this 50-minute talk is part of a series on the founders hosted by the society of the four arts in palm beach, florida. good morning. i'm excited and honored that after twice turning me down, richard norton smith finally said yes. he is the foremost expert on the presidency and everything related to the presidency. we needed him to start the 20