Senate The World War I Thread

Discussion in 'Community' started by Point Given, Mar 25, 2014.

  1. Darth Guy Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Aug 16, 2002
    star 10
    Jesus Christ, guys. You're saying that the United States in 19-****ing-19 was not racist? The country that hadn't even cracked down on lynching in the South (partly because of a Southern president)? The country that had its own major colonial possession (for which a brutal war was fought with the native populace) in SE Asia? Yes, it was just a coincidence that the Wilson administration only supported the rights of those with pale or slightly-less-pale skin.
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  2. GrandAdmiralJello Moderator Communitatis Litterarumque

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    I think what you're asking is for proof that Wilson was more racist than the typical person of the time. But that's not what we're saying. We're saying that the country was pretty racist, that he was a member of the racist political party of the time, and that his policies followed along from that. If anything, we don't need to show that he was more racist than the times -- but we're wanting for evidence that he was less racist than anybody in that milieu was, and there's no evidence of that.

    Being a racist was the default setting back then.
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  3. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    That's not what you said though, and it's an academically revisionist argument.

    Wilsonian policies were racist. Admittedly he was better than many western Europeans at the time because he didn't hate Slavs and his oft-repeated praise of Birth of a Nation may be apocryphal, but his ideas of self-determination applied only to Europeans. For example, a group of Vietnamese nationalists including Ho Chi Minh was encouraged by Wilson's rhetoric (as well as supposed American ideals) and went to the Paris peace conference to ask the American delegation to support Indochina's independence from France. The Americans' response was basically "lol, no." Oh well, it's not as though ignoring colonial subjects' desire for fair treatment bit the West on the ass or anything.

    It's already been mentioned, but for a specific policy to be racist, it has to have specific implications that are based on race. I mean, the Emancipation Proclamation was issued some 50 years before Wilson was even President, but then again, everyone was simply racist back then? Simply saying "oh well, it doesn't matter what the specific policy was, because everyone was racist back then" isn't any kind of debate point. If that's true, and the motive and purpose are irrelevant, then there should be no more racism, right? At what point was racism eliminated in the world instead of ebbing and flowing because of the work of individuals?

    Wilson was specifically addressing a crisis the likes of which the world had never seen in scope or scale. The fact that the US delegation didn't respond to Ho Chi Minh regarding French colonies in 1918 had less to do with the Vietnamese and everything to do with the fact that the US was isolationist and didn't get involved with anyone's colonies except for Wilson to point out that the European powers should be more fair to them. Considering that at the time of the Paris peace conference, Ho Chi Minh was actually living in the US and was a middle manager at General Motors Co. doesn't reflect all that negatively against the US or Wilson. It wouldn't be for another 40 years that the French sorted themselves out in Indochina, and that the US finally get involved in the whole French colony debacle. It probably wasn't what Uncle Ho had in mind though.
  4. G-FETT Chosen One

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    Aug 10, 2001
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    Last edited by G-FETT, Aug 3, 2014
  5. Jabba-wocky Chosen One

    Member Since:
    May 4, 2003
    star 8
    What is your point with this? Is it supposed to be a counter-example? I really don't see how the logic is supposed to work.

    No one has advanced the argument that every policy is, by necessity, racist. They are saying that the specific way in which Wilson's foreign policy played out was identifiably racist. The logical extension of his support for self-determination which led him to call for the restoration of conquered, militarily occupied European states should also have meant restoring conquered, militarily occupied former sovereignties in Asia and Africa. Except that it conspicuously did not. You can't use "isolationism" as a justification for Wilson's failure to act when he was otherwise busy making a swing at rearranging the entire international order.

    Also, the whole thing is sort of an aside. Wilson was indisputably racist in his private views and his execution of governmental offices. As WEB DuBois commented in the mid-50s, "Under Wilson came the worst attempt at Jim Crow legislation and discrimination in civil service that we had experienced since the Civil War." Unless you're challenging the veracity of his statement, I think that should settle the issue.
  6. Kiki-Gonn Chosen One

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    Feb 26, 2001
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    Last edited by Kiki-Gonn, Aug 3, 2014
  7. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    Wocky, thank you for participating, I really mean that. Except that was sarcasm on my part, which is why I specifically mentioned the Emancipation Proclamation (by default, the most intentional example I could think of)

    See, my point is that it's simply academically lazy to say "everyone was racist back then, so policies must have been racist as well..." If this thread was titled Berkley History 101, then everything would return to racism by default. But it's not, and we all can think for ourselves here. If it's true that "everyone was racist back then," as opposed to now, and without actually looking at specific examples, then when did racism end? When did "back then" cease? Or is it a case where just as there are racists, there has been people who have worked against this just as much?

