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The Illusion of Victory: America in World War I

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In this sweeping historical canvas, Thomas Fleming undertakes nothing less than a drastic revision of our experience in World War I. He reveals how the British and French duped Wilson into thinking the war was as good as won, and there would be no need to send an army overseas. He describes a harried president making speech after speech proclaiming America's ideals while s In this sweeping historical canvas, Thomas Fleming undertakes nothing less than a drastic revision of our experience in World War I. He reveals how the British and French duped Wilson into thinking the war was as good as won, and there would be no need to send an army overseas. He describes a harried president making speech after speech proclaiming America's ideals while supporting espionage and sedition acts that sent critics to federal prisons. And he gives a harrowing account of how the Allies did their utmost to turn the American Expeditionary Force into cannon fodder on the Western Front.Thoroughly researched and dramatically told, The Illusion of Victory offers compelling testimony to the power of a president's visionary ideals-as well as a starkly cautionary tale about the dangers of applying them in a war-maddened world.

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In this sweeping historical canvas, Thomas Fleming undertakes nothing less than a drastic revision of our experience in World War I. He reveals how the British and French duped Wilson into thinking the war was as good as won, and there would be no need to send an army overseas. He describes a harried president making speech after speech proclaiming America's ideals while s In this sweeping historical canvas, Thomas Fleming undertakes nothing less than a drastic revision of our experience in World War I. He reveals how the British and French duped Wilson into thinking the war was as good as won, and there would be no need to send an army overseas. He describes a harried president making speech after speech proclaiming America's ideals while supporting espionage and sedition acts that sent critics to federal prisons. And he gives a harrowing account of how the Allies did their utmost to turn the American Expeditionary Force into cannon fodder on the Western Front.Thoroughly researched and dramatically told, The Illusion of Victory offers compelling testimony to the power of a president's visionary ideals-as well as a starkly cautionary tale about the dangers of applying them in a war-maddened world.

