The political history of the American experience in World War I is a story of conflict and bungled intentions that begins in an era dedicated to progressive social reform and ends in the Red Scare and Prohibition. Thomas Fleming tells this story through the complex figure of Woodrow Wilson, the contradictory president who wept after declaring war, devastated because he knew it would destroy the tolerance of the American people, but who then suppressed freedom of speech and used propaganda to excite America into a Hun-hating mob. This is tragic history: inexperienced American military leaders drove their troops into gruesome slaughters; progressive politics were put on hold in America; an idealistic president’s dreams were crushed because of his own negligence. Wilson’s inability to convince Congress to ratify U.S. membership in the League of Nations was one of the most poignant failures in the history of the American presidency, but even more heartrending were Wilson’s concessions to his bitter allies in the Treaty of Versailles. In exchange for Allied support of the League of Nations, he allowed an unfair peace treaty to be signed, a treaty that played no small role in the rise of National Socialism and the outbreak of World War II. Thomas Fleming has once again created a masterpiece of narrative American history. This incomparable portrait shows how Wilson sacrificed his noble vision to megalomania and single-mindedness, while paying homage to him as a visionary whose honorable spirit continues to influence Western politics.
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