The disaster of World War I led initially to profound disenchantment with traditional means of international organisation based on balance-of-power considerations. Alternative methods for managing international affairs were now sought, and it was this impetus which motivated the emergence of cosmopolitan thinking in this field, founded chiefly upon the value of equality and the existence of universal moral principles. During this period of cosmopolitan popularity, new ideas were promoted explicitly and unapologetically by reference to moral arguments; the worlds of politics and law were considered secondary, and only relevant to the extent that they were the means through which the identified moral aims would be achieved. On this view, the experience of World War I had proven that approaches to the problems of international organisation which began from the political and legal standpoint did not work, and that some other, higher foundation was required. It was on the basis of this cosmopolitan mandate that Woodrow Wilson crafted his Fourteen Points for international order in 1918, and that ideas such as self-determination, global disarmament and aggression started to gain currency. In this chapter, it will be demonstrated that Wilson’s charismatic leadership and the support he enjoyed from international public opinion for his cosmopolitan dream of establishing a global collective security system underpinned by universal moral values were important influences in shaping the post-World War I settlement. However, it will also be argued that this vision was not shared by some within the Wilson administration; by foreign governments, which were still smarting from their own experience of World War I; or by the US Senate. The impact of this opposition in the drafting and ratification of the League Covenant, article 231 of the Treaty of Versailles concerning reparations, and articles 227-230 concerning punishment of the Kaiser and other German nationals overwhelmed Wilson’s original goal of a security organisation incorporating a positive, mutual, cast-iron obligation among signatories to defend each other against aggression. Instead, aggression played a dual role in the post-World War I settlement – on the one hand, forming the central triggering mechanism for the new collective security system, while at the same time justifying punitive measures against Germany imposed according to old-style rules of power politics. The result was the creation and operation of a post-World War I international security system which reflected
the narrow self-interest of the major European powers to a far greater extent than Wilson’s cosmopolitan aspirations.