Woodrow Wilson and a Revolutionary World, 1913-1921

By Arthur S. Link | Go to book overview

Chapter Seven

REFLECTIONS ON WILSON
AND THE PROBLEMS OF
WORLD PEACE

WHITTLE J O H N S T O N

Of the many observations one might make on contemporary efforts (including those in the present volume) to understand Woodrow Wilson's foreign policies, two would seem of particular importance. The first is that those policies were of enormous significance; the second is that we do not yet have a determinative interpretation of them.

We may suggest their importance through a simple analogy. The attempt to understand international events during Wilson's two administrations may be looked upon as an effort, still largely uncompleted, to put together a gigantic picture puzzle. Wilson's foreign policies constitute many pieces to be fitted into the puzzle. Because they make up such a very large part of the puzzle, and touch so many other pieces at so many other points, we cannot understand the design of those other pieces—to say nothing of such design as the puzzle as a whole may have—until the Wilsonian pieces are fitted into place. Nor can we understand the meaning of our own time until we gain a clearer understanding of Wilson's time, given the continuing impact of the problems that he faced then upon those that we face now. To state but the most obvious of these questions: What is to be the role of the United States in the world? What should be its response to Communist Russia? What contribution can international organization make to the furtherance of world order? The continuity is equally

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