The American Road to World Peace

By Alfred Zimmern | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 31: The League of Nations

THE entry of the United States into the war in April, 1917, on the side of the forces of freedom brought about no change in the political philosophy and principles of Woodrow Wilson, which, as he had said in his renomination speech some months earlier, were "clearly conceived." But it did bring about an important change in his attitude. He no longer thought and felt as an outsider. He had become an insider; and the concept which more and more dominated his thinking was that of community.

As we saw in the preceding pages, community is a concept which is at the very heart of American life. It is a concept which takes a "friendly world" for granted--a social concept, providing a basis on which political problems can be worked out in an atmosphere of mutual confidence.

When Woodrow Wilson became an "insider," his natural inclination was to view this "inside," his new environment, through American eyes, to seek out what elements there were in the old European system which could be used to turn it into a true community and to build upon them. This is the central idea of the League of Nations.

He had already given expression to this thought on January 22, 1917, before the final break with Germany, but when events were fast moving in that direction. "The question," he told the Senate, "upon which the whole future peace and policy of the world depends is this: Is the present war a struggle for a just and secure peace, or only for a new balance of power? If it be only a struggle for a new balance of power,"he asked,--and the question is still pertinent today,--"who will guarantee, who can guarantee the stable equilibrium of the new arrangement? . . . There must be, not a balance of power, but a community of power, not organized rivalries, but an organized common peace." Two and a half months later he carried his thought a stage further forward, flinging a

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