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Monday, August 19, 2019

Woodrow Wilson and the 1919 Treaty of Versailles

For John, BLUF"Belief in his own righteousness" has been a problem for a large number of politicians and government servants.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Here is the sub-headline:

Woodrow Wilson thought so.  But his belief in his own righteousness undermined his vision for world peace.

From The Old Gray Lady, by Professor Ted Widmer (distinguished lecturer, City University of New York), 28 June 2019.

Here is the lede plus two:

June 28, 1919, dawned as a beautiful day; fair, with moderate winds, according to The New York Times.  It was a perfect day to see a baseball game, and 28,000 did, going to the Polo Grounds to watch the Yankees and Red Sox split a doubleheader.  New Yorkers could only envy the Red Sox, who had won the last World Series, and seemed poised to win many more, since they boasted “the mighty Babe Ruth, Boston’s swatting all-around player.”

It was hard to believe on this sunny day, but it had been precisely five years since World War I began with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo.  Since then, nearly 20 million had died, and entire empires, including Franz Ferdinand’s, had vanished.  But those painful memories were softened by the knowledge that nothing so terrible could ever happen again.  Because June 28 was the day that a new history would begin.

Across the Atlantic, outside Paris, another huge crowd thronged the old royal seat of Versailles, where a peace treaty awaited signature.  It was the culmination of months of work, led by the American president, Woodrow Wilson, who had promised to make the world safe for democracy.

There was great hope at that time.  Future North Vietnam-nam leader Ho Chi Minh traveled to France to plead for freedom for his Nation.  Not everyone got what they wanted.
[British Junior Diplomat] Harold Nicolson cautioned, “people who study the past under the conviction that they themselves would automatically behave better in the present are adopting a dangerous habit of mind.”  Perhaps it is better to retrieve what was valuable in 1919 — when America briefly stood for a higher standard — while taking care to avoid the obvious mistakes of a group of politicians who failed to rise above their circumstances.  Who knows how future historians will judge us, as the world slides toward a new era that feels palpably less democratic?
The author writes of America in 1919, "when America briefly stood for a higher standard".  That was a time when racism was on the rise, aided by a racist President, and that same President was so convinced of his own righteousness that he was unwilling to cut a deal with the US Senate.

Regards  —  Cliff

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