The Illusion of Victory – America in World War I
Basic Books, a member of the Pereus Books Group, 2003, 490 pp
This is a hard hitting, revisionist look at the Presidency of Woodrow Wilson and America's role in World War I. For most Americans today World War I, which ended almost eighty years ago, is a part of history that occurred before they or their parents were born. The sinking of the Lusitania, the Zimmerman telegram, Wilson's 1916 electoral victory based upon the slogan "He Kept Us Out of War", the Treaty of Versailles, Wilson's Fourteen Points, the League of Nations, etc. are all things to be read in a history text.
In this book Woodrow Wilson comes across as a stubborn idealist with a gift for oratory. Spured on by his ambitious second wife, Edith Galt Wilson (his first wife had died) and personal advisor, Colonel Edward House (the "Colonel" title was an honorary one given to him by a Texas governor and was not a rank he had held in the military), Wilson was capable of articulating broad visionary policies that reflected America's ideals. But, like many idealists who come to power, Wilson tended to push his vision even when the vision proved impractical and tended to deal harshly with critics, going so far as to support the enactment of the Espionage and Sedition Acts and use them to jail hundreds of his critics (one of the most notable being the Socialist Party's 1920 Presidential candidate, Eugene Debs, who was forced to campaign from his cell in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary). An example of his rigidity was his refusal to compromise on his plan for the League of Nations. Many history books cite Senator Henry Cabot Lodge's opposition to the League of Nations as the reason for America's refusal to join that organization. But Fleming points out that Lodge, and a majority of the American people, were not comfortable with some of the provisions in the proposed charter of the League, especially the clause that essentially required the United States to go to war at the direction of the League. Lodge proposed a compromise but Wilson refused to make any changes. Lodge's position on the League was vindicated by both the 1920 election, which the Democrats lost, and by the fact that, when the United Nations was formed to replace the failed League of Nations, its charter contained wording identical to the compromise wording Lodge had proposed.
The review of this Book prepared by Chuck Nugent