Paris Peace Conf. 185.112/3

The Secretary of State to General Tasker H. Bliss

My Dear General Bliss : I am greatly obliged to you for your letter of yesterday giving your views as to strategic and ethnological boundaries and the necessity of asserting and establishing the general principle of the peace at the very outset. With your opinion I am entirely in accord. We are face to face with jealousies and selfishness which have drawn the map of Europe in the past. It will be attempted again unless I am greatly mistaken and it will be a struggle to prevent the victor’s desires from being the guiding influences.

I am convinced that the two principal governments, with which we are to deal, have come to a working understanding and will endeavor to frustrate any plan which will defeat their ambitions. We are peculiarly strong because we have no territorial cravings, no selfish interests to serve. If they could succeed in tarring us with that stick, they would gain a decided advantage. I believe that it will be attempted by tempting us with an African colony or starting a controversy in regard to the Pacific islands. Possibly a protectorate over Armenia or Palestine will be the bait. Whatever it is, I feel sure that we will have to be on our guard, since nothing would be so pleasing to the diplomats of those countries as to be able to point to the United States and say that our unselfishness was a sham and we really wished territorial acquisition. If they can do this our preeminence would be lost and we would be unable to carry out our program.

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You are certainly right, therefore, when you assert that the principles of the peace are first of all to be settled. With those agreed to we can discuss the details under proper limitations.

America’s unselfishness and devotion to justice must be maintained, and we must not be led away into any discussion at the outset which will impair the reputation which we have won.

Faithfully yours,

[Robert] Lansing