tv Lectures in History CSPAN May 30, 2015 8:30pm-9:55pm EDT
badge. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] announcer: you can watch the classes with college professors here. bard college professor sean mcmeekin talks about how the united states got involved in world war i. he describes the goals of the many countries involved and the treaty of versailles. he also discusses president woodrow wilson's role in crafting the treaty and its public reception in the u.s. this class is about one hour and 20 minutes. >> thank you for coming. professor mcmeekin: i believe we left off at the negotiations of lenin and trotsky.
you will recall the western allies did not come to these negotiations because they viewed lenin as a german puppet government. to some extent, this was beginning to annoy wilson that this was taking so long. the bolshevik had come into possession of a secret treaty pertaining to the succession -- the secession of the ottoman empire. an enigmatic role to say the least because the united states did not enter the war in 1914 nor when the united states entered the war did it do so with a clear sort of territorial war aims that most of the other neutral powers did. essentially bargaining their
belligerence in exchange for territorial gains the italians coming into the war 1915 because they have designs on hungarian territory in the south trieste and -- triestae. partly because of wilson's own rhetoric, the u.s. entered the war for very different reasons. that in itself was quite interesting. we have to go back a little bit further to see who president woodrow wilson was and how he came to play such a dominant role in this story and in the postwar settlement. he had been elected back in 1912 for the first time.
bill clinton was elected due in some part two a split in the republican vote. he entered the white house with somewhat of a duality. this is unlike for example barack obama winning with the vast majority. in 1912, there was another republican on the ballot, theodore roosevelt. roosevelt was remembered for many things. some of his nicknames were the pool moose -- bull moose. he was a very strong president
when it comes to foreign policy. he saw the u.s. as having more of a traditional type of approach to foreign policy. he also had the rare honor of essentially choosing his successor in 1908. he was a bit disappointed in taft which had a lot to do with domestic policy. roosevelt partly because he was disappointed in taft, decided to jump back into the ring in 1912. it was an interesting campaign.
he gave a speech in new hampshire shortly after being shot. he showed the entry wound and the blood to the public and said something to the effect of it takes more than that to kill a bull moose. he didn't win the election. wilson was elected with this plurality. he had a working majority in the electoral college and enough influence in congress to get through much of his legislative program. when it came to reelection, he was a little bit weaker than he might have otherwise been. the reason this mattered in terms of geopolitics was that the united states then had a large germanic population in the midwest. although many influential movers and shakers in the eastern capital cities tended to sympathize with the powers and the war, particularly the financial community, many of the
wall street bank in 1916 some of them have even begun extending loans to russia. despite all of this, wilson remained aloof. even when the lusitania was sunk -- we know that it was carrying lots of munitions and was being used to guard the british ocean liners -- everyone on board was a civilian and almost everyone around. -- drowned.
the united states was neutral but it was neutral to some extent with a rooting interest. britain, by blockading germany was violating the freedom of the seas. she was also violating property rights. she was restricting the freedom of trade. the germans, i thinking commercial vessels, were violating human rights. -- by sinking commercial vessels wilson did not want to go to war and gave a speech saying the united states was too proud to fight. he was reelected to some extent on this notion of keeping the u.s. out of the war.
this particular refrain echoed down through the decades in american history. franklin delano roosevelt assured everyone he kept the united states out of the second world war. it didn't work out that way. in 1916, wilson was still neutral. it is true that financial interests were pushing the united states closer and closer together with the powers. some of this was by accident because of the british arcade. -- british blockade. the germans, keen to keep the united states out of the war change some of their own policies regarding the sinking of ocean liners and merchant vessels. a had become much more circumspect of -- circumspect of
-- circumspective. they created their own u-boats. they were not like today's submarines. they could really only dive on the attack. for the most part, they were surface vessels. they were rather vulnerable to any fire. by forcing them to give warning to any ship suspected of carrying weapons, it gave enough time for women, children and even men to make a rush for the lifeboats. they made it more difficult for themselves to sink any ships. in 1916 and 1917, whether we are looking at germany russia, or
even turkey, it was a really brutal winter. i think we can appreciate that today with yet another snowfall yesterday. it was cold everywhere. in russia, there were bottlenecks and transportation because many of the rail lines were covered in snow and had to be constantly shoveled out. it was so cold which exacerbated the fuel crisis. this would eventually become the riots and the february revolution. this was referred to as the turnip winter. that's because the germans were being starved out by the british blockade. there seemed to be a direct in
action between british naval policy and the suffering of germans. it's partially exaggerated but it was real to some extent. there was also a just eject -- there was also a strategic argument to be played. the war must be brought to a firm conclusion as soon as possible. they basically said that if they took the gloves off of the u-b oats and began sinking more ships, they would cause such devastation in the british that they would be forced to bring
peace. such was the thinking. the germans were clever enough to realize that there were risks in this strategy. in fact, this might bring the united dates into the war. -- united states to forestall that possibility the foreign office concocted an ingenious or perhaps idiotic plan to try to get the united states even more deeply embroiled in mexico's revolution. the united states was already involved pursuing the president. the german idea was that if the mexicans went to war, that would distract the americans and be
unable to send troops to europe. the germans decided to try to lore mexico into the first world war. -- lure all of the belligerent powers were playing footsie with neutrals and trying to entice them with promises of territory. for mexico, this territory was the american southwest. the germans had some fuel to play with. the way they played with it was about as dangerous a matter as you could possibly imagine. they sent this proposal to mexico city by way of the u.s. embassy cable.
