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Be skeptical of progressive promises
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To the editor:

Veronica Coons’ October 4th article on Woodrow Wilson’s League of Nations reminded me not of the nobility behind these issues but rather the great promises and failures of progressivism. Such failure is no better chronicled than Wilson’s effort to get the U.S. into League membership, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s later charter of the United Nations.  

The League and the UN are mankind’s progressive experiments promoting Peace on Earth. They have failed. 

Wilson’s efforts getting America into the League in 1920 were opposed by Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, (R-Mass). Lodge argued the League’s charter required all members to defend any state victimized by aggression, and compliance would erode American constitutional powers. Under the constitution, Congress should decide whether to send Americans into combat. With the League, Lodge felt the U.S. military would have to follow dictates of member states opposed to U.S. interests. 

Doug Stanglin’s October 3, 2020 USA Today article claims Wilson downplayed the 1918 flu that eventually killed 618,000 Americans. Wilson caught the Spanish Flu in April 1919, shortly after arriving in Paris for the Big Four peace talks. Wilson, fighting his health, watched as France and Britain were more concerned with German World War I reparations and the threat of Russian Bolshevism than bolstering the League.  

In October 1919 Wilson suffered a stroke. Bedridden for a lengthy period, he died in 1924 after the League’s membership was rejected by the Harding administration. History, Stanglin writes, is replete with examples of bipartisan Presidential administrations who rarely tell the truth about presidential illnesses.  

The League failed to catch on. The first nation to leave the League of Nations was Nazi Germany, in 1933, at the insistence of its new chancellor, Adolph Hitler. The League fell apart. By 1939 the world was at war, again. After the second world war, the League’s bastardized son, the United Nations, was born.  

Another progressive, FDR, coined the phrase “United Nations” in January 1942, when 26 nations pledged to continue fighting the Axis powers. In June 1945, before dropping two atomic bombs, Harry Truman signed off on the UN charter, this time including the United States.  

UN’s successes are few. The permanent members of the UN Security Council are China, Russia, France, Britain and the U.S. These members can veto any UN resolution urging UN intervention. The UN authorized troops to protect South Korea in 1950 but only because the Soviet Union was busy boycotting the UN over whether to seat Nationalist China (later Taiwan).  

Its failures are many. Member states can attack their neighbors if one of the Security Council members blocks a UN reaction. Millions around the world have been killed or displaced since the UN was founded. UN peacekeeping in Somalia failed in 1993 and American Army Rangers were killed when Somalian militias shot down a Black Hawk helicopter. Genocide in Rwanda was caused by UN inaction.  

The UN engages in silly political games, too. In December 2011, the UN held a moment of silence for the death of North Korea’s Kim Jong II. Millions of his countrymen died of famine under his rule. The communist bloc of UN members which sponsored the Jong resolution then threatened a veto if Vaclav Havel were scheduled for a similar honor. Havel, former president of the Czech Republic and Nobel Peace Prize winner, died the same week as Kim.

Democrat Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY), Nixon’s former UN ambassador, wrote a book titled A Dangerous Place. “Liberals have been unable to acquire from life what conservatives are endowed with at birth: a healthy skepticism of the power of governments to do good.”  

Ron Smith