22/1/1917 “Peace Without Victory” – Wilson addresses the Senate

President Wilson is not giving up in his efforts to bring the war to a peaceful end. Before Christmas he asked the belligerents to state the terms on which they would agree to end the war, hoping that this would help to kick-start negotiations to an end. But their response was non-committal. The Central Powers did not state terms but merely expressed a willingness to negotiate, while the Allies set forth general terms that made clear their intent to prosecute the war until victory.

Now Wilson addresses the US Senate. Once more he talks about the need to bring the catastrophic war to an end, to achieve a “peace without victory”. And he looks beyond the immediate end of the current conflict. Steps need to be taken to ensure that a war like this never happens again. He talks of a post-war “concert of power”, some kind of combination of the nations that will prevent future conflicts, and an end to the entangling alliances that preceded the outbreak of violence in 1914. Furthermore he proposes universal democracy, the freedom of countries to order their own affairs without external interference and a general adherence to liberal values.

The belligerents appear to be intent on continuing the war until they can impose a peace on their enemies. Wilson’s vision therefore appears rather utopian. But it serves as a useful corrective in a world that appears to have taken leave of its senses.

Full text of Wilson’s speech

image source:

Woodrow Wilson (First World War.com – A Multimedia History of World War One)

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