THE WAR OF 1914-1918 came upon the world about a century after the War of 1812. Both conflicts had their origin in the life-and-death struggles of the European powers, and both drew the United States into their orbit despite an official governmental commitment to a policy of neutrality or, at the very least, avoidance of direct military involvement. There, however, the similarities end. The War of 1812 accelerated the rise of American nationalism, the development of American industry, and the triumphant westward sweep of immigrants and pioneers; and all of this notwithstanding the fact that none of the nation's war aims was even mentioned in the terms of peace. The war of 1914-1918, by contrast, ended with the ignominious collapse of the German enemy and a total military victory that was spelled out starkly in the terms of peace imposed on the vanquished. Yet this victory ushered in a period of national doubt, frustration, bitterness, and confusion rarely equaled in the annals of a civilized people and surpassed only by the mood of black despair that prevailed in Germany itself.
Stranger still, a brief period of hectic prosperity culminated in the most frightful economic catastrophe in American his