Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Economic Consequences of the Peace

I'm reading  "The Economic Consequences of the Peace," by J. M. Keynes. It's Keynes' predictions of what will happen to Germany and Europe if the Paris Peace Treaty ending WWI goes into effect as written. He has a description of Woodrow Wilson, who I know almost nothing about.

Wilson entered the peace conference as a hero, the hope of the world. Better yet,
The American armies were at the height of their numbers, discipline, and equipment. Europe was in complete dependence on the food supplies of the United States; and financially she was even more absolutely at their mercy. Europe not only already owed the United States more than she could pay; but only a large measure of further assistance could save her from starvation and bankruptcy.
In him were placed the hopes of the world and he had the power to make the world bend to his will, if he knew how to use his power and make others follow his lead. But he didn’t.
The President was not a hero or a prophet; he was not even a philosopher; but a generously intentioned man, with many of the weaknesses of other human beings, and lacking that dominating intellectual equipment which would have been necessary to cope with the subtle and dangerous spellbinders whom a tremendous clash of forces and personalities had brought to the top as triumphant masters in the swift game of give and take, face to face in Council,—a game of which he had no experience at all.

And he was impotent against the British Prime Minister Lloyd George and the French Prime Minister Clemenceau.
Never could a man have stepped into the parlor a more perfect and predestined victim to the finished accomplishments of the Prime Minister. The Old World was tough in wickedness anyhow; the Old World's heart of stone might blunt the sharpest blade of the bravest knight-errant. But this blind and deaf Don Quixote was entering a cavern where the swift and glittering blade was in the hands of the adversary.”

Wilson had an outline of the peace he wanted, but he didn’t have the details.
the President had thought out nothing; when it came to practice his ideas were nebulous and incomplete…
He was ignorant as well and incapable of thinking on his feet, adapting to the proposals made at the conference.
He not only had no proposals in detail, but he was in many respects, perhaps inevitably, ill-informed as to European conditions. And not only was he ill-informed—that was true of Mr. Lloyd George also—but his mind was slow and unadaptable.
There can seldom have been a statesman of the first rank more incompetent than the President in the agilities of the council chamber.
Victory would only have been possible to one who had always a sufficiently lively apprehension of the position as a whole to reserve his fire and know for certain the rare exact moments for decisive action. And for that the President was far too slow-minded and bewildered.


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