they sent it to the mexican ambassador in washington dc. what the germans and americans did not know was that the british were reading this cable traffic. the british had broken the german codes. that in and of itself was a story. long story short, they were able to decode this telegram. they were then presented a dilemma. if they revealed this potentially explosive information to the americans they would also have to reveal that they were reading u.s. cable traffic. they did not want to let the americans know that.
they basically contrived way to resend the exact same telegram so the americans could read it and would think they discovered it themselves. this bombshell helped galvanize public opinion against germany and the united dates. -- united states it seems like an inevitable thing that the united states will join the coalition against germany. fdr was far more keen to get into the war in the second world war than wilson was for the first world war. this was back in the old-fashioned days where the wars fought by the u.s. were adjudicated by congress.
this was still taken seriously. the congressional prerogative to declare war in addition to the prerogative held by the senate to ratify treaties. wilson knew that any foreign policy that he wished to pursue would ultimately rest in congress and public opinion. wilson began making the case. some of it was simply wilson making up his own mind that there was a distinction to be made between the violation of property rights and the freedom of the seas or commerce represented by the british blockade of the southern powers and the german murder of civilians for the sinking of the lusitania. that along with the general outrage prompted by the telegram allowed him to make up his own mind to make an address to
congress. one lesser-known factor was the intervening event in russia. the february revolution in russia in the early euphoric stage before everything had gotten bogged down with the bolsheviks, it was still the early euphoric days. russia was a democracy. no one was quite sure what russia's new government was. you have this provisional government and the electoral committee of the petrograd soviet. no one was quite sure what the form of the new russian government would be. it was a people's government. wilson could now make the claim
that the allies stood for democracy. this claim was echoed back in a kind of mirror imaging in russia . there were problems with the new rhetoric about a war for democracy, various ideals which is the way wilson wanted to sell it. the allies had, after all, agreed amongst themselves to dispose of it enemy territory. those treaties were still secret. wilson himself was not privy to them. he may have suspected something of them which is part of the reason why he had always been a little load -- loathed to commit
the united states fully to the alliance. he wanted to be an associated power. in practice, this meant that the united states declared war on imperial germany, seeing germany as the instigator of the aggression, particularly in the atlantic. united states did not declare war on austria, hungary, for another eight months. even then, it was rather difficult for
the americans to figure out exactly how they would engage austria, hungary on the battlefield. reminiscent of a story i alluded to earlier whereby, in the second world war hungary is one of the satellites of hitler
germany. the hunt gary and ambassador was forced -- the hunt gary and -- hungarian ambassador was forced to admit that he was at war with america. supposedly, not everyone in the state department new -- knew where hungary was. the u.s. did not declare war
on the ottoman empire. a seemingly accidental fact which actually has huge consequences which lasted this day. american-turkish relations have always rested on a fairly sound footing despite recent issues.
they were not actually at were -- at war in the 20th century. in turkey recently, there was a serious difference between how turkish people feel about brits and americans. they may resent americans, but they really resent the british. we have a question? >> i understand why we declared war on germany but i don't understand why we declared war on austria-hungary. professor mcmeekin: to some extent, the senate wanted wilson
to declare war on the ottoman empire as well but wilson would not. there was a security concern related to the declaration of holy war by the ottoman. the united states had missionary colleges in beirut and istanbul. that represented a major american interest in the ottoman empire. the united states was in an anomalous position regarding the ottoman empire. .12 of the 14 points stipulates -- point 12 of the 14 points
stipulates the dismantling of the ottoman empire. part of wilson was getting at was his own resentment that lenin had stolen his thunder. after all, the united eighth -- the united states was this archetypical constitutional democratic republic in a way that wilson believed. he was a professor of political science. he was deeply versed in the nature of the american founding at all of its ideals. along comes lenin who was a kind of usurper who had no democratic mandate for the future of power. after the bolsheviks took power in petrograd, they published the so-called secret treaties. trotsky took over the foreign
ministry and they immediately began sharing this information pertaining to the war aims of the powers, particularly in the ottoman empire. these treaties along with all those related to the disposition of colonial territories were leaked to western reporters. it began in december 1917. it was deeply embarrassing for the alliance. the bolsheviks at this stage were even talking about the possibility of
self-determination. they didn't use that phrase yet. they were talking about it. about a universal peace. they need to move beyond this world of imperialist aggrandize meant -- aggrandizment. stalin pursued a fairly imperialistic government of his own. but the bolsheviks had now captioned -- captured the moralistic feelings of the world.
