Woodrow Wilson: Revolution, War, and Peace

By Arthur S. Link | Go to book overview

4
Wilson and the Liberal
Peace Program

Never before had the tasks of leadership in foreign affairs been so difficult for Woodrow Wilson than they became after the adoption by Congress of the war resolution on April 6, 1917. His task was to articulate the war aims of the United States and to give voice to the aspirations of peoples everywhere for a hopeful future, without driving a fatal wedge between his country and the Allies in a war against a common foe. His was also the even more arduous and difficult task, once the war had ended, of achieving a “peace without victory,” in spite of the primal passions set loose by years of bloodshed and by ambitions multiplied by victory.

The challenges were great, but so, also, were Wilson's courage and faith during the campaign that he waged for the ideals that he conceived to be the cornerstone of a just and lasting peace. Let us now see how Wilson tried to free mankind from the grip of past predatory practices and behavior in international relations.

Wilson had a highly creative mind and was undoubtedly the chief innovator of what we will call, for purposes of brevity, the liberal peace program. But he made his chief contribution to the development of that program by synthesizing widely held hopes, plans, and programs; by expressing them in words that moved the hearts of people all over the world; and by devising the practical means to achieve them.

No sooner had the war begun in the summer of 1914 than men

-72-

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