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The Contradictions of War and Peace

August 27, 2013

Republican President Theodore Roosevelt won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906 for mediating between the Russians and the Japanese, but ten years later he called for U.S. intervention in the European conflict we now know as World War I.  Democrat President Woodrow Wilson won a second term that same year with the slogan “He kept us out of war,” but less than a month after his second inauguration he asked Congress for a declaration of war.

Roosevelt then asked Wilson to let him lead a “Roosevelt Division” to France, but the President turned him down.  In 1918 Roosevelt’s youngest son was killed in France, and the bereaved father died early the following year.

In an effort to win the peace Wilson made an 8000-mile speaking tour seeking popular support for the Treaty of Versailles.  This ended on September 25, 1919 when he collapsed from exhaustion.  One week later he suffered a stroke.  The Treaty was voted down by the Senate in November 1919 and again in March 1920.  This was partially Wilson’s fault because he had instructed the Democratic Senators to vote against the Treaty if the Republicans offered any amendments.  When the Democrats made the Treaty a campaign issue in 1920, they suffered staggering losses at the polls.

Despite Wilson’s failure and despite the American people’s rejection of Wilsonian internationalism, he received the Nobel Peace Prize in December 1920.

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