they had in formal liaison with lenin's government. -- informal trotsky had divined this ingenious policy of no war and no peace. russia would not continue the war against the central powers but wouldn't surrender either. she would make a grand show of demobilizing her army to show the real aggressors were but allow the germans to do their worst. in practice, the germans did just that. they did it with a twist. while they were still negotiating, wilson first revealed to the world his 14 points.
they were later buttressed by the four principles and by the five particulars. with basic arithmetic, there were actually 23 points. you can see them in front of you. the phrase you usually hear to describe these points was self-determination. that phrase does not appear. a lot of these things are misremembered by history. if you look closely at them, idealistic as they sound with all this talk about questions of sovereignty over colonial
territories must be settled with the interests of the population's concern having equal weight with the equitable claims that the government -- this sounds very just and noble. if you look closely, nearly all of them are pertaining to the central powers. the united states is already at war, so the u.s. is mostly talking about dismembering enemy territory. that is there in .12 as well. -- point 12. the turkish portion of the ottoman empire should be assured sovereignty, but the other nations to -- nation should be secured an undoubted sovereignty. he is talking about effectively the territorial dismemberment of the ottoman empire.
wilson was also trying to split hairs on the notion of with whom the united states was at war. one of his most famous statements following the declaration of war on germany initially was that the americans have no quarrel with the german people. the idea is, who with the quarrel be with then? see if we can figure it out. >> the kaiser. professor mcmeekin: so it's with autocracy then. this sounds less ambitious. this implies that a negotiated
peace might be a bit difficult. what a germans might get better peace terms if they do what? >> a similar form of government to america is. professor mcmeekin: to oppose the kaiser. and then they make a show of becoming democrats. this is an interesting negotiating strategy if that is what it is. it does seem to be what wilson believes. what really matters is the system of government. if you talk about wilson ideals that is the essence of it. the idea being that of everyone embraces these values, you won't have a moral wars. >> what was a german popular opinion of the kaiser as opposed to the russian? professor mcmeekin: a very good question. the best answer is that it
tended to go with the flow of the war. their procedure was still intact so long as the war was won. the two revolutionaries must actually seek the defeat of their own government. of course the war will enhance the prestige of the government prosecuting it. in the end come it was the fact that russia's war was not going well in eastern europe that seem to undermine the prestige of the czar and lead to his downfall. the same will eventually happen in germany as well but it is a bit of a chicken or the egg question. was it because there was already popular opposition to the kaiser
or because the war eventually went sour? to the extent we know the kaiser some particularly unpopular. and certainly were critics. they didn't seem to be any generalized critique of his government. there was a movement eventually wants it looked like the war was going to be lost to remove that government in order to get better peace terms. it becomes a bit of a self the filling prophecy. it echoes -- a self-fulfilling prophecy. fdr was a little more explicit about this. an important corollary was an the population needed to be reeducated.
he wants to have a different sort of war. it were to end all wars. a were to make the world safe for democracy. not a war in which the u.s. actually has any territorial objectives. that was the strange part. here wilson is adhering to the old american tradition. it is notably -- better described that the united states stands for something different. on one hand, the u.s. is not party to the treaties of its allies off on the other, it is staking universal claims. it is almost the inverse of isolationism. >> is it fair to say fdr was more concerned with traditional our politics -- power politics that wilson was? professor mcmeekin: yes although i would say he was not really a traditional list. he was closer to that because he was a bit more hard note.
here again the cardinal example is theodore roosevelt who really did see the u.s. as a more traditional power laughter all over sending troops to places like cuba, the dominican republic to ensure the security of the penna mocon now. the u.s. behaving as an imperialist power like the others. in fact, tr said had he been present, the u.s. would have gone into war immediately on the side of britain and france not because of some moral argument related to aggression or violation of belgium. rather because it was in the u.s. interest to ensure balance up power on the continent.