    1) At the time, Wilson and America was isolationist
    2)WWI was the most encompassing conflict the world had ever seen up until that point.
    3)Wilson's policies, such as his 14 Points, were tailored specifically to address the unprecedented extent of WWI. (and justify why the US became involved (see #1 above))
    4)Wilson didn't call for the un-occupation of all colonies. He didn't call for the un-occupation of all European sovereignties. He called for the results of WWI to be undone so people would stop fighting.

    Do you remember that scene from Kill Bill, were Uma Thurman took the young kid over her knee and while spanking him said "this is what you get for *&^%$%^ around with Yakuza..." Given that the US was watching Europe from the outside, that's what Wilson's policies were the equivalent to. The example that was given in this thread was that a delegation from French-Indochina asked for assistance, and the US delegation basically said "that's for France to sort out, not us." Wilson wasn't concerned with Egypt, or French Indochina, or Belgian colonies in Africa, or any other colonies removed from the world war. Wilson said "All decisions regarding the colonies should be impartial," and that was the extent of it. If WWI had started in Africa and proceeded to engulf as many countries as it did, Wilson would have directed his remarks toward the focus of why Europe was tearing itself apart. The color of the destruction had nothing to do with his focus. That's not racism, that's pragmatism.

    And Wocky, you're seriously contradicting yourself. Wilson wanted the destruction of WWI to stop. But yet, you're criticizing him for not taking additional action in every single colony outside of the European theater? What would you have liked to see Wilson do? At the same time that he was calling for the end of WWI, that the US send troops to fight the British, and French, and Belgians, just so the US would look "fair" to the rest of the colonies not involved in WWI? Otherwise, he's racist? That's eh...inconsistent to say the least. It's not enough to say "eh, everything was racist back then," and then fail to examine any policy as it existed in difference to the blanket statement.
  8. Jabba-wocky Chosen One

    Member Since:
    May 4, 2003
    star 8
    Mr44, your argument is wholly lacking in nuance for someone that purports to discuss diplomacy or call for critical examination of details. You're correct that it would probably be unreasonable to call Wilson racist for declining a full-scale ground invasion of Vietnam to liberate the country. The issue is that there was a plethora of options he might have chosen between doing that and completely refusing to acknowledge the existence or concerns of the Vietnamese nationalists. In much the same way, in the current Israeli occupation of Gaza, we have a wide range of options between cheerleading as UN shelters get bombed or sending the Marines to fight alongside Hamas.

    It was a peace negotiation. A lot of parties were pushing for a lot of things, and a great many of them came away deeply unsatisfied. Sometimes American negotiators pushed hard to ensure a point was included, sometimes they made vaguely supportive statements that they put no diplomatic muscle behind, and sometimes they made modest investments but didn't mind being overcome by competing interests. Do you know what all those options have in common? They were more substantial than completely ignoring the issue, which is how Wilson treated the Vietnamese proposal. Your claim that any action he took in this direction would have perpetuated the entirety of World War I is tenuous. The reality is he did very little with this not because he couldn't, but because he simply did not want to.
  9. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    Ok, Wocky.

    The fact was it wasn't a peace negotiation in the sense of Lennon's "Give Peace a Chance." It was a specific negotiation to bring about the end of, and undue the reasons for, WWI. Add that to the fact that in 1918, the US had neither the desire nor the capability to engage in colonial talk with any of the European powers, and the entire example is moot. Let's see, a conference that focused on a global conflict which resulted in 40 million casualties and impacted 2 dozen or more countries......vs Ho Chi Minh showing up wanting attention because he wasn't happy with the way the French were running a colony of theirs. I wonder which focus had the US delegation's attention?

    Just because some delegation from French Indochina arrived at the Paris Conference and asked "hey, what about us?" makes as much sense as a delegation from Timor-Leste showing up at a cease-fire conference between Israel and Hamas and asking both of them, "Can we have the West side of Timor now?" Both Hamas and the Israelis could tell the East Timorese to go away simply because any such request would fall outside of the scope of the conference. Again, pick any historic example from the most absurd to the most nuanced. If a delegation from Morocco showed up at the USS Missouri when the Japanese Imperial forces were signing their surrender to the US in 1945, neither the US personnel nor the Japanese would be "racist" if they replied, "hey, do you mind if we take care of this business?" That is unless there was some sort of specific clause in the Pacific surrender document that was racist to Moroccans.