30 review for The Illusion of Victory: America in World War I

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Cole

    Nobody cares about World War I, Americans least of all, though the conflict killed 116,000 of them in less than two years. What this book asks is: Was it worth it? The answer, it seems? A big fat no. But first, why the lack of interest? My guess is, thanks to World War II, all other wars pale by comparison. Yet the fact remains that this first disaster, though taking only the silver in body count, nevertheless wounded the Western world. Indeed, the horrible sequel would've been impossible without Nobody cares about World War I, Americans least of all, though the conflict killed 116,000 of them in less than two years. What this book asks is: Was it worth it? The answer, it seems? A big fat no. But first, why the lack of interest? My guess is, thanks to World War II, all other wars pale by comparison. Yet the fact remains that this first disaster, though taking only the silver in body count, nevertheless wounded the Western world. Indeed, the horrible sequel would've been impossible without the original. Thomas Fleming is my kind of historian. He kills your idols (to steal a line from Sonic Youth). He exposes the politicians of the various countries involved - U.S. most of all - for the horrible people they were; horrible because their decisions are what got people killed. Fleming doesn't do this with glee, either. In another book I'm reading now by him, he says that in his youth he idolized FDR. It was only later, as a historian, that he learned "memory is not history." Thus, his autopsy of long dead politicians is clinical and hard to watch. But Fleming doesn't damn them. They damn themselves through their own words and deeds. Worst of the lot is President Woodrow Wilson. The southern liberal was an extraordinarily arrogant and rigid man whose idealism, even if you agreed with it, was bruised by hypocrisy time and again. Why did Wilson ask Congress to declare war on Germany in 1917? As the story goes, to "make the world safe for democracy." Translation: the American Empire would aid the British and French Empires against the German and Austro-Hungarian Empires. Not for nothing did Lenin call World War I the ultimate imperial war (before his successors themselves carved out a Soviet empire). Meanwhile, at home, the war brought out the worst in everyone. It reminded me of the bad old days between 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq, when you couldn't question any policy without your patriotism being assailed. Only in 1917, you could be arrested and imprisoned for pacifism and protest. Citizens were encouraged to spy on one another. Your mail was searched. Anything German was attacked. Sauerkraut was renamed "liberty cabbage." People even kicked dachshunds! The nation went berserk. There were race riots, strikes, Red Terror, Prohibition ... the only good thing to come out of this era was women's right to vote. Wilson drew up his famous Fourteen Points, which, on paper, sounded good. The Germans agreed, and asked for an armistice based on the Fourteen Points. Wilson came to Europe to show the way to the other European leaders. But they, having lost millions in the fight, were in no mood to be conciliatory. Revenge was in the air and Wilson caved in on almost every Point if it meant the Allies would participate in his dream of dreams, the League of Nations. Thus, the principle of self-determination was awarded to some, denied others. Freedom of the seas was granted to the Allies, but denied a large German population dependent on food imports even after the fighting stopped. Worst of all were the reparations demands. The victorious British and French welshed on their U.S. loans, but seriously thought the beaten Huns could pay them billions over decades. Where was Hitler born, the line goes. At Versailles. There are few heroes in this era: One was the future failed president Herbert Hoover, an expert at organizing food drives. Over the objections of the British, Hoover managed to get food both to the conquered Belgians during the war, and the Germans after the war (and later, the Russians in the middle of their civil war). Another hero was the liberal Republican Senator Robert La Follette, who spoke out against the war from the very beginning, and almost lost everything for his resistance. Fleming saves his most praise, however, for the average American soldier, who believed Wilson's BS, enlisted with good intentions, and actually did the dirty work of killing and being killed. It wasn't their fault they suffered to a man for pretty much nothing. As quickly as the country got into the war, just as quickly they washed their hands of it. The Senate rejected Wilson's League of Nations, and the Twenties began with a Republican takeover of the country, and a long period of isolation. People like to think it's this series of events that led to World War II. That if America had accepted the League of Nations, the events of the Thirties and Forties would have been different. Fleming offers an alternative: World War II might have been avoided if the peace treaty had been more in line with Wilson's Fourteen Points. And the Senate actually offered a revised version of the peace treaty, but Wilson refused to budge an inch. Fleming tells this entire story in a swift and clear style that never has to be reread or read slowly - the usual bane of academic historians. It's full of punch, as Fleming takes out his disappointment over people we're taught to idolize.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    One of the crazy things about my developing interest in history is that it's really hard to know where to start. A few years ago, I was curious about how World War II started, so I did what any reasonably savvy computer user would do and checked out wikipedia and a few other Google searches. Almost every article or essay on the subject of the beginnings of World War II began with a statement something like this: "To fully understand the reasons for the start of the second World War, one must und One of the crazy things about my developing interest in history is that it's really hard to know where to start. A few years ago, I was curious about how World War II started, so I did what any reasonably savvy computer user would do and checked out wikipedia and a few other Google searches. Almost every article or essay on the subject of the beginnings of World War II began with a statement something like this: "To fully understand the reasons for the start of the second World War, one must understand the reasons for the start of World War I, and the failure of the Treaty of Versailles. Well, I knew little about World War II, I knew even less about World War I. So, I went on a little hunt, and found a great book: A Storm in Flanders. I've commented on this book before. I really found it very interesting, and as the war was, very depressing. This book focused on the Great War mostly from the European viewpoint, though the author's intent was to write it for Americans who knew little about the war. Fleming's book, Illusion of Victory, focuses on America's involvement in the war, and primarily focuses on Woodrow Wilson's failure as president to guide the country into the war (after running for re-election with the slogan "He kept us out of war"), and his failure as diplomat as he asserted himself as an almost unwelcomed negotiator for peace on the European stage. One of the most startling things I took from this book is how unbelievably deceptive and censoring the federal government became toward it's citizens. People live in a great deal of ignorance about the current conflict in Iraq (and I use the term "conflict" intentionally since the 2nd World War was technically the last war declared by the US). If more people had a better sense of history, (and I can say I only feel like I'm getting my bearings lately), they would be surprised at what the Wilson administration (and later the Roosevelt administration) sanctioned regarding propaganda, what we would consider political "incorrectness" today, and stubborn political unilateralism. If you weren't on board with Wilson, too bad, he was gonna do things the way he wanted them done. As I am learning, the problem with history is that it is hard to know where to start. I have now gained a broader appreciation for the start of WW II because of understanding WW I a little better. However, there were world events that took place before WW I that influenced it! Many US military commanders of World War I got their experience from fighting in the Spanish-American War! Now who can tell me something about THAT?

