Academic journal article Military Review

Nothing Less Than War: A New History of America's Entry into World War I

Academic journal article Military Review

Nothing Less Than War: A New History of America's Entry into World War I

Article excerpt

NOTHING LESS THAN WAR: A New History of America's Entry into World War I, Justus D. Doenecke, The University of Kentucky Press, Lexington, 2011, 432 pages, $40.00.

Many past histories of the United States entry into the World War I have focused on Imperial Germany's implementation of unrestricted submarine warfare, and President Woodrow Wilson's subsequent, if hesitant, declaration of war to reclaim freedom of the seas and the American right to neutrality. While Nothing Less Than War prominently features this topic, its author, Justus D. Doenecke, also skillfully traces the intricate policy decisions and machinations of Wilson and his inner cadre that managed to keep the United States neutral until the spring of 1917.

Arranged as a classical political and diplomatic history, t he book argues that while Wilson often formulated his statecraft without consulting his cabinet or the national media, he did not make policy decisions in a vacuum. In order to explore this notion, the author carefully examines not only how Wilson reacted to major crises throughout his administration, such as the sinking of the Lusitania, but also how key members of his government viewed and interpreted them. This well-executed approach provides a fascinating look into the strange dichotomy of Wilsonian statecraft in which occasional complete deference to aides on key policy issues alternates with autocratic presidential decision making. Interestingly, Doenecke suggests that such contrasts were not necessarily caused by outright international ignorance or political ineptitude, but rather by the impossible situation that Wilson faced: the public demanded neutrality as well as a firm stance against belligerents violating American international rights. …

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