Andelman is a journalist. Like many journalists, he has faith in the power of words and of diplomacy. In this outstanding history, he regrets the failure of 1919 diplomacy, yet he has faith that diplomacy could have done better. He says allied diplomats would have done better at their Paris conference by helping smaller countries seek their own equilibrium, instead of awarding those countries to one of their competing groups.
Andelman's final pages describe the smaller countries 90 years later as if they had finally emerged into equilibrium from turmoil created in 1919. A critical reading of this description is highly recommended. Events in those countries since the book's publication show little equilibrium and much turmoil. More significant, Andelman's own histories of regional turmoil before 1919 show the smaller countries had problems rooted in language, religion, ethnic origin, and tribal territory. The Paris conference did not create those problems, so the conference did not shatter an existing peace, it tweaked existing turmoil.
An especially critical reading is recommended for Andelman's references to self-determination. They refer to national voting, with a strong faith in voters able to choose wisely and govern their own nations. Yet there is counter evidence. Russians elected Putin's party and lost 89 self-governing provinces. Tunisians and Egyptians elected parties unlikely to hold a future election they were likely to lose. Libyans could not create an effective national government. Iraqis voted by religion for a biased national government. Iranians repeatedly vote for national governments which are subject to religious veto. After 20 years of democracy, Hungary and Ukraine voted for parties intent on reversing democracy.
We can learn a great lesson from reading Andelman carefully, that it is too easy to lose a nation in a single election. Andelman himself gives a clue for protecting democracy, by protecting opposing groups while they find equilibrium in governing their own groups, perhaps as nations, perhaps within nations. America has always had opposing groups, but America has always had levels of group government, and over time, other Western democracies partitioned their national power among groups which were able to govern in community.
It seems this is how Western democracies found Andelman's elusive equilibrium, by giving their opposing groups freedom to govern themselves, while protecting those groups from domination. Andelman's history of the smaller countries shows that new democracies can lose their self-government to a dominant group when there are no levels of self-government at the start, and no protective levels form before their people vote a national mistake.
Andelman wishes big power diplomacy would help a small country form a democratic nation of opposing groups. His examples show how democracy failed when one group dominated an internal conflict for national power. One wonders if outsider diplomacy can ever control the result of internal conflict after it starts. Could outsider diplomacy instead dodge winner-take-all conflicts, as in big democracies?
This book may contain a great lesson if you discover it. It is good reading even if you don't want a lesson.