I’ve long been struck by Woodrow Wilson’s arrogance. At the post-WWI negotiations, I remember hearing in Sydney Hook’s U.S. History class at Michigan that, after Woodrow Wilson presented his fourteen points of light, an exasperated Clemenceau remarked, “The good Lord only had ten!” In addition to the arrogance-incited idiocy he displayed in foreign relations after WWI, Wilson also presided over the implementation of the Income Tax Act and the Federal Reserve Act (his one saving grace: he opposed Prohibition).
When I read awhile ago that Wilson wanted to get the U.S. involved in WWI so he could play a role in shaping the world afterwards, I never knew if I fully believed it. The allegation–sentencing young men to death so he could have the glory–was simply too much to believe, even for a man like Wilson.
But it would appear one of his brothers in arrogance, John Dewey, a man who never entertained the possibility that everything in his fevered mind wasn’t gospel, wanted America to enter WWI precisely so the great America could play a post-war role in reshaping civilization. From page 102 of Donald L. Miller’s comprehensive Lewis Mumford: A Life:
“[Mumford’s] opinions at the time were in perfect sympathy with the editors of The New Republic, who, with John Dewey as their lead spokesman, assailed pacifism as an indefensible position and urged that the United States pursue the fight with resolve, using its moral force to fashion a fair peace and a postwar order of international cooperation.”
(Lewis, it should be noted, changed his position before the end of WWI. It should also be noted that the idea of a “fair peace” was wholly abandoned by Wilson, opting instead to wreck Germany and put into motion the economic devastation that would give rise to Hitler.)
Clemenceau, upon hearing of the Fourteen points, was said to have sarcastically claimed The good Lord only had ten! (Le bon Dieu n’avait que dix!).
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