Despite being one of the most scholarly men to ascend to the presidency, professional historian and political scientist Woodrow Wilson was described as being “surprisingly uninformed about foreign affairs.” After election on the promise that no American boys would die on Europe’s battlefields, he was bullied into the war by steel, munitions and financial lobbies, as well as British propaganda, while dreaming of his part in erecting a world peace that would endure forever. Washington presciently warned of foreign entanglements; Wilson’s secrecy and blunders brought nearly 117,000 American dead by 1918, and as he helped lay the foundation for a German nationalist to replace the Kaiser, another 407,000 American dead in World War Two. It was far better to leave European intrigues to Europeans.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com
Wilson Confronts Old-Fashioned Imperialism
“President Wilson apparently at first thought that American participation in the war would be confined primarily to economic and financial contributions, with the navy to help cope with the U-boat menace. As Allied needs became more fully known, however, it became apparent that victory would necessitate the training and transportation to the western front of vast numbers of American troops.
Wilson and Secretary [of State Robert] Lansing, despite subsequent denials to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, were aware prior to the peace conference of the existence of the secret treaties among the [European] Allies which provided for territorial gains after the war. These treaties and agreements, such as the 1915 Treaty of London between the principal Allies and Italy, were not necessarily evil but were in fact the inevitable results of a coalition war.
To Wilson, however, they represented old-fashioned imperialism which would endanger the future stability and peace of the world. During his visit to America, [Britain’s Lord] Balfour had revealed most of the terms of the territorial arrangements whereby Germany’s colonies were to be apportioned among the victors and important territories in Europe and the Near East would be similarly allocated.
The only major agreement of which the major American officials were not then informed was that relating to Japan’s acquisition of the German holdings in Shantung Province, China. There can be little doubt that the president and his secretary of state knew the essential details long before the peace conference convened. The official attitude, however, remained one of indifference and formal ignorance:
“This Government is not now and has not been in the past concerned in any way with secret arrangements or treaties among European powers in regards to war settlements. As to the secret treaties [released in Russia] . . . the Department [of State] has no knowledge of their existence or their terms except through reports emanating from the Bolshevik press.”
Aware of these arrangements to divide the spoils, Wilson wrote [Colonel Edward] House that “England and France have not the same views with regard to peace that we have by any means.” Yet to discuss postwar settlement at that time would only precipitate disagreements and a probable weakening of the war effort, to the benefit of Germany.”
(The Great Departure, The United States and World War One, 1914-1920, David M. Smith, John Wiley and Sons, 1965, excerpts, pp. 85-87)