Les quatorze points de Wilson (8 janvier 1918)

General Pershing landing in Boulogne from the freighter
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Wilson's fourteen points (8th January 1918) Diplomacy for peace Declaration about the Allies' war objectives made in fourteen points by the President of the United States, W. Wilson, in a speech made on the 8th January 1918.
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When war broke out, Woodrow Wilson announced the neutrality of the United States. But with the resumption of the all-out submarine war and the discovery of the Zimmermann telegram in which Germany declared support for Mexico in reconquering the southern states - Texas (integrated in 1845), Arizona and New Mexico, amongst the last territories to join the union in 1912 - on the 6th April 1917 Congress authorised him to declare war on Germany. Wilson then led a dual policy of waging war in order to establish lasting peace. By sending an expeditionary corps to Europe under the command of General Pershing, he broke with the isolationist policy of the Monroe doctrine. On the 2nd December 1823, President James Monroe had announced that America would no longer be subject to European colonisation and that any intervention of a European power would be considered to be a show of hostility, in exchange for which the United States refused to intervene in European affair. As a domestic policy Wilson led a campaign of mobilisation of the nation: recruitment, economic effort and aid to civilian populations. On the 8th January 1918, he made a speech in fourteen points on the Allies' war objectives, thus marking a development in the settlement of the conflict.

Attempts at mediation. The plea for open diplomacy Indeed, in the first months of the war, during the first Battle of the Marne, the American president tried in vain to act as mediator between the warring nations (the missions of Colonel House). He thus committed himself to the movement in favour of peace, alongside the King of Spain, Alfonso XIII, Pope Benedict XV, Gustav V of Sweden and some leading Swiss and Venezuelan figures. Aware that it "was not yet wise to seek" the conditions for a common ground in November 1914, in his Christmas message he asked soldiers to suspend fighting, a dead letter like his message in July the following year seeking a rapid peace. The negotiations, in accordance with the traditional diplomatic code, remained secret and bilateral: in December 1914 the Italian Marquis D'Adda met Théophile Delcassé to discuss Levantine matters; in December 1915 Alfonso XIII suggested that Wilson should get closer to Zita de Habsbourg; in March 1916 Hugo Stinnes, a German industrialist, met the Japanese envoy in Stockholm on behalf of the Reich with a view to a separate peace, whilst, in February 1916, Count Toerring-Jettenbach, related by marriage to King Albert 1st of Belgium, attempted to negotiate peace between Germany and Belgium. At the end of 1916, the German government, confident of its military superiority, made a public offer of negotiation to the Entente, who rejected it because of its terms, most notably the demand for the French evacuation of the Upper Alsace. Woodrow Wilson seized the opportunity on the 18th December 1916 to ask all the warring nations to make their war objectives public, a condition for the start of negotiations. Germany refused and denounced the interference of the United States and the neutrals. The Entente, although embarrassed by the American postulation - an agreement between the Allies on the objectives of their action - followed this up in a note on the 10th January 1917, which announced major changes in Europe. These included respect for countries and their right to emancipation, which must be interpreted in association with the entry into the war of the United States on their side and the note from Wilson on the 12th January 1917 to the neutral states raising the question of the "subjected" nations (the colonies, the Irish question etc.)

