Wilson and the Peacemakers: Combining Woodrow Wilson and the Lost Peace and Woodrow Wilson and the Great Betrayal

By Thomas A. Bailey | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

OPEN DISAGREEMENTS
OPENLY ARRIVED AT

"The whole world is speculating as to whether the Italians are 'bluffing' or whether they really intend going home and not signing the Peace unless they have Fiume. It is not unlike a game of poker." COLONEL HOUSE, April 22, 1919.


1

EVEN THE most ardent admirers of Woodrow Wilson find it difficult to explain, much less to justify, his extraordinarily inept handling of the Italian question.

Shortly after reaching Paris, and before the Conference formally convened, Wilson made his first costly blunder. He promised the Italians that their northern frontier might be drawn along the line of the Brenner Pass -- which meant that more than 200,000 Austrian-Germans would be handed over to alien rule.

This was a flagrant violation of two of the Fourteen Points. Wilson had proclaimed that the frontiers of Italy should be readjusted along "clearly recognizable lines of nationality." This readjustment completely overshot the mark. He had proclaimed the sacred principle of self-determination. The Germans of the Austrian South Tyrol wanted no part of Italian overlordship.

Liberal observers were profoundly shocked and disillusioned. The area involved was not large, but the principle was. At the very outset of the Conference anxious inquirers began to ask themselves and one another: "Can Wilson be trusted?" Harold Nicolson, who was there, later wrote of the current feeling that, "if Wilson could swallow the Brenner, he would swallow anything."

No one will deny that the peace settlements contained a

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