Study Guide

Fourteen Points Compare and Contrast

By Woodrow Wilson

  • Paris Peace Conference

    With the benefit of hindsight, historians now mostly think that the peace negotiations after World War I were a disaster. Considering they just came off a disaster—you know, the actual war—that's pretty bad.

    The negotiations culminated with the Treaty of Versailles, which incorporated some of Wilson's ideas. However, the Allied Powers also made claims that went way beyond Wilson's vision. France and England demanded massive payments from Germany and imposed restrictions on the German military. They also forced Germany to give up all its overseas territories. (Source)

    The smackdown of Germany embarrassed the German people and sent them into an economic tailspin. Arguably, these factors contributed to the rise of the Nazi Party and led to World War II (source). It didn't help that some of Italy's land claims were repudiated: Italy later allied with Germany and created a fascist government of its own (source).

    The Germans rose like a phoenix, only if, you know, a phoenix wanted to conquer the earth.

    Wilson envisioned a free world working together in harmony, but the actual result had more enmity than harmony. The peace negotiations ended the era of empires and monarchies, but it set the stage for the rise of nationalism and fascism. Whoopsy-daisy.

  • United States Congress

    As one of the world's most powerful nations, the United States often takes the lead when it comes to international negotiations.

    However, there's one little catch. In order for the U.S. to enter a treaty, Congress has to go along with the President. It's written in the Constitution, after all.

    Although Woodrow Wilson presented the world with the idea for the League of Nations in his Fourteen Points speech, the United States never entered the league. Congress blocked ratification of the Treaty of Versailles.

    Although the public largely supported World War I once America was in the thick of it, some leaders in the Senate were still isolationists. Henry Cabot Lodge, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, thought that the international council would usurp the U.S. government's ability to determine questions of war and peace. (Source)

    Article 10 of the League of Nation's charter guaranteed that illegal invasions would be treated as attacks on the international community. Lodge thought this could compel the United States to go to war to protect another country. (Source)

    Lodge's viewpoint held out; even with an amendment to the Treaty exempting the United States from Article 10, the measure failed to pass the Senate. For Wilson, it was a huge anticlimax to the preparations he undertook with the Inquiry.

    Lodge and Congress were Lucy yanking the proverbial football from the rest of the world's Charlie Brown.

  • Soviet Russia

    Russia was one of the major powers involved in World War I, but when it came to negotiating for peace, they stayed out.

    Russia had exited the war early. In 1917, the Bolshevik Revolution overthrew Tsar Nicholas and the Russian monarchy, and replaced that system with a radical style of Marxism favored by Vladimir Lenin. It was the Red Dawn—no, not the dumb movie, but the birth of Soviet Russia. (Source)

    After World War I, Western leaders feared that similar Marxist revolutions would take place throughout Europe. Some countries, like Hungary, did eventually switch to Communism (source). Wilson hoped to keep Russia in the war by including favorable treatment of the Russian revolution in his Fourteen Points, which was praised by Lenin (source), Despite this, in 1918, the Bolsheviks had already signed a peace agreement with Germany (source).

    While Wilson was focused on negotiating with the French, British, and Germans, Lenin's party, the Bolsheviks, was trying to consolidate its control over the country. As a result, the new Soviet Union was left out of the Treaty of Versailles, which delayed recognition of the new Communist state by the Western world. (Source)

    And that, folks, is how we eventually got Dr. Strangelove.