The stance taken by the Americans, the Russian withdrawal from the conflict and the intensification of protest movements and rebellions, led the Central Empires to take up negotiations again, tentatively at first at the instigation of the Austro-Hungarians, then through meetings in Lausanne (from the 10th June to the 23rd September 1917), between Baron Van der Lacken, Wilhelm the Second's representative and the French man Aristide Briand. This attempt, though unsuccessful, signalled a convergence of initiatives for peace in Europe and the return of secret diplomacy. On the instigation of Paul Cambon, the Sixte princes, an officer in the Belgian army and Xavier de Bourbon-Parme, the brothers of Princess Zita, wife of the prince who was heir to the Austrian throne, met Chancellor Czernin and Count Erdoedy at Quai d'Orsay, Neuchâtel and Vienna (February-March 1917). The Austrian suggestions would be refused by the Entente at the conference in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne (19th April), whilst the conference in London (5th September 1914) established that a separate peace for one of the members of the Entente was impossible - a principle that was nonetheless torn apart by Russia. Other peace initiatives, the meeting between Counts Revertera and Armand (7th and 22nd August 1917) and the papal note from Benedict XV (15th August 1917), identified the same issue because of the firm position taken by the French, Germans and Italians. Even more complicated stances than those of 1917 marked the turning point of the First World War. The Central Empires had a military advantage: Nivelle failed at the Chemin des Dames, the Italians retreated across the Piave river, whilst the Eastern Front collapsed in the death throes of the Russian Revolution (the German-Russian armistice of Brest-Litovsk of the 15th December 1917); but the Entente found its second wind with the entry into the war of the United States. Now there was another danger: the maritime blockades, increase in the cost of living, feeling of the futility of the conflict and the lack of confidence in the military and political leaders became the breeding ground for protest movements: strikes and demonstrations caused disquiet behind the lines, whilst mutinies, suppressed by the bloodbaths and summary trials, rocked the fronts. Both sides awaited the collapse of the opponent; chiefs were replaced and new war plans were issued from headquarters.

Wilson's fourteen points Aware of the American troops' lack of preparation and the special position of the United States, who had not signed the Entente's treaty (September 1914), having entered the war at a late stage and with different war objectives from their "Allies", Wilson fervently continued his international offensive to bring an end to this conflict that some had no hesitation in calling a "European Civil War". At the end of October 1917 he gave the House of Representatives the task of asking the Europeans to set out their war objectives. Disappointed by the attitude of the warring nations, he concluded that the European system, with its three centuries-old balance of power, where dynastic and territorial rivalries had become happily mixed up with national frustrations in a mass of negotiations and secret treaties, had to be replaced by a new international order capable of avoiding wars. In a speech made on the 8th January 1918, President Wilson presented a statement in fourteen points of the war objectives of the United States, which were soon to become those of the Allies. Initially, it was a question for the United States of taking a stance against the Entente, convinced of the differences in their war objectives, in particular at the end of the first meeting of the Upper Inter-allied Council in November, where the Italians and French proved to be reserved on this question. Allying himself with liberal leanings, he thus presented himself as the promoter of an open diplomacy and the creation of a League of Nations - the first and last points of his speech - in conjunction with an economic liberalism: freedom of the seas and the limiting of economic barriers and a reduction in national armaments (third and fourth points). As the heir to the "Founding fathers" of the United States, Wilson devoted the final point of his project for creating a "new world" to the right of colonised nations to decide for themselves, the subject of a dispute with the Anglo-French set on dividing the former colonial territories and zones under German influence (Turkey, Persia and China) between themselves. The American President then addressed the questions regarding the end of the war, which figured in the war objectives of the members of the Entente: [list]The evacuation of Russia, promoted by Lloyd George, demonstrates the developments in British foreign policy which, until the collapse of the Tsarist empire, had been its main rival, especially in Persia. It was now a matter of preventing the Germans from establishing their domination in the East. [list]The evacuation and the restoration of Belgium and her right to compensation was top of the agenda of the British war objectives outlined in a long speech by their Prime Minister in front of the Trade Unions congress on the 4th January 1918.

In addition to these war objectives defined as compulsory, Wilson added six further conditional points, considered by him to be essential for re-establishing peace. The restitution of the Alsace-Lorraine to France featured amongst the concerns of Great Britain, who claimed to be an unfailing ally. However the English government justified its position not in relation to the traditional "tribute" due to the victor but because of an injustice in 1871: the unification of the people of the Alsace and Lorraine "without giving the least consideration for the wishes of the people". The unconditional return of the "blue horizon line" and amends for the "wrong done to France in 1871" were the principle French motives announced publicly by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Stephen Pichon, in January 1918, who preferred to carry out an offensive commercial policy with regard to Germany from the recovered territories than to "make war", the declared (and ultimate) objective of the Clemenceau government and the French High Command. Changes to the Italian borders according to national boundaries proved to be where views differed between the Entente and the United States.