  3. 4 out of 5

    Paulo Cabaco

    A riveting description of US policy during WWI.The book starts with the speech of President Wilson to Congress asking for a declaration of war against Imperial Germany following the unrestricted submarine warfare of that country around the British Isles that had sunken several American ships.What Wilson didn't say was that the US wasn't neutral and was supporting Britain and France since the beginning of the war, hence the German reaction was entirely justified. Wilson emerges as a cynical politi A riveting description of US policy during WWI.The book starts with the speech of President Wilson to Congress asking for a declaration of war against Imperial Germany following the unrestricted submarine warfare of that country around the British Isles that had sunken several American ships.What Wilson didn't say was that the US wasn't neutral and was supporting Britain and France since the beginning of the war, hence the German reaction was entirely justified. Wilson emerges as a cynical politician that manipulated his country into a war that was far from being popular and that cost, in one year, more than a 100.000 deaths of American soldiers that were forcefully drafted into an ill prepared army. Fascinating read and the author spares no punches.

  4. 5 out of 5

    The American Conservative

    'A government propaganda machine spews out questionable allegations to justify America going to war without its national interest being at stake. The president invokes global considerations transcending selfish nationalism. Critics of the war, Left and Right, come under attack. An aggressive attorney general tramples on liberties with hardly a peep of protest from the news media. Is this a leftist, libertarian, or even paleoconservative critique of George W. Bush’s war policies? No, it is the acc 'A government propaganda machine spews out questionable allegations to justify America going to war without its national interest being at stake. The president invokes global considerations transcending selfish nationalism. Critics of the war, Left and Right, come under attack. An aggressive attorney general tramples on liberties with hardly a peep of protest from the news media. Is this a leftist, libertarian, or even paleoconservative critique of George W. Bush’s war policies? No, it is the account by Thomas Fleming, a prolific historian and novelist, of how President Woodrow Wilson and the United States entered World War I, how America kept Germany from winning that war, and how Wilson was complicit in the mangled peace, with tragic consequences for the future.' Read the full review, "In Wilson's Wake," on our website: http://www.theamericanconservative.co...

  5. 5 out of 5

    Bliss Tew

    Mr. Fleming has a sense of humor and irony despite the gruesome tale he has to relate concerning World War I and how Edward Mandell House, Woodrow Wilson, Winston Churchill, and others manuevered the USA into a war we had no business being in. The truth about the Lusitania is found within the pages as well as Wilson's desire to be the "savior" of the world with his 14-points doctrine and his League of Nations global governmental idea. The machinations of national leaders are well laid out herein Mr. Fleming has a sense of humor and irony despite the gruesome tale he has to relate concerning World War I and how Edward Mandell House, Woodrow Wilson, Winston Churchill, and others manuevered the USA into a war we had no business being in. The truth about the Lusitania is found within the pages as well as Wilson's desire to be the "savior" of the world with his 14-points doctrine and his League of Nations global governmental idea. The machinations of national leaders are well laid out herein and the cost in human suffering as well. I recommend the book to any student of history or politics tha want to have a better understanding of the 20th century, since it brought us into the 21st century situations we're now in.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    The author makes the case that America really didn't gain anything from fighting World War I, an argument I am wont to agree with. He makes a pretty good case, but toward the end the tone changes to point where I had the impression that the author has a real problem with Wilson, almost on a personal level. For a better discussion of America in WWI, see The Last Days of Innocence: America at War, 1917-1918 .