fdr saw his goal as to eradicate the people government that had arisen in not the germany and japan. militarism along with the theology of the nazis with its racial tones and so on. the u.s. had to eradicate those things. they had to reeducate the population. in wilson's case, he did not see the u.s. goal to reeducate the population of these places but he was split as to what he wanted to achieve. at the -- britain and france in turn are forced to adjust to will sony and -- wilsonian mandates.
they were eventually called league of nations mandates instead of colonies. which is more or less what they actually were. they wanted wilson to become complicit in their design partly by changing the terminology but it was also because wilson had come to be seen all. not necessarily because the u.s. army's war world leaders. they were seen as natalie and experienced when i first arrived in france. in terms of equipment and war material, they relied largely on the french. the orbital brothers had to some extent or build brothers had to some extent invented the airplane. the u.s. was not the decisive factor as far as battlefield experience and helping to turn
the tide. in material terms and in terms of reinforcements, the u.s. by raising an army of potentially 4 million -- you have a delicately poised struggle on the western front. this would have an impact which is one of the impact the germans were in such a rush to end the war. we see a couple things are in the air. bolshevik had taken the moral high ground. they want copycat revolutions to break out across europe. they want these universal principles of international socialism to triumph. pacifism is not the right word but they do want for the imperialist war to be transformed into civil war or civil wars with socialists and the working classes topping the ruling establishments. the germans once they hear about wilson's 14 points and they were
also responding to trotsky's own resident. the germans came up with their own genius strategy for carving up the russian empire. with the germans, they decided everyone is going to talk about self-determination. imperialism is out of fashion even though it is still there. no one wants to call it that anymore. what the germans decide is they will take before minority populations of the russian empire and invite them to declare independence. most prominent among these was ukraine. it was quite interesting. ukraine at the time was in the middle of a civil war and what the bolsheviks were one of many fashions. under terry and troops are beginning to pour in from the country from the west. -- on the area in -- hungarian
troops. a government of student aged socialists that appointed itself the parliamentary of ukraine. at a number of representatives. trotsky was quite amusing as his retorts often were. he said they represented the territory no larger than that of the hotel rooms the germans had rented for them. however, the germans did not care. they find a treaty with independent ukraine. in which the radom brought in the troops to expel the bolsheviks. it did not work terribly well for the germans. they turned out to be incapable of governing the ukraine as trotsky had intuitively known.
the germans ended up going the other direction and ended up appointing a dictator who happened to be not just a star army veteran but a descendent -- initially, they embrace some determination. they allowed the baltic states stealth determinations. they could all become -- self determinations. they could all become independent german satellites. they detached most of the provinces of european russia. despite the rumor that the bolsheviks were just asking -- acting for a german agent, the germans began bombing petrograd to get the bolsheviks to sign. a little-known episode -- it was
a for this reason that the bolsheviks moved the capital for petrograd to mask out into the kremlin which was out of the range of german military aviation. that is why the capital moved to moscow. they did eventually side. when the #. -- sign. mostly by the social revolutionaries led never really recognized. it bought time for the bolsheviks. a lot of it because lenin himself had gone behind signing with the germans. once the germans lost the war, this helped to make is positioned impenetrable. the no war, no peace policy i
spoke about was trotsky's. in the same way the resolution to seize power had been trotsky's. lenin had just wanted to sign. that is what they were forced to do and the end against their will. the germans have now torn the mask off. they made it clear what their real war aims are. dismembering russia. a lot of corollary terms regarding financial reparations which is interesting because the germans endlessly bellyache in the 20's and 30's about the reparations they were forced to pay. they forced reparations upon the russians. that said, despite this rift in march between the bolsheviks and germans the relations improved over the course of the year. some of this has to do with a browser bizarre saga -- a rather bizarre saga inside the area
when the detachment of czechoslovak prisoners of war rose up and seized most of the trans-siberian railway and the gold reserve's. this in turn was a part of the larger story towards the end of the war. all questions seem to be on the table. he prisoners of war were left go so they could fight on the western front. this was negotiated between the western allies and trotsky. it was during that time attention that trotsky actually invited allied troops into russia. this will later be endlessly denounced in soviet propaganda as the great imperialist intervention in russia which it did eventually turn into to some extent. and the initial rush, they were invited in to protect the bolsheviks from the germans. in may, the czechoslovak's
basically got in an argument with a bunch of hungarians who were going the other direction because they were pro-german. it took over siberia. trotsky ordered them and relies they had more men under arms than he did. there was nothing he could do about it. by august, things had gotten so serious and the other direction that of tensions between the bolsheviks and the other powers that the bolsheviks invited german troops in to help them expel the western allies. although it is little-known to history, one of the last operational orders was for the germans to send troops to petrograd to overthrow the bolsheviks. there was actually an argument
