The new Woodrow Wilson

It is conceivable that this theory may prove correct. Certainly, it will soon be tested. But let us not call it realism. The last president who sincerely pursued this approach was Woodrow Wilson. He, too, believed that the display of evident goodwill and desire for peace, uncorrupted by the base motives of national interest or ambition, gave him the special moral authority to sway other nations. And Wilson was as beloved around the globe as Obama is today, possibly more beloved, at least for a moment. Millions took to the streets in the great cities of Europe when he crossed the Atlantic in 1918. His gifts to persuade, however, proved ephemeral, and the results of his efforts were, from his own perspective, an utter failure. Not only the nations of Europe but his own United States proved more self-interested and less amenable to moral appeals. We will see whether Barack Obama, the most Wilsonian president in a century, fares better.