  7. 4 out of 5

    ELB

    The Illusion of Victory American neutrality, in short, was a sham. Why? because American bankers and corporations were reaping enormous profits by selling weapons and munitions to the British, the French, and the Russians. The British, knowing that the American public was overwhelmingly not in favor of war, British prime minister, Herbert Asquith, put Masterson in charge of a propaganda department, (without Wilson knowing) in the United States. For this office Masterson chose Sir Gilbert Parker, The Illusion of Victory American neutrality, in short, was a sham. Why? because American bankers and corporations were reaping enormous profits by selling weapons and munitions to the British, the French, and the Russians. The British, knowing that the American public was overwhelmingly not in favor of war, British prime minister, Herbert Asquith, put Masterson in charge of a propaganda department, (without Wilson knowing) in the United States. For this office Masterson chose Sir Gilbert Parker, a Canadian-born best-selling author. Parker had 54 people working for him, he made a list of “Who's Who in America” and assembled a mailing list of 260,000 influential men and women to feed propaganda to, for support of the war, he also fed 20,000 newspapers and 360 papers in less populated states of this anti-German propaganda. A flood of stories portrayed the Germans as monsters capable of appalling sadism. Eyewitnesses described infantrymen spearing Belgian babies, with many other tales just as terrible. After the war, newspaper men went to verify these stories but could not find one person to verify them to be true. In spite of these bald-face lies, (Fake News) the propaganda was a huge victory for Britain. They convinced millions of Americans and other neutrals that the Germans were beast in human form. The British piled on top of this propaganda the story of the torpedoing of the passenger liner Lusitania off the Irish coast on May 7, 1915. Of the roughly 2,000 passengers on board, 1,198 including 291 women and 94 children. American dead numbered 128, fueled by the claim that the submarine had fired two torpedoes, causing the ship to go down in less than 20 minutes; American outrage was intense. Theodore Roosevelt called for immediate war! No-one told the Americans that the liner was carrying 4.2 million rifle cartridges; the equivalent of ten tons of gunpowder and 1,250 cases of shrapnel shells in its hold. Shortly before the Lusitania sailed, the German government had published a warning in New York newspapers, urging passengers not to travel on the liner. But Woodrow Wilson's administration continued to maintain that American citizens have a right to take belligerents' ships, even when they were sailing into the war zone. No such rights exist or ever have existed in the history of naval warfare. Nor did U.S. merchant ships have a right to sail into the war zone declared by Germany around the British Isles. The sinking of the British steamer Falabo on March 29, 1915 was a good example of England's deft combination of resistance and propaganda. The story told by Wellington House for the New York newspapers portrayed a ruthless German submarine captain who sank the cargo-passenger liner without warning, killing 110 people, including one American, by triggering a terrific explosion in the engine room. After the war, historians found that the U-boat captain had given the Falaba's master three warnings to abandon ship, warnings a total of twenty minutes while the Englishman made excuses and radioed for assistance. Only when a British warship appeared on the horizon did the Germans unleash a torpedo, which blew up 13 tons of ammunition which accounted for the heavy casualties. Even more dubious was Wilson's call for a war without hate, He had watched the British and French tell thousands of lies to make the German army, the German people and their leaders more hateful than any other nation in recorded history. This tidal wave of hate had washed over Americans for almost three years. A corollary to this sad illusion is Wilson's claim that the United States had no quarrel with the German people, only with their government. As Senator La Follette pointed out at the time, this idea came close to an absurdity. No one seemed aware-or even care- that many of Wilson's phrases such as a war to make the world safe for democracy (we have all heard this lie in the last few years) were already clichés in the speeches of British politicians and the propaganda of Wellington House. Wilson saw how the British propaganda was working, so he decided to help it along with his own department of propaganda, The “Committee of Public Information.” Wilson had his man, George Creel. Soon, it was Creel