In Keynes' polemic work, he breaks the confines of what was the normal economist and focuses on the remaking of the structure of the international ordnance after World War I. Indeed, many things were either in the process of changing or had changed by this time: the European Powers had never fully recovered their relative status, but remained the de facto world powers for the next two decades; the rise of United States into the international Great Power arena, bringing with them a high degree of idealism - perhaps explainable by their relatively benign international conditions at home; A supposed new found morality in International Relations championed by the Wilsonians and their vision of a world where the security of the United States was inseparable from the security of all other peoples in all nations around the world, much similar to the Habsburg Empire, however valuing universal rights and shared values in the stead of religious tenets.
Woodrow Wilson's attempt to legitimize America's claim to leadership on its altruism, with his League of Nations and fourteen points, is indeed interesting and quite relevant to the present. In analyzing systems in anarchy it is hard to avoid the greater question of the parallels between the state system and the free market. The notion that it is acceptable, indeed that is our right, to bring order and stability to the anarchical state system while we must live within the confines of the anarchy in the market are just one of the many contradictions in our general philosophy.
Continuing on the subject at hand, Keynes main focus is centered on the "war reparations" that the heirs of Wilhelmine Germany were forced to pay the victors of WWI at Versailles. Keynes believed this attitude to be ancient and outdated - that war may indeed stem from the provisions of the peace treaties that end conflicts. Ultimately, he viewed the impoverishment of Germany to be both unnecessary and potentially harmful to future progress and cooperation. Best said in the eloquent words of Keynes himself:
"If we aim deliberately at the impoverishment of Central Europe, vengeance, I dare predict, will not limp. Nothing can then delay for long that final war... that which will destroy...the civilization and progress of our generation..."
Keynes warning fell upon deaf ears. What seemed such matter of fact to the statesmen at the Congress of Vienna seemed to allude those at Versailles - this despite the new found morality in international relations championed by the Wilsonians. Germany was forced to pay an unprecedented amount of war reparations to the victors. The peace would, as Keynes predicted, not last. The treaty of Versailles would set the stage for the conflict to follow.
The relevance of Keynes' argument comes not only form its insightfulness, but also from the impact it had on melding the "dismal science" of economics with geopolitics and International Relations. Keynes fully realized that Germany must be allowed to enter into the legitimization of the post-war World. The impoverishment and exclusion of such a force as Germany from Versailles would at best accomplish a punitive peace. The stability of the international order would then be quite precarious, as the victors are now set with the task of dealing with a country determined to undermine the settlement. Additionally, any county with a grievance may find an ally from the disaffected party. This is precisely what happened with Italy and, even though ideologically opposed, the Soviet Union's early alliance with Germany. Japans dissatisfaction with the international ordinance and allocation of power due to it not having any legitimizing say is also observable; Germany, Italy, Japan and the Soviet Union were no longer part of the romanticist Wilsonian League of Nations by 1938. From this analysis, it should be clear that the message Keynes was attempting to put forth was just this. Truly prophetic and groundbreaking.