Wilson accomplished far more at the Paris peace conference than he is generally given credit for, according to Link. “Of the 14 points on which he believed peace should be based, he managed to get 11 written into the pact. What he tried to do in the Treaty of Versailles was to prevent the Balkanization of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He had a vision of autonomy for all peoples. And even though he didn’t succeed in getting the U.S. to join the League of Nations, we did participate in many of the League’s agencies and activities. Obviously he made concessions – he had to – but here are some major things he accomplished:

He prevented large-scale intervention in the Russian Revolution, leaving the Russians to determine their own destiny; prevented dismemberment of Germany except for the Polish corridor, which seemed essential to a viable Polish state; despite opposition, he did achieve the creation of the League of Nations, which was the first attempt at any systematic reconstruction of world order; with inevitable exceptions he – not alone, of course – did help in the creation of new states, which would have the right of self-determination, for people of coherent cultures; he prevented the imposition of a Carthaginian treaty on Germany, which the Allied leaders – not without good reason – were psychotically intent on doing. It is now evident that if Wilson’s ‘higher realism' had prevailed, had the U.S. taken leadership in the League of Nations, and had Germany been dealt with more humanely, World War II might have been avoided.”

This was originally published in the September 25, 1978 issue of PAW.