in the german government about the bolsheviks. the foreign office all along had been proponents of what we might call the lenin card. the two of the four in office was lenin will keep the russians busy and they will not threaten us and able to send into chaos and that is fine. we don't have to deal with this. the military had never been particularly fond of lenin. they saw him as dangerous and they may have been right. it is one of those interesting stories not adequately researched but that is the flow of -- slow of bolshevik war propaganda into eastern germany which did eventually undermine the morale of the german army. trotsky was witness, tossing out antiwar leaflets from the train. the bolsheviks were not above being in your face about their antiwar propaganda. people were playing all sides in
russia. eventually russia's tragedy is that the civil war does become internationalized although you might signature added he was that the thought of supporting those were trying to topple the bolsheviks in the end were given somewhat halfhearted support whereas the bolsheviks mostly because they inherited the central arms depot and were able to raise a red army ultimately were able to triumph. that's to the u.s. the u.s. is slowly wrapping up its armed forces. they see their first combat in the spring. by august, some units are battle hardened and thrown into action. they equipped themselves with fairly well. they are a part of the story of the turning of the tide in the western area. u.s. army casualties in the first world war were actually much a smaller than not only the second world war but less than
60,000 dead. overall casualties, maybe 200 thousand. these are significant numbers and history although they were nothing to -- comparatively losses suffered by the other allies. russia had two or 3 million dead in war. millions of prisoners of war. the germans losing that number in the war. that is in terms of the shedding of blood. in terms of finance the u.s. was decisive. by 1918, the u.s. was angle he financing the allied war effort. this created problems. problems that would go on down into the 20's and great depression. what happened at first was that britain was the only power capable of funding the war efforts of its allies so they all went into london.
most largely france but also the lesser allies as well. the british down they cannot finance their own war. they ended up going to the americans to the tune of $7 billion. they were colossal debts. the u.s. was on the hook for all the allies. they wanted to be paid back. this is interesting. if you look at the spanish civil war, an interesting difference is that stalin and arming the republican side insisted on advance payment in gold which may have made him less keen than his side to win. frank about his arms on credit which meant the germans would want him to win so he could pay them back. the u.s. had invested interest in addition to the possibly moral strategic interest in the victory of the associated
powers. this helped the impression that wilson was all-powerful. that along with 14 points come the generalized rhetoric of peace without annexation which was not necessarily to the liking of the associated powers in britain and france who had rather extensive war aims in the ottoman empire. once it became clear the germans in september 1918 would probably not win the war, those 14 points -- it is a bit confusing but before principles and five particulars went into a bit more depth about the notion that the u.s. saw justice for its enemy as well as its associated powers. the germans had just read the 14 point and could not have seen they would get much out of it. before principles and five particulars of just that the u.s. would not necessarily have some kind of punitive fees that the germans would not be unduly
punished even if there was an application that certain areas inhabited by minority populations like the polls might be detached from germany. the germans hoped that was not the case. as did the ottomans who petitioned americans for peace. as for what decided the work that is a vexing question that military historians still debate. the u.s. intervention in terms of morale probably did have a serious impact on german soldiers who did begin surrendering and larger numbers than ever before in august and september of 1918. brush army sources say the germans were still fighting savagely and they were inducting an orderly retreat. even if morale had been damaged, the germans were still in french territory. this is the source of this discord in german politics where
many of the generals and opportunistic politicians like hitler would concoct the stab in the back legend that the german army had not really been defeated. it had been defeated but that said, it was still on foreign territory. there was actually a breakthrough -- let me see if i can find it on this other map. just barely. you can see on our map regarding the ottoman empire way over on the edge above greece. it was part of the back story of the first world war. in a vision to being the birthplace of the city the bulgarians and greeks raced four
and 1912 and the greeks and the bulgarians thereby one day. it played a role not just to the origins but to the conclusion of the first world war. it had become the scene of a vast and accidental deployment in 1915. when the liberally -- the reddish decided they would need greece to enter the war so -- the british. the way to convince greece to join them was by taking some troops and sending them. all that it convinced the greeks was that they were not serious about winning. greece did not enter the war in 1950. the deployment was initially for divisions and metastasized accidentally. the british look at this in may of 1917.
evacuating the troops would be more costly than keeping them there. they kept them there. the couple month later, greece joined the war because they were promised territory in turkey. you have something like a next her nine divisions there. while this is not enough to overcome initially bulgarian -- bulgaria was a key component of the central powers. the bulgarians felt like they have been betrayed by their own allies. they keep wanting to gain territory and losing because their own allies keep getting up on them. they wanted this territory. the turks and have areas --
germans would not give it to them so they got better so they decided they would not fight any longer. suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, you had a breakthrough with an army of 250,000 now poised and ready to march up and threatened vienna and berlin. if you read ludendorff's on papers, this is what convinced him he could not win before -- the war. the deployment and breakthrough is what finally did it. the ottomans sued for peace and the ottomans were quicker to perceive what we meant then even -- the debacle meant that the germans.
