What principles guided Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points? Also, how would you explain the Unites States' failure to ratify the Treaty of Versailles?

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The desire to avoid another cataclysmic conflict such as World War I helped guide Wilson's Fourteen Points.  The premise of the original set of points was to ensure that the conditions that gave rise to World War I and the conflict in Europe would not happen again.  Eliminating secret alliance,...

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The desire to avoid another cataclysmic conflict such as World War I helped guide Wilson's Fourteen Points.  The premise of the original set of points was to ensure that the conditions that gave rise to World War I and the conflict in Europe would not happen again.  Eliminating secret alliance, helping to clearly define border, and ensuring that all conflicts could be solved through an international forum were elements in Wilson's mind that could prevent another protracted conflict.  It is in the last principle that opposition to the League of Nations arose in that Americans felt that it would embroil the United States into multiple conflicts in Europe, reducing autonomy and committing the United States to constantly be involved in European affairs.

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Woodrow Wilson was guided by a principle of diplomacy-based world peace.  His Fourteen Points tried to identify and deal with the major sources of conflict in the world so that future wars could be avoided.  The four major ones that were adopted in the Treaty itself are identified above.

The fact that the US did not ratify the Treaty of Versailles was pure politics.  Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, a Republican, knew that Wilson was out of office after his second term, and did not want to hand the Democrats a public relations win right before the next election, so he picked Article X to oppose the treaty with.  It said that members of the League of Nations were obliged to defend each other against attacks.  Lodge argued this would get us into another war. 

While defending the Treaty on a whistle stop train tour, Wilson suffered a series of strokes, and the Treaty died when he did.

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The overall principle that guided Wilson's Fourteen Points was the idea that war was bad and should be avoided.  The main ways to avoid it, in Wilson's opinion, were:

  • Principle of self-determination.  Ethnic groups should rule themselves, not be ruled by other ethnic groups.
  • Freedom of the seas.  Countries should be able to trade freely with one another, even in time of war.
  • Open diplomacy.  No secret treaties.
  • Collective security -- through the League of Nations.  If one country attacks another, all countries should gang up on the attacking country.

This last is why the US didn't ratify.  We didn't want to be dragged into war if, say, Italy attacked Austria (get in wars we don't care about).

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