Woodrow Wilson and a Revolutionary World, 1913-1921

By Arthur S. Link | Go to book overview

Chapter Two

WOODROW WILSON AND THE
RUSSIAN REVOLUTION

BETTY MILLER UNTERBERGER

Woodrow Wilson's response to the Russian Revolution can best be understood in the light of the principles which guided his foreign policy throughout his presidency, the experience and wisdom that he derived from dealing with both the Mexican and the Chinese revolutions, and, finally, the war aims which he formulated upon America's entry into the First World War. His policies rested firmly upon a body of principles and assumptions drawn from the beliefs and ethical values of the Christian tradition and from his deep commitment to democracy as the most advanced, humane, and effective form of government. He had an abiding faith in the capacities of all peoples for self-government because of their inherent character and capacity for growth. Thus, the Declaration of Independence, with its clarion call for national self-determination, was for him not merely a statement of political ideals but also a program for action. It was a vital piece of "practical business, not a piece of rhetoric." Now that the United States had become rich and powerful, it was important to use that influence, not for "aggrandizement and material benefit only," but to support, through moral influence, the legitimate aspirations of struggling peoples for self-government throughout the world. 1

Although Wilson believed in self-determination, he also recognized the importance of noninterference in the affairs of other nations. His difficult experiences in formulating policies during the Mexican Revolution had made him highly sensitive to the limitations of interference in the domestic affairs of other nations. 2 He came to recog

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