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Wilson's War: How Woodrow Wilson's Great Blunder Led to Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, and World War II 1st Edition

4.0 out of 5 stars 42 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1400082360
ISBN-10: 1400082366
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The Holocaust, the gulags, the Cold War and a death toll exceeding 61,911,000 can all be laid at Wilson's doorstep, contends this sophomoric work in isolationist historiography. Powell, a Cato Institute fellow and author of FDR's Folly, argues that Wilson's intervention in WWI enabled the Allies to defeat Germany and impose a punitive peace settlement that made Germans bitter and antidemocratic, facilitated Hitler's rise, etc. Extending—indeed, almost parodying—Niall Ferguson's contrarian arguments from The Pity of War, he insists that a victorious German Empire would have subsided under its own weight, with Hitler and Stalin remaining unknown malcontents. Powell rehashes his arguments at inordinate length to associate Wilson's policies with subsequent Nazi and Soviet atrocities. When not flaying Wilson, Powell rides Cato's hobbyhorse of libertarian doctrine, sprinkling his chronicle of totalitarian horrors with prim sermons on free trade and laissez-faire economics; the Bolsheviks are thus scolded for their opposition to "consumers freely voting with their money, deciding which quantities, qualities, brands, styles, colors, prices, and so on that they preferred." Powell scores some points criticizing the flimsiness of Wilson's pretexts for intervention. But in using the unforeseen consequences of Wilson's actions as a brief for isolationism, he ends up blaming the 20th-century time line on one man. The result is a tendentious and heavy-handed distortion of history. (Apr.)
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“That government intervention can have unintended consequences is nowhere more true than in foreign policy. Wilson’s War brings the lesson home in a way Americans today can ill afford to ignore. Read this absorbing and critically important book.” —Thomas E. Woods Jr., author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History

“Jim Powell makes a persuasive case against Woodrow Wilson. But I disagree with Jim. During the latter part of his second term Wilson was nearly comatose, thereby making him the perfect progressive interventionist politician, in my opinion.” —P. J. O’Rourke, author of Peace Kills and Parliament of Whores

Wilson’s War makes a compelling case that Woodrow Wilson was America’s worst president and an unmitigated disaster for the world. In a learned exposition of the Law of Unintended Consequences, Jim Powell shows how U.S. intervention into World War I strengthened the hand of Soviet Communism and led directly to the rise of Hitler and World War II. Wilson’s War exposes how America’s court historians have misled the public for generations.” —Thomas J. DiLorenzo, author of The Real Lincoln and How Capitalism Saved America

Wilson’s War is a highly controversial interpretation of twentieth-century political history, which asserts that its worst evils—Communism and Nazism—were unintended consequences of President Wilson’s decision to enter World War I on the Allied side.” —Richard Pipes, Baird Professor of History, Emeritus, Harvard University

Praise for FDR's Folly and The Triumph of Liberty

“Thoroughly documented, relying on an impressive variety of popular and academic literature, both contemporary and historical.” —Milton Friedman, Nobel Laureate

“I found Jim Powell’s book fascinating. I think he has written an important story, one that definitely needs telling.” —Thomas Fleming, author of The New Dealers’ War and Liberty!

“Jim Powell is a man of great energy, determination, obstinacy, and courage, and all these qualities have gone into his work.” —Paul Johnson, author of A History of the American People and Modern Times

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Forum; 1st edition (March 29, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400082366
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400082360
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #615,079 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Bruce L. Bromberg on August 4, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Mr. Powell's essential point is that Wilson's intervention in World War I, intended to lead to a stable and peaceful world, had in fact the opposite effect. It enabled France and Britain to achieve a decisive military victory over Germany and

Austria; then, at Versailles, the idealism that had led Wilson to intervene, coupled with his naivete, allowed his allies to impose upon Germany an humiliating and punitive treaty. The effects in Germany were economic chaos and social and political unrest, which Hitler exploited to gain power, and thus led to World War II. All this is familiar enought to anyone acquianted with the period; one need only to have read A.J.P. Taylor's "Origins of the Second World War", and a book like Charles Mee's "The End of Order". Mr. Powell, however, focuses upon how Wilson's personality, and particularly his idealism, contributed to his misguided intervention and its disasterous consequences. By doing so he adds much interesting detail to the story.

The main point this book makes that to me, at least, is new is the effect of the western allies' pressure on Kerensky's government to stay in the war. Mr. Powell argues that Kerensky's efforts to do so made it impossible for him to consolidate his power; the Bolsheviks were thus enabled to overthrow him, leading to the atrocities of the Soviet regime and ultimately the Cold War. One may wonder what Kerensky's chances were in any case, but he certainly could not afford unnecessary complications; and while Britain and France would in any case have tried to keep Russia fighting on the Eastern Front, without the hope offerred by the United States' intervention their efforts might have been less successful.

I should add that Mr.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a good day I think for reviewing the legacy of Woodrow Wilson, since it's the ninety-first anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and the eighty-sixth of the signing of the treaty of Versailles. "Wilson's War" is an excellent tool for sparking such a review. It's not a perfect book -- though not for the reasons many negative reviewers give. But as a presentation of the case against one of the two or three worst and most destructive presidents of the twentieth century, it's a pretty good start.

Like FDR's Folly: How Roosevelt and His New Deal Prolonged the Great Depression, Jim Powell's book about another president of inflated reputation, "Wilson's War" doesn't break a lot of new ground. What both books do, however, is the very important work of assembling facts and making connections that many historians and opinion leaders are all too interested in glossing over or explaining away.

Jim Powell is hardly the first person make these arguments. Personally, I had already come to largely the same conclusion Powell does from reading Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn's Leftism Revisited: From De Sade and Marx to Hitler and Pol Pot, Thomas Fleming's essential The Illusion Of Victory: America In World War I (Basic Books, 2003), and various histories of the rise of the National Socialists.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a feisty revisionist look at one of America's most sacred cows---President Woodrow Wilson and his international crusading---its sources and its results. The distinguished historian John Lukacs said that Wilson was the most important man of the 20th century because his style and content have provided the main theme of U.S. history and much of world history ever since. This book is a good cure for the common American malady of President-worship and is very enlightening for those of us who are dubious about foreign adventurism in the name of "democracy."
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Format: Hardcover
In reviewing the pannings of "Wilson's War" (both by reviewers here and Publisher's Weekly), one notices a preponderance of disdainful denunciations aimed not at Jim Powell's book itself, but at Powell's supposed "libertarian philosophy" that underpins his historical writing in general. These potshots fail entirely to appreciate the unique value of "Wilson's War" as a critical thesis about World War I, outside of any ideology, and as an excellent complement to Niall Ferguson's always-intriguing "Pity of War" that tackles the Great War from a far different vantage point, yet reaches similar conclusions.

Powell's subject matter could not be more important both for historical discussion and for debates about modern policy, and critical treatments like his--which investigate the backdrop to the war and the blunders that led to it--are therefore essential. Although WWII receives the most attention in popular culture and military history dissertations, WWI was by far more influential in its effect on the modern world. From the rise of totalitarian regimes, to the resentments of Versailles leading to WWII, to industrialized warfare, to the embroilment of the West in Iraq and the Middle East (as Britain and France carved up the Ottoman Empire), to the Cold War, to the unsustainable human, material and financial damage which destroyed the British Empire (perhaps its most significant effect overall), World War I is the defining conflict of the modern era.
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