President Wilson has already outlined the Fourteen Points that he sees the United States as having entered the war to achieve. Now in another speech to Congress he clarifies them by the addition of four principles that must govern any peace settlement. They are firstly that each part of a final settlement must be based justice, secondly that people and provinces are not to be transferred between states in pursuit of great power interests, thirdly that territorial adjustments must be made in the interests of the people of those territories and finally that national aspirations must be “accorded the utmost satisfaction that can be accorded them without introducing new or perpetuating old elements of discord and antagonism”.
Wilson is effectively saying that the principle of national self-determination must be paramount in any future peace settlement. This is bad news for multi-national empires like Turkey and Austria-Hungary, though it may also cause some disquiet to France and Britain, with their vast overseas empires. For now though Wilson’s principles are expected only to apply to the Central Powers.
In a time of realpolitik, Wilson’s aspirations may seem hopelessly naive, and certainly this is how some of his allies see them. However the US President is convinced that only a settlement on these lines will lay the basis for a permanent peace that will prevent the world from facing another catastrophic war.
Woodrow Wilson (Wikipedia)