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Posted June 2, 2005
Worst President? Maybe.
Jim Powell, in his book 'Wilson's War', raises a legitimate question. Can we really hold Mr. Wilson accountable for the twin evils of Nazism and Soviet Communism? Both are generally acknowledged as consequences of The Great War but are they consequences of just one facet of that war, namely the U.S. intervention? Though he makes some inroads toward an answer, Mr. Powell spends much of the book describing the rise to power of Lenin, Hitler and Stalin and the atrocities they committed. The deeds these men caused to be done were horrific, but they are irrelevant to the premise of this book. Would they have been prevented if Mr. Wilson had not asked Congress for a Declaration of War in 1917? This is the case Mr. Powell needs to make. Unfortunately, what we get for the most part, in ¿Wilson¿s War¿ is the simple assumption: without U.S. intervention there would be no Hitler or Stalin. This assumption is definitely debatable. A thorough exploration of the possible fates of Germany and Russia sans U.S. intervention might have helped Mr. Powell¿s case far more than assumptions and re-stating facts. Mr. Wilson¿s presidency needs a serious re-examination in a popular history format. The myth of the idealistic crusader has overwhelmed the truth of the arrogant, ineffective interventionist and the bigoted, strict segregationist. This book is not that re-examination. ¿Wilson¿s War¿ is an attempt to use history to further a political agenda. Mr. Powell¿s libertarian leanings are apparent throughout the book and are expressed clearly in his conclusion. His writing style is unsophisticated and occasionally repetitive. These qualities will undoubtedly cause many people to dismiss his book. That¿s unfortunate, I think, because the questions raised deserve thought and discussion. ¿Wilson¿s War¿ is far from a perfect book but as the opening broadside of a debate on the accountability of President Wilson for many of the ills of the 20th century, it is worth reading.
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