Tag Archives: Fourteen Points

Idealism and Realism in the Fourteen Points

It often seems as if principles and power politics are at constant odds. Most political decision-makers are driven by both, but they constantly have to weigh one against the other – should they follow their convictions or do the gritty realpolitik that gets them what they want? Another common notion is that idealism holds as long as one is not in a position of power, after which it makes way for realism.[1] I argue, however, that idealism and realism do not have to stand opposed, but in fact, are often intertwined in political decision-making. For that argument, let’s have a look at the “Fourteen Points” Woodrow Wilson suggested at the end of World War I, in his speech to Congress on January 8, 1918. After a quick look at the general ideas of the “Fourteen Points”, we’ll see how they were intended to serve short-term (mostly realist) and long-term (both idealist and realist) goals and what became of them. Continue reading