[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.
- 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/