Hope Over Experience: CBS Wonders If 'Wilson's League of Nations' Could Have Prevented World War 2

September 9th, 2013 2:43 PM

During a weekend leading up to President Obama making a more forceful case for war in Syria, CBS’s Sunday Morning was still pretending that Wilsonian internationalism could have prevented World War II.

Undeterred by his train-wreck on Cinco de Mayo, CBS gave comedian Mo Rocca another historical segment, this one on a new book by A. Scott Berg on President Woodrow Wilson. Rocca asked Berg if the League of Nations could have stopped war with Hitler. (After all, he had the potential to be such a reasonable fellow.)

MO ROCCA: Wilson would spend six months in Paris, his mission, to establish a League of Nations to prevent all future wars.

A. SCOTT BERG: If we had some kind of international parliament where every nation could sit, this could ostensibly stop all war....

ROCCA: The U.S. Senate balked, so in 1919, Wilson took his case to the people, a grueling 29-city tour. But outside Pueblo, Colorado, he collapsed. Days later, he suffered a stroke and took to his bed,  the left side of his body paralyzed.

His second wife Edith took control of Wilson’s affairs, Rocca reported, but “not even Edith could convince Wilson to compromise on even minor details concerning the League.” (Republicans opposed a provision that would require them to defend any League member who suffered external aggression.) “The Senate would vote down Wilson's peace plan. The US would not enter the League -- dooming it.”

Republicans, always ruining world peace!

This might make the historically-challenged viewer think the League of Nations never actually existed, which it certainly did, from 1920 to 1946. But it began to collapse when Germany and the other Axis powers left in the 1930s and built up for what became World War II. This is where the segment turned historically and geopolitically absurd:

ROCCA:  Do you think it could have prevented World War II?

BERG (after a long pause): Yeah, I’ll go on record. I think a League of Nations, Wilson's League of Nations could have stopped World War II.

Rocca called this “a controversial take on a controversial president whose influence is with us today.” It's not a "take." It's simply refuted by evidence. It's like asking if the United Nations could have prevented Saddam Hussein from invading Kuwait. Or would Berg say wait, "Dag Hammarskjold's UN" could have stopped Saddam?

Berg theorized to Rocca that adulation in Paris caused Wilson to become “The preacher’s son with a Christ complex.” The Boston Globe relayed “Berg’s chapters liken stages of Wilson’s career to biblical movements,” with titles like “Ascension,’’ “Armageddon,’’ and “Resurrection.’’