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The New Dealers' War: FDR and the War Within World War II Paperback – June 4, 2002

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Editorial Reviews Review

Always fiercely contested on matters of domestic policy, Franklin Roosevelt faced even more opposition when it came to international relations. His first two terms in office coincided with the rise of a powerful isolationist movement that urged the government not to involve itself in foreign entanglements. That movement, coupled with strongly anti-British sentiment that owed much to America's large Irish and German populations, hampered Roosevelt's efforts to set the nation on the side of England when it became apparent in the late 1930s that a European war loomed.

To placate his opposition, Thomas Fleming charges in The New Dealers' War, Roosevelt promised "that he would never send American soldiers to fight beyond America's shores." Yet, Fleming continues, on December 4, 1941, the Chicago Tribune revealed the existence of elaborate war plans involving the landing of an American force 5 million strong in Europe by 1943. The revelation gave isolationists fits, of course, but their criticism was effectively silenced three days later when a Japanese force attacked Hawaii. In declaring war on Japan and its allies, Roosevelt's New Deal administration imposed what Fleming considers to have been an unreasonable demand for the unconditional surrender of the Axis powers. That demand, he believes, compromised internal resistance to the enemy regimes. Its prosecution also legitimized the use of what Fleming calls "hateful tactics" such as the bombing of civilian targets and the use of nuclear weapons.

Fleming's revisionist study will be of greatest interest to those already inclined to the view that Franklin Roosevelt tricked his country into fighting Fascism. Other readers may take issue with his ad hominem, ideological arguments. Either way, his provocative thesis is sure to promote debate. --Gregory McNamee --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Fleming, who previously endeavored to rehabilitate the villainous Aaron Burr in Duel, now attempts even more absurd revisionism. Franklin Roosevelt has been lauded by most historians most brilliantly by Eric Larrabee in his book Commander in Chief (1987) as a shrewd political and military strategist who conducted both aspects of WWII with great guile, wit and efficiency. Fleming, however, portrays FDR as an inefficient and oafish warmonger spoiling for battle amid world political, economic and social tensions he did not understand. Fleming revives the well-worn canard that FDR wanted, needed and invited the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Then he quibbles with the notions of "unconditional surrender" and "total war" imposed on the Axis powers, speculating that some compromise should have been reached. Fleming fails to see what Roosevelt and Churchill (who called him "the most skilled strategist of all") clearly did that Hitler and his allies represented not just standard political and military aggression but a new dark age. Fleming implies that Stalin posed an even larger threat to culture and history, but that the left-wingers of Roosevelt's New Deal government were not disposed to see his evil. In truth, Roosevelt had few illusions when it came to the Soviets. Realizing their potential to be either formidable foes or formidable friends, he chose the latter at the same time reminding the sometimes disapproving Churchill that one occasionally needed to fight fire with fire. Photos not seen by PW. (May 1) Forecast: The controversy that will undoubtedly ensue on this book's publication should drive sales up.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 672 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; Reprint edition (June 6, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465024653
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465024650
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (80 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,140,953 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

"How do you write a book?" 24 year old Thomas Fleming asked bestselling writer Fulton Oursler in 1951. "Write four pages a day," Oursler said. "Every day except Sunday. Whether you feel like it or not. Inspiration consists of putting the seat of your pants on the chair at your desk." Fleming has followed this advice to good effect. His latest effort, "The Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers," is his 50th published book. Twenty three of them have been novels. He is the only writer in the history of the Book of the Month Club to have main selections in fiction and in nonfiction. Many have won prizes. Recently he received the Burack Prize from Boston University for lifetime achievement. In nonfiction he has specialized in the American Revolution. He sees Intimate Lives as a perfect combination of his double talent as a novelist and historian. "Novelists focus on the imtimate side of life. This is the first time anyone has looked at the intimate side of the lives of these famous Americans, with an historian's eyes." Fleming was born in Jersey City, the son of a powerful local politician. He has had a lifetime interest in American politics. He also wrote a history of West Point which the New York Times called "the best...ever written." Military history is another strong interest. He lives in New York with his wife, Alice Fleming, who is a gifted writer of books for young readers.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

