“America as the savior of the world”
These words of President Woodrow Wilson were spoken to an audience in Portland, Oregon, 1919, referencing the USA’s role in the establishment of the League of Nations after the end of World War One, “the war to end wars.” (Full text here: Democracy–Wilson)
Declaration of War
The Treaty of Versailles, 28 June 1919
After four years of warfare, the conflict ended in Versailles in 1919. It was “peace” for one side, but a “diktat” for the other side. The treaty contained the germ of the causes of a second world war 20 years later.
The negotiations had been difficult. A peace conference had met in Paris since 18 January to prepare the treaty. The Allies alone took part in the debates. But they were not in agreement. France wanted to remove the German danger definitively and bring Germany to its knees. Great Britain, in contrast, wanted to let Germany keep its rank. The United States looked forward to a world pacified with the Society of Nations. Italy wanted the territories promised to it in 1915. The treaty was finally submitted to Germany on 7 May. All Germany’s counter-proposals were rejected and it refused to sign the treaty. On 17 June, the Allies gave it 5 days to decide. Germany finally accepted this “diktat.”
Germany lost 68,000 km² of its territory, including Alsace and Lorraine annexed in 1870, and 8 million inhabitants. Part of eastern Prussia was dismantled to the benefit of Poland which gained access to the sea via the “Danzig corridor”. Germany had to pay 20 billion gold marks in reparation to France. It lost most of its mineral resources and agricultural production. Its colonies were confiscated and its military power was annihilated. Humiliated, Germany aspired for revenge. A new war, which the Allies thought they were avoiding, was soon to be prepared. (Source)
Now, slightly more than 100 years later, the USA is still trying make, or at least encourage, the world to be “democratic,” while not explicitly advocating that it be “safe for democracy,” as President Wilson enunciated.
The US Department of State has the job of encouraging the spread of democracy. Immediately below are excerpts from the official sites of the department, all accessible at http://www.state.gov/.
Department Mission Statement
“Shape and sustain a peaceful, prosperous, just, and democratic world and foster conditions for stability and progress for the benefit of the American people and people everywhere.” –From the FY 2013 Agency Financial Report, released December 2013
The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor leads the U.S. efforts to promote democracy, protect human rights and international religious freedom, and advance labor rights globally. With these goals in mind, the United States seeks to: Promote democracy as a means to achieve security, stability, and prosperity for the entire world;
- Assist newly formed democracies in implementing democratic principles;
- Assist democracy advocates around the world to establish vibrant democracies in their own countries; and
- Identify and denounce regimes that deny their citizens the right to choose their leaders in elections that are free, fair, and transparent.
- To elevate the role of civil society in the formulation of U.S. foreign policy.
- To support emerging democracies as they work to complete successful transitions.
- To engage multilateral organizations that advance democracy and civil society.
- To promote the independence of civil society globally.
— (End excerpts from the US Department of State web pages) —
I infer that the USA initiated the formation of the international “Community of Democracies” to further the mission and goals of the US State Department. Here is about this organization:
The Mission Statement of the Community of Democracies is built upon the democratic values agreed in the Warsaw Declaration (of 2000). The Community seeks to support democratic transition and consolidation worldwide and help bridge the gap between principles of democracy and universal human rights and their practice by assisting societies in the development and strengthening of democratic institutions and values, identifying, alerting and responding to threats to democracy so as to assist states to remain on the path to democracy, supporting and defending civil society in all countries, advancing broad-based participation in democratic governance, and giving a voice to those working peacefully for democracy in all countries. (Source).
Here are France’s objections, reported by the Associated Press, June 28, 2000:
WARSAW, Poland – Upsetting the celebratory mood at a global democracy conference, France excluded itself from a newly formed “community of democracies” Tuesday after skewering other Western powers for evangelizing.
France stunned the other 107 participants by refusing to join them in endorsing a declaration setting universal standards by which mature and developing countries alike can measure their progress – an effort to consolidate the dramatic gains democracy made in the 20th century.
The dispute was largely philosophical and centered on French criticism that the conference was a prod to get non-democratic nations to adopt democracy – a policy French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine on Monday said usually backfires. He cited ineffective sanctions against Yugoslavia and Iraq.
“The bottom line is that in Western countries the thinking is that democracy is like religion and that all you have to do is convert people,” Vedrine told reporters in Warsaw on Monday…
France said it didn’t back the document because it amounts “to a diplomatic pledge for the democratic states to act as a group.” In particular, France objected to general agreement at the conference to convene a caucus of democratic states, possibly at the next meeting of the U.N. General Assembly in the fall.
Such a caucus creates a new bloc, in effect replicating the Cold War divisions by excluding nations who have not yet achieved democracy, said the French ambassador to Poland, Benoit d’Aboville… (Source–has disappeared from the Internet)
Questions for myself and the reader
- Can the USA successfully export democracy?
- Should it?
- What is democracy?
- Is the USA a democracy?