Woodrow Wilson, Revolutionary Germany, and Peacemaking, 1918-1919: Missionary Diplomacy and the Realities of Power

By Klaus Schwabe; Rita Kimber et al. | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER VII

The United States, Germany,
and the "Lost Peace"

ONE

If we glance back at this study, we are immediately struck by one major point: The reality of the Versailles Treaty came nowhere near realizing Wilson's original vision of the peace or Germany's hopes for it. But just how far short of its goal did it fall? Did its failure to meet both Wilson's and Germany's expectations result from a shift in the United States Government's assessment of Germany or in the German government's assessment of the United States? What motives of a political or ideological nature prompted American and German leaders to adopt—in the period from Germany's appeal to Wilson in October 1918 until the signing of the Versailles Treaty—peace strategies which ultimately produced such a harsh dissonance in German-American relations? In these concluding remarks, we will attempt to answer these questions and to summarize the conclusions which present themselves at the end of this study.

We will begin by considering the American perspective. It is obvious that the results of the Paris Peace Conference were grossly at odds with the idealistic and moral goals which motivated the United States Government in its conduct of the war. The spirit of Versailles in no way reflected the spirit of the Fourteen Points. During the war, Wilson had envisaged a peace of reconciliation which liberal elements even in Germany would have been able to accept as just. But in Versailles, he signed his name to a treaty which enacted, with his full approval, a punitive peace and which the Germans signed only because the victors threatened to use force against them if they refused. Wilson's plan to use the peace treaty to integrate the vanquished enemy into a new liberal order for the world had, for the time being, failed. This failure was not the result of any "betrayal" on Wilson's part. For that accusation to apply, we would have to have ascertained at the very outset Wilson's intention to betray. But, as this book has amply demonstrated, there was no such intention. It is true, however, that Wilson did act contrary to his original aspirations. Indeed, forced as he was to negotiate from a position of weakness, he had to act contrary to them if there was to be any peace treaty at all. In

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