they were done. they sued for peace. they try to get a good deal from wilson which was not necessarily stupid. he had not -- made all of these promises including lack of tutorial dismemberment. turkey was not at war with the u.s. so it didn't make sense. the germans are suing for peace on the same reasons. this misunderstanding is born where the germans have something of a case to complain they had been misled by wilson. wilson and some of his aides have already come to an agreement with france and
britain that german territorial integrity will not be respected in the postwar settlement. he did not make this clear to the germans. had he made it clear, they probably would not have surrendered. he is usually accused of being an excessively idealistic and unrealistic politician. at times, he was. in this case, he was playing machiavelli. the germans thought they would get a better deal and they would get a negotiated peace. they got nothing of the kind. they got unopposed peas -- peace. we will have a lot of time to go through the articulators -- particulars. all the nuts and bolts of
interwar diplomacy which would revise. the visit meant understanding is the germans thought they would get a deal and they got a deal on the principles of the french. the other part of the settlement which was being negotiated in versailles which had consequences related to reparations. effectively, they already agreed to this one ludendorff was sending out to be americans, he agreed in principle that germany would contribute something to pay for damages caused by the were. this is probably a mistake on his part. i think ludendorff at the time -- his basic plan was that he would convince the kaiser to step down and invite these socialist politicians to take over. they could all take the blame to the debacle which followed.
this enabled the creation of the stab in the back legend. it was concocted by ludendorff himself and germany did have a revolution. the mutiny itself was quite interesting. you may remember germany have thrown all of these resources into building a high seas fleet to mash the british at their own game. most of them had spent the bulk of the were sitting important doing nothing. the admirals concocted a scheme that at the war was ending for them to go out and die in a blaze of glory. the sailors did not want to die in a blaze of glory. they rose up and is mutiny spread to the army. this revolution spread to bulb area -- boulder area --
bolvaria. germany had their own revolution and also their own version of the soviets which began spreading like mushrooms in russia. in germany, the worker and soldier soviets were not as radical. they voted themselves out of existence. the leader of the majority socialist faction will later take over and become president. it was he and his associates who did bear the brunt of the scapegoating because they were the ones were forced to swallow this treaty. it ends up being a real sore point for german nationalists.
article 231 establish the principle of german war that germany had been guilty or responsible for starting the war which was a justification for forcing the germans to pay these reparations or not to pay off for damages but to some extent offset the colossal debt paid by all the other allies. ultimately this problem with the issue of interest will i debts -- enter allied debts. the u.s. wanted a position and some saw this pretty clearly that the u.s. could have staved off a lot of problems by simply forgiving their allies instead. in particular, the british because they -- this intern will
-- in turn will make the french left keen on forcing the germans to face -- pay those reparations. the man john maynard keynes -- i have written the title of his pamphlet published in the book. it is actually this book which made him famous. it was not the later book. we want he is most known for among economists. this was the book that made him a global celebrity. he worked for the treasury during the war. before, he had served in the office surveying and studying capital flows and inflows. he was practiced, experience
knew a lot about economics and economic practice. he understood manners like trade and what he thought was that the reparations that france was demanding of the germans would be devastating not just for germany but for the entire european economy and will ultimately feel back the paranoia and poverty and scapegoating and blaming of minorities and so on that without extremists come to power. he was thinking at that time more about socialists. he saw the outlines of the kind of political crisis emerging. he thought economic recovery was the most important thing. to some extent come he was using the ideas that would underlay the marshall plan of the 1940's.
the u.s. should use its unique position as the creditor nation to see the economies of europe and help them to recover from the war. to be fair to the americans, the americans were already doing a lot to alleviate poverty and hunger and suffering and europe. the american relief administration have already taken over much of the district vision food supplies and belgium and later do the same in hungary. the americas were not doing nothing to alleviate these problems. his larger argument was the americans should have taken a larger global, more humane view of things. feeling lucky they had been spared the worst wars of the war, a war born in blood by most of our allies. the u.s. having lost so fewer men. this was of course nothing to the losses of britain and france
but maybe the u.s. should forget those more debts -- or decks -- war debts. wilson was not addressed in the economics -- not interested in economics. >> [inaudible] he kind of goes off against wilson towards the end and says he is the most disgraced president by the end of this term. how does he get from this all-powerful force in the versailles negotiations to this mph to -- to this mph -- impeached president? professor mcmeekin: wilson's biggest mistake was simply go into versailles. having stayed home with this repetition of being almost
infallible, not gotten wrapped up into the nitty-gritty of drawing borderlines in europe, adjudicating financial claims when he could have rolled -- ruled by mediating disputes and problems. instead, he ended up becoming one negotiator amongst others, at ranking them in terms of being the president instead of head of government. he was squabbling like the rest of them. from the map you are holding here, an example of the way wilson allowed himself to be manipulated and corrupted by the politics -- they are not alleys -- allies. if you look at these zones of occupied turkey, the secret agreements have now come to fruition in some ways even more devilish ways than in 1916.
