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Revisiting Mr. Wilson’s War

April 9, 2017

Tuesday, November 5, 1912 decided the course of American foreign policy for the next 105 years. On that day, Woodrow Wilson was elected because former President Theodore Roosevelt entered the contest with a third party bid and effectively killed President William Howard Taft’s chances for re-election. The Rough Rider is sometimes championed by political conservatives, but this willful act elected a minority President who used American military force in order to destroy balance of power politics.

That war was promoted as a war to end all wars and make the world safe for democracy. Instead, it destroyed the Russian, Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires and created a vacuum for totalitarian communist and national socialist ideologies to become a force in world affairs.

On Monday, PBS will air a two part documentary on World War I.  The timing, in light of President Trump’s attack on Syria, is providential. We need to be reminded about World War I, the motivation of President Wilson, and the terrible consequences of American intervention in that war between European belligerents.

Close to forty years ago, I published a first of several essays that were critical of Woodrow Wilson. In “Origins and End of the New World Order,”
I criticized President George W. Bush for his revival of Wilsonian idealism and explained that as follows:

An amalgam of Wilsonian messianism, a belief in progress, and the expectation that international agreements will shape a New World Order of eternal peace came to define America’s foreign policy in the Progressive era, and the post World War II commitment to “Telling America’s Story.” These ideas became the hallmarks of the administrations of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, George Herbert Walker Bush, and William Jefferson Clinton, and contributed to the foreign policy failures of those administrations.  

 Not tiring of this subject, in 2015 I published an entire book taking Woodrow Wilson to task for his religion of democracy. No one person has contributed more to the disastrous series of wars that have plagued the United States since April 6, 1917 than Woodrow Wilson.

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