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The Unintended Consequences of Making the World "Safe for Democracy"

Of late, I've been reading and reflecting a fair bit upon the long-term impact of World War One, especially the religious and geo-political implications of the Great War. 

In the essay linked below, former Reagan budget director, David Stockman, offers a rather bleak assessment of the legacy of President Woodrow Wilson, focusing upon the far-reaching but unintended consequences of World War One.

In steering the USA into a European war, Stockman contends, Wilson did not make the world safe for democracy, but actually ensured the rise of National Socialism in Germany, along with the rise of Bolshevism in Russia, and the pro-war nationalists in Britain and France--thereby guaranteeing a second world war.  Stockman also argues that the Great Depression is the inevitable blow-back from Wilson's risky monetary policies to finance the war.

In The Epochal Consequences of Woodrow Wilson's War, Stockman contends,

[Wilson's] unforgiveable error was to put the United States into the Great War for utterly no good reason of national interest. The European war posed not an iota of threat to the safety and security of the citizens of Lincoln NE, or Worcester MA or Sacramento CA. In that respect, Wilson’s putative defense of “freedom of the seas” and the rights of neutrals was an empty shibboleth; his call to make the world safe for democracy, a preposterous pipe dream.

Actually, his thinly veiled reason for plunging the US into the cauldron of the Great War was to obtain a seat at the peace conference table——so that he could remake the world in response to god’s calling.

But this was a world about which he was blatantly ignorant; a task for which he was temperamentally unsuited; and an utter chimera based on 14 points that were so abstractly devoid of substance as to constitute mental play dough.

Or, as his alter-ego and sycophant, Colonel House, put it:  Intervention positioned Wilson to play “The noblest part that has ever come to the son of man”.  America thus plunged into Europe’s carnage, and forevermore shed its century-long Republican tradition of anti-militarism and non-intervention in the quarrels of the Old World.

Needless to say, there was absolutely nothing noble that came of Wilson’s intervention. It led to a peace of vengeful victors, triumphant nationalists and avaricious imperialists—-when the war would have otherwise ended in a bedraggled peace of mutually exhausted bankrupts and discredited war parties on both sides.

By so altering the course of history, Wilson’s war bankrupted Europe and midwifed 20th century totalitarianism in Russia and Germany.

These developments, in turn, eventually led to the Great Depression, the Welfare State and Keynesian economics, World War II, the holocaust, the Cold War, the permanent Warfare State and its military-industrial complex.

Reader Comments (6)

Dang! Way to go, Woodrow!

By the way, the Workd War 1 Museum and memorial in Kansas City, MO is an amazing place. I hope you get a chance to visit it someday.
January 27, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJohn D. Chitty
Richard Gamble's book "The War for Righteousness" makes clear that Wilson's post millennium eschatology and that of other Christians in the early 1900s was largely responsible for America's entry into the War as well as for a variety of Progressive causes at that time. "Building the kingdom of God" is a pretty iffy concept.
January 27, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRichard
I read Stockman's piece and it's interesting, but I was reminded of Article 13 from the Belgic Confession regarding God's providence.

As I look at our present state of affairs in this country and I get myself worked up over how much better things could be, I stop and remind myself that while the voters might vote, the King of kings is continually going about His business. It gets pretty ugly at times from our perspective but it's reassuring to know that ultimately, "...all things work together for good,..."

Having said that <grin>, we certainly need to stop meddling in the affairs of others all over the world. It seems we're reaping an ugly harvest in the Middle East right now because of such meddling. If the U.S. wants to do some nation building, we've got plenty of work to do at home. <grin>
January 27, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterR.J. Stevens
I often think about unintended consequences as I see church officers make motions to do this or that supposedly safeguarding against one problem only to see an unintended problem pop up later because of the adoption and implementation of said motion. I guess there really is no way to guard against unintended consequences since they can not be "seen" or anticipated in advance. Look at how the drive to provide mosquito nets in Africa in order to prevent the spread of deadly malaria is now having the unintended consequence of endangering the "critical food source for millions of the world's poorest people." because they are being used for fishing. NYT says: "But the unsparing mesh, with holes smaller than mosquitoes, traps much more life than traditional fishing nets do. Scientists say that could imperil already stressed fish populations, a critical food source for millions of the world’s poorest people."
January 27, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMark
Yeah, but was Wilson also responsible for the rise of the multi-site churches?

To Mark and R.J.'s comments: <<<selah>>>
January 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRobin
Kim, you should also read "Liberal Fascism" by Jonah Goldberg, in which he, among other things, contends that Wilson was America's first fascist president.
January 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRichard Zuelch

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