THE STRATEGY OF
"The whole damn thing has gotten into the maelstrom of politics, of the nastiest partisanship, when it ought to have been lifted up into the clearer air of good sense and national dignity. . ." SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR LANE, October 2, 1919.
AS THE day for the showdown vote in the Senate neared, the burning question was: Will Wilson accept the Lodge reservations? This problem is so vital that we shall have to retrace some ground in order to put it in its proper setting.
From the very outset, as we have seen, Wilson was hostile to reservations. They meant either something or nothing. If general and innocuous, they would mean nothing, and hence were ridiculous excess baggage. If they were specific and amendatory, they would involve the humiliation of further negotiation with the Allies, and possibly the even greater humiliation of treating with our once arrogant foe. This would mean further delay, at a time when all Europe was crying for peace; and it might mean, if Germany proved refractory, a complete loss of all our material advantages under the treaty.
Wilson was convinced that to ask for special treatment would cheapen us as a nation, and put us outside the concert of powers just as clearly and definitely as rejection. The brave new League could not start off with promising momentum if we joined half-heartedly, one eye furtively on our associates, the other longingly on the exits. We ought either to go in like a great power, "scorning privileges," or to preserve a dignified aloofness. And staying aloof would both injure our commercial prospects and forfeit our world leadership.