World War I and Its Aftermath, 1919-1920: The Post-War Effort to Reconstruct Europe Thwarted by Confusion between the Nature of Democratic Power and Royal Power, and by the New Concept of 'Popular Self-Determination' of Peoples.

94 Pages Posted: 21 Mar 2018

Date Written: March 17, 2018

Abstract

The fact that the ending of World War I entailed the dissolution of the central government of the Austro-Hungarian Empire meant that in 1919 and 1920, as the victors convened a Peace Conference, the peoples across all of “mid-Europe” embarked on the creation of new governments within new borders. The “Big Three” of the Peace Conference, Britain, France, and the United States, presuming that these people had “fallen into their laps,” undertook to direct this process, but rapidly encountered insurmountable problems.

The “thwarting factors” arose from the three-way conflict between (1) ancient historic Royal and Imperial boundaries of regions, (2) defendable boundaries encompassing economically-sound regions, and (3) democratic self-determination of peoples who live inside regions. A further difficulty was the unrecognized difference in the comprehensiveness of “government power” within a “Royal” government, as compared to the more limited suite of government powers that could be vested legitimately in a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” The latter form, exemplified by America, is inherently limited by the “unalienable” individual rights of the people.

The author, as outside pro bono “co counsel” to the National Endowment for Democracy under “lead counsel" Kenneth Juster, now (since late 2017) U.S. Ambassador to India, saw the practical problems of encouraging democracy world-wide during a span of seven years, late 1998 through the end of 2005, including the first five years of the “Bush II” administration, when international pro-democracy was a top priority of the U.S. Federal government.

In this paper, the author looks back to the first effort by the United States, in 1919-1920, led by President Woodrow Wilson, to promote democracy abroad. In detail, the paper presents the multitude of reasons why Wilson’s efforts mostly failed – which is why the paper is subtitled “World War I and the Failure of the Peace.”

Keywords: World War I, democracy, central Europe, Woodrow Wilson

JEL Classification: F51, F52, F54, H11, H12, J15, J70, J78, N14, N24, N34, N44, N54, N94, Z13

Suggested Citation

Sisson, Edward H., World War I and Its Aftermath, 1919-1920: The Post-War Effort to Reconstruct Europe Thwarted by Confusion between the Nature of Democratic Power and Royal Power, and by the New Concept of 'Popular Self-Determination' of Peoples. (March 17, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3142755 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3142755

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