The United States as World Savior
Cover of issue 38
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How to Cite

The United States as World Savior: Costs and Consequences. (2009). The Political Science Reviewer, 38, 106-124.


On December 4, 1918, President Woodrow Wilson sailed to the Paris Peace Conference aboard the U.S.S. George Washington, a passenger liner seized from Germany at the start of the war. Having promised to "make the world itself at last free" and having waged "the culminating and final war for human liberty," Wilson strode ashore to redraw the map of Europe, enshrine self-determination and democracy, end balance-of-power politics, and build an edifice of permanent peace through the League of Nations. Crowds in Brest cheered him as the "Champion of the Rights of Man" and the "Founder of the Society of Nations." Similar greetings awaited him in Paris and London. Rome hailed him as the "God of Peace" and Milan as "The Savior of Humanity" and as "The Moses from Across the Atlantic." Back in Paris, Wilson settled down to months of protracted negotiations with British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, French Premier Georges Clemenceau, and other Allied victors as they refined the peace treaty. Lloyd George recalled Wilson "soaring in clouds of serene rhetoric" which soon sank, however, into the threadbare platitudes of the "timorous" doctrinaire. "I really think that at first the idealistic President regarded himself as a missionary whose function it was to rescue the poor European heathen from their age-long worship of false and fiery gods," Lloyd George wrote. The bemused prime minister remembered Clemenceau’s reaction to Wilson’s assessment of "the failure of Christianity to achieve its highest goals":
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