Woodrow Wilson

Once again Wilsonian ideas are popular, both with liberal hawks and neoconservatives. So I thought I should excerpt some comments about Wilson from the book I am reading nowadays about the Versailles Peace conference at the end of World War I.

Wilson never forgave those who disagreed with him. […]He was also stubborn. […]The French ambassador in Washington saw “a man who, had he lived a couple of centuries ago, would have been the greatest tyrant in the world, because he does not seem to have the slightest conception that he can ever be wrong.” [… Wilson] drew on the most noble language of the Bible yet was so ruthless with those who crossed him.

[…]Wilson wanted power and he wanted to do great works. What brought the two sides of his character together was his ability, self-deception perhaps, to frame his decisions so that they became not merely necessary, but morally right. […]Those who opposed him were not just wrong but wicked.

[…]Wilson had said much about general principles [about the peace conference he was going to] but had mentioned few specifics. […]There were to be few other such occasions [where Wilson let anyone know what his ideas and policy were.]

[…]He was clear in his own mind that he meant well. When the American troops went to Haiti or Nicaragua or the Dominican Republic, it was to further order and democracy. […]During Wilson’s presidency, the United States intervened repeatedly in Mexico to try to get the sort of government it wanted. “The purpose of the United States,” Wilson said, “is solely and singly to secure peace and order in Central America by seeing to it that the processes of self-government there are not interrupted or set aside.” He was taken aback when the Mexicans failed to see the landing of American troops, and American threats, in the same light.

The Mexican adventure also showed Wilson’s propensity, perhaps unconscious, to ignore the truth. […]Lansing [Wilson’s Secretary of State] said of his president: “Even established facts were ignored if they did not fit in with this intuitive sense, this semi-divine power to select the right.”

Does this remind you of some other president? Perhaps someone in our time?

Author: Zack

Dad, gadget guy, bookworm, political animal, global nomad, cyclist, hiker, tennis player, photographer

3 thoughts on “Woodrow Wilson”

  1. It reminds me of many presidents, some in my time, some not. Wilsonianism was a sharp departure from past policy which we never turned back on, except for a brief interlude in the relatively laissez-faire (economically and foreign policy-wise) 1920’s.

  2. Brian: You are correct and I actually like the general idea of Wilsonianism. However, what I wanted to point out in this post are the character flaws in Wilson. His arrogance and his feeling that he was right and others were wrong, his failure to actually make adequate plans for his very good big ideas and so on. Those seem quite a bit like our present occupant of the White House.

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