Diplomatic Briefing

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Commentary: ‘Mad’ president and European diplomacy

Finding a lost manuscript by Sigmund Freud has caused a French historian to revisit a key moment in European diplomacy 100 years ago that reverberates today as war returns to the continent. “Le President est-il devenu fou?” (Has the president gone mad?) by Patrick Weil takes a fresh look at US president Woodrow Wilson (1913-21), who helped forge the Treaty of Versailles after World War I and tried to establish lasting peace through the creation of the League of Nations. Whenever things went against Wilson, Weil writes, “he would plunge into hysteria”, blaming everyone but himself. Frequent minor strokes throughout Wilson’s life may also have affected his sanity and undermined his ability to conclude the deal. Back in the 1930s, Freud, the godfather of psychoanalysis, blamed Wilson’s failure on messianic hubris, rooted in his repressed homosexuality and obsession with his father. Certainly, many of his contemporaries, including British leader Winston Churchill and later US president Franklin Roosevelt, considered Wilson to be “crazy”, Weil told AFP in an interview. (https://news.yahoo.com/freud-mad-president-century-european-063155746.html) They kept that quiet, he said, because Wilson’s reputation was important in building momentum behind the creation of the United Nations after World War II. Wilson, of course, failed: the treaty’s harsh conditions on Germany created resentment that helped fuel the rise of the Nazis. Nor could he convince his colleagues in Washington to approve the treaty — it was never ratified by the US, dooming the League of Nations at birth.

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