Wilson's War: How Woodrow Wilson's Great Blunder Led to Hitler, Lenin, Stalin and World War II
Ebeling, Richard M., Freeman
Wilson's War: How Woodrow Wilson's Great Blunder Led to Hitler, Lenin, Stalin and World War II by Jim Powell Crown Forum * 2005 * 341 pages * $27.50 hardcover
It is difficult for many of us to understand the almost euphoric enthusiasm with which millions of Europeans marched off to war in the summer of 1914. For almost a century the people of Europe had, in general, lived through an amazing time in which living standards for practically everyone reached heights never before known in history. Governments, however imperfectly, had been tamed by constitutions, the rule of law, growing respect for individual liberty, and protection for private property and free enterprise.
Europe had not experienced a prolonged and massively destructive war since the defeat of Napoleon one hundred years earlier. To be sure, there had been some wars and civil wars, especially in central and eastern Europe during the nineteenth century. But they were relatively short and, compared to what were experienced in the twentieth century, rather limited in their destruction of life and property. "Rules of warfare" recognized the rights of neutrals and noncombatants in Europe, though not in the colonial areas of Asia and Africa.
But in the last decades of the nineteenth century, beneath the appearance of a classical-liberal Utopia of freedom, peace, and prosperity, new ideological forces had been winning the hearts and minds of a growing number of people. These forces were socialism, nationalism, and imperialism-in a word, philosophical, political, and economic collectivism.
The air was filled with calls to arms in the name of national greatness and glory, talk of a higher social good more important than the "mere" interests of individuals, and the notion that peoples discovered their "destinies" not in peaceful industry, but on battlefields amid the thrust of bayonets.
Four years after the war began, by the autumn of 1918, more than 20 million Frenchmen, Englishmen, Germans, Austrians, Hungarians Italians, Russians, Greeks, Turks, Armenians, Serbs, Poles, Romanians, Bulgarians, and many others were dead. European industry and agriculture were ruined, and a good part of the accumulated wealth of a century had been consumed.
Jim Powell, in his book Wilson's War, tells the story of how this came about, what the consequences were, and the role Woodrow Wilson played in making this entire catastrophe worse than it might have been.
While not ignoring Imperial German militarism, aggressiveness, and bellicosity in the decades before World War I, Powell emphasizes the various nationalist ambitions and secret alliances among all the major belligerents that kept the war from being simply "Germany's fault. …