Victor-Emmanuel III had effectively negotiated his entry into the war alongside the Anglo-French in exchange for positions in the Balkans (the Southern Tyrol and Dalmatian coast) at the time of the treaty of London(April 1915). The independence of the nations within the Austro-Hungarian empire, a multi-ethnic entity (Austrians, Magyars, Germans, Italians, Slovenes, Czechs, Slovaks, Polish etc.), through the right of these nations to decide for themselves, presented the same hiatus. The British, although publicly declaring their war objectives, held secret negotiations in Switzerland with Austrian and Turkish envoys, in order to diplomatically isolate the Germans, who would have liked to see themselves playing a role in a Miteleuropa, and creating a counterbalanced zone of stability and in the East where, since December 1917, a civil war had pitted the Bolsheviks against counter-revolutionaries. At the time, the British government was in favour of maintaining the Double Monarchy, on a federative level, to which Poland would also subscribe, in contradiction of Wilson's 11th and 13th points regarding the evacuation of Romania, Serbia and Montenegro, Allies from the start, and the creation of a Polish state with free access to the sea, the "Danzig corridor". In the end, Mr. Wilson only succeeded in shifting and amplifying the problem of the nation States and national minorities: the Romania of the peace treaties encompassed millions of Hungarians and Poland included Germans.

The Ottoman question once again highlighted the differences of opinion between the partners. Although Wilson, in his twelfth point, aimed to limit Ottoman sovereignty to the purely Turkish areas in accordance with the principle of the right of nations to decide for themselves, and guarantee the free use of the Dardanelles, the English, French and Germans had, in the treaty of London, established a plan for dividing the Ottoman empire. The British went back on their position, going so far as to suggest acknowledgement of the individual rights of the nations of the empire within a framework of a purely formal Turkish suzerainty which would allow them to strengthen their presence in these regions. President Wilson ended his speech with an appeal to Germany, in the name of the spirit of reconciliation with which America would address the construction of a new international order: "We do not wish to injure her or to block in any way her legitimate influence or power. We do not wish to fight her either with arms or with hostile arrangements of trade [...] We wish her only to accept a place of equality among the peoples of the world ".

The "Fourteen Points", the corner stone of the peace negotiations 1918: the year of revolutions Until the summer of 1918 the situation was uncertain for each of the warring nations. The outlines for peace appeared to be taking shape on both sides, with human and technological resources being mobilised to seize the initiative. On the 3rd March 1918, the Germano-Russian peace treaty was signed and the central empires were released from the Eastern front and were thus able to concentrate their efforts on the western front. Hindenburg and Ludendorff revived the war of movement and led four attacks on French territory: the Saint-Quentin sector (March-April), on the Armentières front (April), around the Chemin des Dames (May) and in the Champagne (July). Inconclusive and highly expensive in both men and equipment, the German attacks were abandoned, whilst on the 18th July the two-fold allied counter-offensive began (Foch's plan): the disengagement of the German pockets in Picardy and Argonne, followed by a general offensive along the whole of the front. At the same time, allied troops prevailed in Thessalonica, along the Italian front, on Ottoman soil and in Asia with China's entry into the war. The central empires were also undermined from within by strike movements in the factories and rebellions (Wilhelmshaven and Bremen), leftist revolutionary demonstrations (in Cologne, Berlin, Budapest, Vienna, Sofia, Bavaria and the Rhineland) and the independence claims of the Poles, Czechs, Croats, Serbs and Romanians. On the 9th November 1918, a final revolution in Berlin caused the fall of Wilhelm II's government. The Ebert-Scheidemann social-democratic government appointed a delegation to request an armistice.