russia has dropped out. italy and greece have made these elaborate claims. i think i showed you this not once before with the amusement being the italian zone was in fact love the largest of all the zones in turkey and italy claim was -- that one of the largest of all the zones. the only claim was that it used to be a part of the empire. it was absurd. it was when the italians had walked out in protest -- the italians at left. basically stating a temper tantrum. they wanted this territory that have been given away. they are out of the room and the
greeks explained to wilson what is going on that italy has an absurd claim. wilson is convinced this is an outrage so he gives a green light to the greek occupation. troops land on the 15th of may, 1919. within 15 hours, 400 dead in the streets. about 300 muslims and 100 greeks. this violence could have been foreseen. the greeks and turks had been at war before the first world war. the third balkan war resumes with a vengeance. in the next three years, we see massive waves of ethnic cleansing. greeks made it to the sick aria river.
then in the course of retreating they burned villages and most famously, the turks set a fire in the arminian quarter which engulfed most of the downtown. the burning in 1920 two was the 9/11 of its day. people remember the scenes of the day. for to some extent, wilson was responsible. not alone responsible. he is actually the one who was in a position to make a decision. the decision he ultimately made was that this claim for self-determination of the greek people's of the ottoman empire -- this intern helped fuel another devastating war. the principle of self-determination was intentionally a useful one as applied in a kind of careful
way. it could also potentially lead to archives of carnage and chaos. in europe with the mixed populations -- even to some extent germany with their minorities, now they are being given their own new states in the postwar world with their minorities to address. serbia was given a miniature empire known as yugoslavia in which they could express -- a press all of its minorities peoples. olson ended up undermining -- wilson ended up undermining his own moral authority.
if you are reading the johnson book, he claims the idea was concocted by these british pacifists. wilson did not suddenly get onto it. it is in the original 14 points. he was already talking about something that would become the league of nations. that idea comes to dominate his thinking in the last days of versailles and is part of the reason he gives in on all of the other questions. so long as britain and france agreed to this league everything house -- else will work out in the end. eventually you will get collective security. the front of the americans to make a security guarantee and wilson says we cannot do that but we will give you collective security in the league of nations.
when he comes back to the u.s. and tries to sell the league of nations, he has to sell the versailles treaty which is a little harder because the treaty has all these things related to minority populations in europe. he tries to sell it all as a package. in the course of doing this, what remains collapses. he had his first stroke in paris. that is another reason he should have not gone to paris. yet another series of storks that largely incapacitated him. for a time of nearly 17 or 18 months, the last month of his term before the inauguration of harding, wilson is effectively -- effectively an invalid. from time to time come he was examined and seemed cogent.
it was his wife who was running things and making decisions. he did -- would sometimes scribble down orders in legible handwriting because he had a series of strokes. all we know for sure is that he instructed to the extent he was able to do so democrat delegation of the senate to reject the compromise terms drawn up by the republicans. they were voting down wilson's own version of the treaty. it is an endless argument. they did not vote in favor of the treaty. that failed pretty badly. 38-53. yes. >> [inaudible]
professor mcmeekin: she was not uneducated. she dropped out after a couple years. she was semi literate. she was not bookish. wilson got his phd in political science from johns hopkins professor at princeton. his wife -- she made very well added native intelligence but she was not educated. henry cabot and the senate republicans -- the irreconcilable's. hiram johnson was the most extreme proponent of this who wanted no compromise. they did not want the republican irreconcilable's. they wanted all of the troops to
come home. they were kind of isolationists. they were skeptical about the treaty as a whole partly because the enunciation had begun to cut some ice with public opinion. they got the treaty was unjust and they thought that this league of nations was unrealistic and they did not want the u.s. to be bound by it to go to war in some faraway place because of some u.n. resolution. they amended the treaty. they said if you can make this more realistic -- the congress does not forfeit its role to declare war. we can support this. in this amended version of the treaty. it was voted on in the senate and this one passed by a majority of 49-35. however, that was short of the two thirds majority for ratification. by about seven votes, the u.s.
