Wilson’s 14 Points & Forever Ending War

By | November 26, 2020

[November 26, 2020]  The study of war is something that I do.  The majority of my studies and articles I’ve written are about the “how” to conduct war.  However, two crucial questions arise; what causes war, and what can we do about ending war.  In this article, I will discuss U.S. President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen-Points to end all wars.

“I used to think that the causes of war were predominantly economic. I came to think that they were more psychological. I am now coming to think that they are decisively “personal,” arising from the defects and ambitions of those who have the power to influence the currents of nations.” – B. H. Liddell Hart

Many scholars will argue why wars begin, and this debate will continue as long as there are wars.  In today’s article, the focus will be on how to end wars.  This topic is one that has not been studied well.  Lessons from past wars are sparse and misleading.  For what reason we don’t study it, I do not know and cannot imagine a good answer.  Suffice it to say, having a game plan to end war is a good strategy that must not be overlooked.

President Wilson and Americans were watching the great bloodshed of World War I from afar.  A strong pacifist movement was keeping America out of the war.  Their main argument was that little would be gained for America by getting involved in European affairs.  For many legitimate reasons, the U.S. entered the war in 1917 with nearly one million service-members.1

In a speech before the U.S. Congress, Wilson gave his famous Fourteen Points Speech.  His goal was for these points to act as a blueprint for world peace, guide the peace negotiations, encourage the end of war, and prevent the re-occurrence of the reasons that led to war.  Wilson was a political progressive. Like most progressives, he firmly believed that peace could be achieved through understanding one another, open diplomacy, trade fairness, and freedom of the seas.

Addressing the Causes of War:

The first five points were an attempt to eliminate the causes of war through disarmament, free trade, freedom of the seas, impartial adjustment of colonial claims, and the adoption of open diplomacy.

The Right of Self-Determination:

The next eight points addressed the right of all peoples to self-determination to “freely to determine, without external interference, their political status and pursue their economic, social, and cultural systems without interference in any form by another state.

Evacuation of Occupied Territories:

Points six to thirteen required the Central Powers to evacuate all of the countries invaded during the war.

A League of Nations:

Point 14 called for creating a “general association of nations” known as the League of Nations.

The Treaty of Versailles that followed WWI failed to adhere to Wilson’s 14 Points.  The treaty centered on punishing and extracting revenge on Germany.  The treaty created further unrest in Europe.  In an earlier article, I identify why this treaty was the product of leadership failure (see link here).

The lesson here is that good leadership is about having a vision and clearly articulating that vision. Outstanding leadership is about doing this and carrying out that vision successfully.  President Wilson was not successful.

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  1. For a thorough discussion of why the U.S. entered WWI, please go to this article for a good summary: https://www.historyhit.com/5-reasons-us-entered-ww1/
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

17 thoughts on “Wilson’s 14 Points & Forever Ending War

  1. Dan Terrison

    This is a really good article Ge, Satterfield. Progressive ideology is always utopian. And always ends in millions of deaths. Think it can’t happen here? Think again.

    Reply
  2. Greg Heyman

    Good work to highlight President Wilson’s attempt to end all wars. Obviously it failed dramatically and for many reasons, some of which are cited here. Wilson was an idealist in addition to being what we would call a liberal today. Woodrow Wilson, a leader of the Progressive Movement, was the 28th President of the United States (1913-1921). After a policy of neutrality at the outbreak of World War I, Wilson led America into war in order to “make the world safe for democracy.

    Reply
    1. Wilson Cox

      Wilson was a Democrat and a passivist. After the Germans signed the Armistice in November 1918, Wilson went to Paris to try to build an enduring peace. He later presented to the Senate the Versailles Treaty, containing the Covenant of the League of Nations, and asked, “Dare we reject it and break the heart of the world?”

      Reply
      1. old warrior

        Ouch, that reality certainly is a butt kicker. Gee, happens all too often.

        Reply
      2. Dead Pool Guy

        I think Pres Wilson was more of a conservative Democrat than – what we see today is no such thing exists – that was much more realistic than we might have suggested here.

        Reply
  3. Xavier Bordon

    “In war, the chief incalculable is the human will.”
    Another applicable quote from B. H. Liddell Hart

    Reply
    1. JT Patterson

      Watching football I gather? I’m boycotting all professional football and basketball for now. As long as they disrespect America and our troops, I will not watch a game, buy their products, or say anything good about them. In fact, I tell all my neighbors about their support of domestic terror groups like BLM and antifa.

      Reply
  4. Max Foster

    Great article on Wilson’s 14 points. I would hazard a guess that the majority of people in the US never heard of them. What I like about these 14 points is that they sound so good, realistic, and utopian. In fact, they might have worked except humans are involved and they have their own desires and needs. Just look at what happened when the Paris Treaty was signed!

    Reply
    1. Tom Bushmaster

      Reality does have a nasty habit of intervening in the plans of leftists…. ha ha ha ha…. ✌

      Reply
    2. Yusaf from Texas

      Excellent point, Max. Yes ….. sounds good …. goes over well with today’s focus groups …. radical leftists love them …. they just don’t work.

      Reply
      1. Karl J.

        That is why leftist ideology (neo-Marxism) never works. You eventually run out of other people’s money and good intentions.

        Reply
  5. Eric Coda

    US Pres Wilson was a liberal-progressive politician that would fit nicely into the mold of our leftists politicians today. All about intent, nothing about reality.

    Reply
    1. Edward Kennedy III

      So true and so sad at the same time. However, I would suggest an alternative argument, Eric. Wilson would NOT fit into the leftist political movement today. Today we have radicals that want to adopt a neo-Marxist ideology and reject outright the US Constitution and our federal form of government. And, they adopt all the trappings of Mao and Hitler (minus some of the symbology-they create new ones) like violence, book burning (cancel culture), etc. The US Democratic Party is a marxist-communist party in the making.

      Reply

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