What was Europe's attitude toward Wilson's 14 points?

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enotechris eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Wilson's 14 Points, which called for the liberation of peoples held in bondage by Russia, Austria-Hungary, Germany and Turkey, were enthusiastically accepted by the populace of those countries.  They were translated and dropped into the heart of enemy territory, which encouraged Slavic people in Germany and Austria-Hungary to boycott war production, and inspired them to depose the monarchy of both countries.

However, when the fighting concluded and negotiations began, the leaders of the various combatants, who did not necessarily represent the interests of the ethnic groups found within their countries' borders, were dominated politically by the "Big Four" (Wilson, USA George, Britain, Clemenceau, France Orlando, Italy) who did not see eye to eye on most issues.  Wilson pushed the most important point, the establishment of the League of Nations, eventually winning over opposition, but in doing so had to make concessions that weakened the intent of the 14 Point Plan, among them the right of "self-determination" for ethnic groups.

Tragically, Wilson believed that as long as the League got established, discussion could continue; any faults in the treaty could be corrected later. However, even Wilson's league was gutted after the US refused to join, since France insisted on immediate aid by the US should she again be attacked by Germany. European powers thus fell back to “traditional diplomacy” between themselves, which helped set the stage for the Second World War.

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