159 of 190 people found the following review helpful By David J. Forsmark on May 13, 2001
Format: Hardcover
... First, Fleming not only does NOT join the conspiracy buffs (which, by the way, include the prestigious John Toland) who say that FDR planned Pearl Harbor, Fleming actually DEBUNKS those theories somewhat.
Fleming interviews the captain of an obsolete warship who was sent out on what the captain describes as a "suicide mission" by Presidential order to try to provoke an incident with the Japanese. He was saved by the Pearl Harbor raid because he was called back to port. If FDR knew the Pearl Harbor raid was coming, there would have no point to doing this. Fleming shows that the racist attitudes toward the Japanese-- don't forget, our Liberal ICON FDR is the ONLY American president in this century to round people up solely because of their race imprison them-- meant that no one in the American chain of command believed that the Japanese were capable of such a raid. (Don't forget, Billy Mitchell was court martialed for saying it would happen.)
On the subject of FDR's health, even the FDR worshippers will tell you that the Democrat party bosses insisted on Truman because they knew FDR was dying, and were afraid of being stuck with Henry Wallace as their 1948 nominee. The pro-FDR crowd make this deception of the American electorate proof of FDR's brillance. Fleming merely says that the people had a right to know, and that perhaps FDR was starting to believe his own press clippings when he thought that the country would not survive without his election.
Fleming also exposes the fact that McCarthy was not the first to say that people who opposed them politically were sympathetic to America's enemies.
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106 of 130 people found the following review helpful By Andrew S. Rogers VINE VOICE on June 2, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This summer, millions of American filmgoers will see, in the new 'Pearl Harbor' movie, a portrait of Franklin Roosevelt so hagiographic that even many of his supporters are embarrassed. For anyone willing to expend a little effort to find a more accurate portrait of That Man in the White House, I hugely recommend this huge book.
Fleming's philosophy, explained early on, is that 'memory is not history.' Although many Americans -- particularly members of the so-called 'greatest generation' and their children -- still have fond memories of FDR, rank him among history's great leaders in war and peace, and defend his memory and legacy, Fleming argues that these rose-colored memories are not substitutes for fact. FDR was not a demigod. He was a man: a fallible man, a devious man, an arrogant and ambitious man, a political man in both the best and worst senses of that term, and -- for the last years of his life -- a very seriously ill man.
FDR, Fleming argues, embodied both sides of 'the profound dichotomy in American life,' the tension between the idealism of the Declaration of Independence and the myth of the Founding, and 'the often brutal realism' and hard-edged practicality that Americans have shown in times of crisis and opportunity like the settling of the frontier. Fleming argues Roosevelt manipulated both sides of the dichotomy to maneuver America into the war on the side of the Allies. The New Dealers in his administration supported him in this, hoping to make the war a crusade for a 'New Deal for the World,' the way the First World War was a crusade for democracy.
Once America was in the war, Roosevelt vacillated between the two poles of the 'profound dichotomy.
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24 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Kurt Harding VINE VOICE on July 3, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Before reading The New Dealer's War, I read most of the reviews here, both negative and positive so that I might have a better idea of what to expect from the book. What I didn't find is the knee-jerk anti-Roosevelt bias that many of this book's detractors ascribe to the author. Some of those reviewers seem to be the type of FDR cheerleaders who automatically deny any suggestion that their hero could have possibly known about Japanese intentions vis-a-vis Pearl Harbor in advance, but who are so partisan that they would eagerly assert that the current president was aware in advance of the 9-11 attacks. In fact, history shows that FDR knew about the impending Japanese attack and future historians may well discover that Bush knew in advance of Al-Qaida's plans as well.

Just because we have representative government in the US doesn't mean that our leaders in both major parties are above scheming, conniving, and lying in order to steer events a certain direction. Hitler did it crudely and transparently in Austria, Poland, and Czechoslovakia several times before discarding all diplomatic niceities and blatantly showing the world his true intentions. As a statesman, FDR understood the challenge that Hitler and the Japanese posed to freedom, and used every political skill he had to drag a reluctant and recalcitrant public into the war that he knew we would have to fight sooner or later anyhow.

Anyway, The New Dealer's War is not at all just about our entry into the war, so the commentary of the most stridently negative reviews leads me to believe that many of those reviewers did not actually read the book, but only skimmed it for any tidbit which might reinforce a pre-conceived negative view.
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