1918: Wilson's year As a result of his tenacity and carried along by events, Wilson ended up rallying up the support of members of the Entente for his views, despite the reserves of the British government regarding the freedom of the seas and French demands for Germany to be ordered to pay compensation to civilian populations. In the course of 1918, the "Fourteen points" would thus be complemented by further statements and notes from the American President and his partners which were later referred to in the Allies' "Four War Objectives" statement on the 4th July 1918: the destruction of any autocratic domination that is not based on the will of the people; the agreement of all States to resolve future conflicts by negotiation and with respect for the rights of the people; the recognition by all nations of the right of the people; the institution of an international organisation for peace. At the time the American President was considered a person to be reckoned with on an international level. He was approached on the 5th October by the German, Austrian and Turkish governments to conclude a general armistice based on the "Fourteen Points": Max de Bade made a request for peace in a message to the American President (the night of the 3rd to 4th October 1918) and Charles 1st on the 7th October. The negotiations were punctuated by four exchanges of notes. In the first two, the German government had to specify its intentions (exchanges of the 8th, 9th and 12th October), the Allies feared a delaying tactic with a view to restarting the hostilities. The third letters concerned the conditions for peace (20th and 23rd October); in the final exchange, Germany accepted to surrender under the conditions of the armistice, to not take up arms again and to establish a democratic government (24th - 26th October). During this time Wilson, a clever and firm mediator, left the initiative of bringing hostilities to an end to the military. The inter-allied council that met in Senlis (Foch, Pétain, Haig and Pershing) accepted the military conditions for an armistice on the 25th October. It was on this basis that the German government, along with its allies, accepted to cease hostilities and enter into peace negotiations. In this sense, we can say of Wilson's speech that "never before had such revolutionary aims been formulated by adding so few directives on the way they were to be implemented. The world that Wilson dreamed of was founded on principle and not on force, on right and not on interest, and everyone, both the victor and the vanquished, had to find his place." (H. Kissinger, Diplomacy, p. 206).

Wilson's "Fourteen Points", towards a new international order: the birth of the League of Nations (L.O.N.) Faithful to his principle that democracy generates peace through equality and cooperation, Wilson intended to establish a new international order of which the League of Nations would be the driving force, guaranteeing the territorial and political independence of all the States without discrimination. The fourteenth point of his text, the creation of an international organisation for peace constituted the high point. The "Pact of the League of Nations", developed by the Four Allies, is to be found in the twenty six articles of the first part of each of the treaties which officially re-established peace: the treaty of Versailles (28th June 1919), the treaty of Saint-Germain (10th September 1919), the treaty of Neuilly (27th November 1919), the treaty of Trianon (4th June 1920) and the treaty of Sèvres (10th August 1920), replaced by the treaty of Lausanne (24th July 1923).

The Pact of the L.O.N. saw itself as the guarantor of collective security. It was based on a two-fold contract "guaranteeing international peace and security in preventing or suppressing wars and developing cooperation between nations in all areas, in order to encourage cultural and social development". The commitment was therefore individual, as each member agreed to favour arbitration over force and collective, since resorting to force is a result of a collective decision: "Rights must be based on the common strength and not on the individual strength of the nations upon whose concert peace will depend" (Woodrow Wilson's speech to the Senate, 1917). The L.O.N. comprises thirty-two founding members, at the forefront of which are the four victorious nations and the neutral States. The head office of this international organisation is in Geneva (Switzerland). Each State has a single vote at the General Assembly, a place of negotiation for common action, which convenes to debate any threats to peace. A Council made up of five rightful members (United States, Great Britain, France, Italy and Japan) and four others elected by the Assembly, is responsible for the supervision of peace-keeping action. It also nominates to the Assembly the judges of the Court of Justice (fifteen judges elected for nine years, based in the Hague) as well as the Secretary General in charge of the running of the institution. W. Wilson's initiative, although responsible for a transformation in international law and its practice, which would create the United Nations Organisation in 1945, carries with it its own contradiction: the United States has never been able to belong to the L.O.N., as the American Senate was opposed to the ratification of the treaty of Versailles.