about out of the collective security system of europe after the first world war. the u.s. was not a part of the versailles treaty nor a member of the league of nations. even though the entire thing to some extent -- it was not wilson's idea -- it was his baby, you might say. he ends up being discredited but there were a lot of reasons why he in retrospect has a lesser reputation now. the overt racism and segregation of the white house and so on. wilson at least at the time had been revered to the point when he went to versailles and got involved with the worst rating and allowed himself to get laid. -- played. johnson is very hard on keynes and says this becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.
he said this peace treaty with the reparations where you are going to ruin germany so you are not able to milk her -- this will ruin your economy and be a breeding ground for war. and that, he was right. it is interesting here no one comes off with great credit in this story. the republican today caucus in the 1920's although they did renegotiate particularly under dos, they renegotiated some of the clauses in the reparations. they never did forget those debts. as cool it what it at one point they hired the money, didn't they? they should pay it back. which of course is a justifiable position to take but maybe not the wisest.
the u.s. could have forgiven these debts. maybe wilson could have by staying home have ensured the versailles treaty was not quite so locked cited. if you read johnson and some authors say look we versailles treaty was not really unfair, it just in to be enforced. you can make that argument and say if they were going to commit , they needed to make sure everyone signed on and you had enough force to enforce it. the problem was that france had been so devastated by the war she didn't really have the morale or manpower to do this and this is true of the intervention in soviet russia as well. france is the greatest creditor but also the smallest means and the least amount of manpower. britain partly because gains -- keynes has public opinion there.
the al is already beginning to split apart. so the germans despite being maybe again legitimately aghast at these terms, can begin to point to divisions amongst their allies. they sent troops directly into the area. france is not that up by britain. the alliance begin the fracture very early on. the upshot of this was in 1941 france surrendered to hitler and the british responded by sinking the french fleet off the coast of algeria. that that blood was already there in the early days after versailles. maybe that was inevitable.
britain and france had been traditional enemies for centuries so maybe it made sense. this sense of missed opportunity i think is significant with the u.s. there are a lot of ways the u.s. could have stayed out of the war . they could have entered the war but more wholeheartedly say we stand with our allies and that their terms and keep that army in europe to enforce them. or the u.s. could have done something more along the lines of what keynes was suggesting -- to intervene on wilsonian terms but insist on being generous. in the end, we might say everyone ended up with the worst of all possible options. a versailles treaty that was not even ratified by the u.s. and of course with the league of
nations created largely at the urging of the u.s. president but without u.s. membership or participation such that it ended up being a dead letter almost before it ended up being created. how are we doing on time? do we have any questions? yes. >> what do you think would have been different if wilson had not gone to versailles? do you think maybe the league of nations what had passed? professor mcmeekin: had he stayed in washington, he would have been more attuned to american public opinion and what was going on in congress. which is to say that had wilson been able to negotiate more directly on the one hand with his domestic opposition and without getting so wrapped up in the politics in paris, think there is a good chance that some amended version of the versailles treaty might have asked.
you can see why he went to paris. he was greeted as the savior. i think it is a classic case of hubris, before the fall. had wilson been content to stay behind, i think he would have been more effective. on the other hand, who can resist the crowds lining up to see him as the great savior coming across the new world to write the sins of the old? it was very attractive as a possibility. i do think that we probably would have seen a different kind of treaty ratified by congress. that is at least possible. any other questions? yes. >> a general question. i am wondering -- what do you think are the biggest holes in
wilsonism? professor mcmeekin: the contradiction is the idea that the u.s. is unique. that the u.s. is not a power like the others. you could take that to mean the u.s. are not get involved in corals of others. that was the intention of washington. he didn't want the u.s. to get wrapped in the power struggles of europe. wilson flipped it around and said that means the u.s. has a universal mission to lead not just by example but to support free institutions elsewhere. you can see that in the cold were -- cold war. the u.s. now has a universal role to play. you can see the appeal of the
idea and to some extent, it does underlie a lot of foreign-policy thinking in the modern u.s. aside from a few national greatness conservatives, no one really sites tr as much of a precedent in terms of foreign-policy. willsonism lives. it is open-ended. you have to call your shots and pick your spots. if you are committed to ensuring these ideals are practiced universally, there is no end to her possible foreign-policy. you could see that go anywhere. in kennedy talking about we must there any burden, pay any price. it sounds really expensive today. that ultimately is where wilson ism leads.
to support freedom fighters for ukraine, syria. today's headlines where we have cold wars in places like greece or turkey or vietnam. the u.s. ultimately has a universal mission of foreign-policy. if he doesn't -- any other questions? thank you all for coming. i think we will wrap up right there. >> join us each saturday evening at 8:00 p.m. and minute easy for classroom lectures across the country on different topics and heiress of american history. and eras of american history. visit our website or download our podcasts from itunes.