I had occasion today to read Woodrow Wilson’s “Safe for Democracy” speech, as quoted in Michael Waldman’s My Fellow Americans (Sourcebooks, 2003).

The man who would later push for the League of Nations unwittingly predicted the flaws of the later United Nations:

A steadfast concert for peace can never be maintained except by a partnership of democratic nations. No autocratic government could be trusted to keep faith within it or observe its covenants. It must be a league of honor, a partnership of opinion. Intrigue would eat its vitals away; the plottings of inner circles who could plan what they would and render account to no one would be a corruption seated at its very heart.

While most U.N. critics would probably agree with Wilson’s sentiments in the previous quote, his predictive powers failed him miserably in the next paragraph — when he alludes to the first Russian Revolution of 1917.

Does not every American feel that assurance has been added to our hope for the future peace of the world by the wonderful and heartening things that have been happening within the last few weeks in Russia? Russia was known by those who knew her best to have been always in fact democratic at heart, in all the vital habits of her thought, in all the intimate relationships of her people that spoke their natural instinct, their habitual attitude toward life.

One wonders whether Lenin ever turned to those words in the future when he needed a good laugh.