The 14 Points Plan by Woodrow Wilson
‘The 14 Points Plan’ discusses the factors, which made it necessary for America to enter the war. The writer holds the opinion that for peace to prevail and for people to get their right back, sometimes conflict or war may be necessary. The document also talks about how to ensure that the world never reaches such extremities again. The fourteen points offer the writer’s perspective on how world peace can be achieved and sustained. The 14 points plan is derived from a speech that the 28th President of America, Woodrow Wilson gave before a Joint Concession of Congress on January 8, 1918 during World War I. In the plan, he elaborated specifically the solutions to the problems of the European countries such as France, Belgium, Russia, Poland, Turkey, Austria-Hungary, Italy and Germany.
This speech was important because it paved the way for the creation of the United Nations, which aims to promote world peace and cooperation. The rules of the fourteen points plan are that all agreements between countries should be done transparently. The aim of this rule was to eliminate future secret defense agreements, which were one of the main causes of World War I. In the plan, Woodrow also advocated for the removal of trade barriers, freedom of movement, reduction of armament, self-determination of the liberated Balkan states and the creation of a League of Nations. The 14-point plan was a foreign policy document aimed at restoring and sustaining world peace after World War I (Pestritto & Atto, 2008).
Woodrow was a liberalist; his document advocated for freedom, independence and justice. At the time, the situation of the world was complicated; many countries were suffering greatly because of the war, therefore it was almost impossible for them to support his idealistic notions. They wanted revenge against their enemies and compensation for the losses they had suffered. The workability of Woodrow’s 14 points plan was therefore questioned because it appeared to be too idealistic although it contained positive ideas. He was not realistic in his picture of a perfect world. Another one of the weaknesses of the plan emerges when he says that there shall be open covenants of peace between nations “after which there shall be no private international understandings of any kind…” It is not possible for all countries in the world not to have private international understandings with each other, especially in trade. Relations between countries are a complex issue due to factors such as a shared history, common goals and objectives. Therefore, it is quite common for some implicit understandings to exist between countries.
The other limitation of the 14-point plan is that it was inconsiderate of the position that France and the United Kingdom had been put in by Germany during the war. They had suffered massively because of the war, and there was a high likelihood that Germany would become aggressive again if let off without any reprimand. The plan offered solutions that were too simplistic given the complicatedness of the war. Another weakness of the 14-point plan was that the ideals it stood for were too optimistic for that period in time and this made them impractical. The 14-point plan was opposed to colonialism and stated that colonizing countries should free their colonies. Again, this was too idealistic because at the time, almost a quarter of the world’s countries were under colonial rule, and the colonizers were benefiting immensely, therefore immediate withdrawal would not have been possible. The fourteen-point plan was an indirect cause of World War II; this is because it only offered solutions to world peace but did not deal with the root cause of the First World War. After the World War I, many European countries were still devastated for a long time by the losses they had suffered; therefore, despite the fact that they had agreed to adopt the 14-point plan, the leaders still wanted vengeance against Germany. Since the Versailles treaty was derived from the 14-point plan, when the tome came for the conversion of the plan into an agreement (treaty), the European leaders who were disgruntled with Germany twisted the plan to state that Germany would face punishment and sanctions. This is one of the factors that led to the start of World War II. Although Wilson’s plan contained positive principles and ideals, it required the creation of a New World. His plan envisioned a world where there would be transparency, democracy and justice. At that time, the world was in the middle of a war that had torn apart many countries and claimed many lives. Therefore, it was almost impossible for these countries to embrace his ideals and change because they were deeply engrained in militarism, autocracy and injustice. These principles were only enforced after the mass devastation caused World War II. It is then that the world saw the need for real change (Ruggiero, 2002).
The 14-point plan had both positive and negative effects. One of the benefits was that it was translated into the Versailles Treaty. This Treaty derived four of its points from the Versailles Treaty, including the 14th point, which advocated for the formation of a League of Nations. Thus, the United Nations was formed as a result of the 14-point plan. I agree with the 14-point plan on the fact that there was necessity to establish a League of Nations in order to ensure future world peace. World peace and cooperation is a crucial element An example of the consequences that conflict and disagreement between countries brings are the statistics of the World War I, over 25 million people died and economies of most of the European nations collapsed leading to an extremely harsh financial climate. The effects of the First World War were felt all over the world for a long time. It is therefore important to have a governing body that would facilitate peace, cooperation and development among all the countries of the world. This 14th point led to the eventual establishment of the United Nations, which over the years has helped many countries during tumultuous and devastating periods. Woodrow’s 14-point plan also facilitated the establishment of international courts of justice where perpetrators of war and violence are prosecuted.
The 14-point plan is still applicable today; many lessons can be learnt and applied from it. One of the key principles of the document is that every country should live and let live if peace is to be achieved. No country should invade other country’s territories and resources or violate the rights of another country. Another important lesson that countries can learn from this document is the fact that they should all take responsibly in order to uphold world peace because war affects all countries directly or indirectly. The plan also acts as a guideline on how countries should conduct themselves in order to avoid conflict with other countries. For instance, it is important to avoid making secret treaties with other countries. Diplomacy should be employed in all aspects of relations with other countries.
The United States government has also adopted some of Wilson’s principles in its foreign policies. Most of Woodrow Wilson’s successors have used international democratization, security and justice as tools for the promotion of world peace. As a result, countries all over the world are more aware of their rights and responsibilities towards each other. For instance, in the world today, there is freedom of movement and trade among the countries of the world. This has helped to facilitate international peace and understanding. Therefore, the 14-point plan can be considered as an important document in history that has facilitated the development and sustenance of world peace and has led to the development of foreign relations among countries in addition to the enhancement of world trade.
Pestritto, R. J., & Atto, W. J. (2008). American progressivism: a reader, Oregon: Lexington Books
Ruggiero, A., (2002). World War I, New York, NY: Marshall Cavendish