Ten Years: Retrospect and Prospect

Courtesy Reuters

IN POPULAR debates it is often made to appear as if men had it within their power to choose whether or not they will live in an international society. No such choice is open to any community of people. The most self-contained nation is only relatively self-contained: there is no nation which does not have interests vital to its prosperity and security that transcend its frontiers and elude its own sovereignty. The very fact that a nation sometimes feels compelled to proclaim a policy of isolation, and that parties within the nation have then continually to be vigilant to preserve the isolation, is in itself evidence that isolation is not the natural condition of civilized peoples.

Ten years ago, when this journal was founded, mankind had just been made acutely conscious of the need of more dependable international government. At Paris, in the winter of 1919, drastic reforms in the organization of international society were instituted and certain ideals were proclaimed towards which, it was hoped and believed, mankind would advance. The philosophy which inspired those reforms is often identified with the whole problem of international government, as if the particular set of ideas held by statesmen in 1919 offered the only possible answer.

But in the perspective of a tumultuous decade it is possible now to examine that philosophy and with the hindsight of experience to see how ephemeral were many of the cardinal ideas with which men tried to promote a better international order. Perhaps as good a way as any to begin such reëxamination of ideas is to recall the character of the Fourteen Points of Woodrow Wilson. They were intended to be the charter of the new order, and they provide an illuminating standard by which to measure the subsequent disparity between post-war ideals and the actual course of events.

Three major principles controlled the Fourteen Points. The first was that states which were homogenous in nationality would be politically satisfied and therefore diplomatically stable constituents of the

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