    And again, the point here isn't about Wilson being racist, it's about the fallacy of simply sitting back and promoting the idea that "everyone was racist back then, so Wilson's policies had to be racist," and then just letting the statement stand on its own without looking at why they were put forth.
    Last edited by Mr44, Aug 3, 2014
  10. GrandAdmiralJello Moderator Communitatis Litterarumque

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    If Wilson was really doing the equivalent of coming in to sort out Europe's mess (which is a pretty creative ways to look at things, given what the participants in the peace conference thought of U.S. ideas) as it purely related to WWII, why did he specifically take the time to address colonial claims in his Fourteen Points? Why mention trade barriers at all? Why all the grand language about all the peoples of the world united in the objectives of the peace talks? Did he use this kind of broad universalizing language for ****s and giggles, just because he is -- as Ender might put it -- an American and therefore unable to stop himself from vainglorious language?

    He took the time to make sure colonies should be addressed at the conference -- but according to you it has nothing to do with the peace talks at all. He talks about the "peoples of the world" living in equality -- he talks about " the principle of justice to all peoples and nationalities, and their right to live on equal terms of liberty and safety with one another."

    But just kidding, the peoples of the world only refers to white people. That's what you said he meant, 44. I believe you. :)

    edit: As for the bit about everyone being racist -- he was the president of the openly segregationist political party, hailing from that part of the country which was mostly segregationist. There is plenty of evidence that he was personally a racist, too. The point about racism being a default setting isn't to make an assumption, it's to note that it's what people --even people who are lionized by posterity -- were really like. Don't fight the strawman, it's not going to hit back.
    Last edited by GrandAdmiralJello, Aug 3, 2014
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  11. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    Yeah, because Wilson was lecturing the established European Powers about their colonies. He wasn't calling for an end to the colonial system. He wasn't singling any ethnic/racial/historical group out in isolation. Wilson specifically mentioned sovereignties and territories that were involved in the war. Had a good portion of the WWI fighting have taken place in French Indochina, then Wilson would have addressed that. He was focused on the conflict, not on any kind of racial goals or programs. Had a Vietnamese delegation showed up during the Paris Peace Conference, it's quite understandable why everyone was focused on the overall picture. And why the US delegation specifically would have told them to work it out with France. Personally, I think it would have been completely bizarre had the US delegation dropped the entire Paris Conference and the Versailles Treaty and focused on the desires of the colonists in French Indochina simply because they showed up. Wilson basically said, if you treat your colonies with respect and quit fighting over them, there won't be a war that engulfs the world: From Wilson's closing paragraph:

    "An evident principle runs through the whole program I have outlined. It is the principle of justice to all peoples and nationalities and their right to live on equal terms of liberty and safety with one another, whether they be strong or weak." We have no jealousy of German greatness, and there is nothing in this program that impairs it. We grudge her no achievement or distinction of learning or of pacific enterprise such as have made her record very bright and very enviable. 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 if she is willing to associate herself with us and the other peace-loving nations of the world in covenants of justice and law and fair dealing. We wish her only to accept a place of equality among the peoples of the world – the new world in which we now live – instead of a place of mastery."

    You also have to look at the situation of the US. At the time of WWI, the Civil War reached a national consciousness position where WWII would be in the 1990's. Up until WWI, the US had either fought conflicts related to its own status of a former colony, or battles that were extremely limited in scope. (such as the Spanish American War or the trek against Pancho Villa in Mexico.) Prior to WWI, Europe saw the Russo-Japanese War. The Turkish-Italian War. A series of Balkan conflicts that would ultimately lead to WWI. The US didn't have a reason to get involved in any of them, and didn't have a military force that could get involved.

    If you're content to dismiss everything under the banner of racism. That's your right. I think it's an extremely unsupported and short-sighted view, and it doesn't really have anything to do with the alliances and entanglements that Wilson was so judgmental against for starting the conflict in the first place.
    Last edited by Mr44, Aug 3, 2014
  12. G-FETT Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Aug 10, 2001
    star 7
    Here's the full Hansard transcript of (British foreign secretary) Sir Edward Grey's speech to the House Of Commons on 3rd August 1914 explaining why Britain was obligated to defend Belgium in the event of a German invasion - This is probably one of the most important speeches given to the House Commons in it's long history;

    http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1914/aug/03/statement-by-sir-edward-grey

    You can sense the impending sense of doom through Grey's words of the terrible catastrophe that was about to unfold.

    The Telegraph has been running a minute by minute account of how The Great War unfolded 100 years ago today;

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/history/...how-the-events-of-August-4-1914-unfolded.html
    Last edited by G-FETT, Aug 4, 2014
  13. Vezner Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 29, 2001
    star 5
    Thanks for sharing those links. Reading through them was like stepping back in time for a few minutes. I love history.
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