and a hundred and fifty thousand people to create the “war will.” “The Committee of Public Information” was appropriation $100 million dollars. Creel created the FOUR MINUTE MEN. Before the war ended, there were 75,000 Four Minute Men spreading propaganda in favor of the war and Universal Service by Selective Draft. On May 25, the Los Angeles Times ran a headline: “Death for Treason Awaits Anti-Draft Plotters”! Many men were arrested for speaking out against the war; some sent to prison. In Chicago the American Protective League (another Wilson propaganda/spy hunting group) kept what one paper called a steady stream of handcuffed men “marching to jail,” because they had been overheard exulting over the progress of General Ludendorff’s offensives. Theodore Roosevelt supported a call to ban the German language from schools. Forcing German-Americans to kiss the flag or face some far more unpleasant punishment became commonplace. German-Americans who failed to subscribe to Liberty Loan drives often got their houses painted yellow. In Illinois, German- American doctor who called secretary of war Baker a “fathead,” was thrown into a canal, forced to kiss the flag and told to leave town. In Tulsa, Oklahoma, a member of the County Council of Defense gunned down a waiter for making a pro-German remark. The killer was acquitted. German-born, Robert Prayer lived in Collinsville, Illinois, he was a baker, he had registered as an enemy alien and claimed he wanted to become a citizen as soon as possible. He had tried to enlist but was blind in one eye. He was refused membership in the local minor’s union because of his enemy alien status, he had harsh words for the leadership. On April 4, he was seized by a drunken mob, stripped of his clothes and wrapped in an American flag. He was put in jail, the mob dragged him from his cell while the police watched. They took him to the countryside, let him write a farewell letter to his parents in Germany and then lynched him. All of the members that had hanged Robert went to trial and all were acquitted. One of the members of Wilson’s Justice Department sent the president a memo., urging him to speak out against the spreading violence, but Wilson remained silent. Lynching was to be deplored but dissenting from the president’s war policy was still another matter. In May 1918, at Wilson’s request Congress increased the government’s power to control opinion with a Sedition Act! The new law was swiftly invoked against those that made negative comments of any sort about the war. In Lansing, Michigan, a man named Powell was irked when he was intimidated into buying a $50 war bond. He sounded off to a relative about his disillusion with the war, opining that German atrocity stories were nonsense and American soldiers were dying so the rich could increase their stock portfolios. A relative reported him to the police. Thinking the whole affair was a big joke he did not even hire a lawyer. A jury convicted him, and he was sentenced to twenty years in the penitentiary and fined $10,000. Three German-Americans in Covington, Kentucky, one of them a former policeman named C.B. Shoborg, ran a shoemaker’s shop. The three, ranging in age from mid-fifties to mid-sixties, often met there to discuss politics and other matters. Local patriots hired a detective agency to sneak a listening device into the shop. The snoopers soon heard the three friends call Theodore Roosevelt “a damned agitator” and express pleasure at the German army’s successful 1918 offensives. They were convicted under the Sedition Act. Shoborg was sentenced to ten years in prison. The other two men received slightly shorter sentences, but one, who had a little money, was fined $40,000. British and Americans were saying the German submarines were “outlaw weapons” and should be banned. The British had a contract with Bethlehem Steel for (10) 500-ton subs. Bethlehem Steel earned $61 million, more money than the company's total gross for its previous years. On June 15, 1917 Wilson signed the Espionage Bill, as it was now called, in spite of its lack of censorship powers that Wilson had wanted. At Columbia University in New York, President Nicholas Murray Butler fired two professors, one for working with antiwar groups, the other for petitioning Congress not to send draftees overseas. Many other colleges soon followed Butler's lead, firing professors who declined to support the war. The New York Times praised Butler for doing his duty. This attitude was only a portent of a war within the war, which would soon by waged by Wilson's Department of Justice under the leadership of Attorney General Thomas W. Gregory. Like Wilson, Gregory was convinced that the country swarmed with secret agents and homespun admirers of the Kieser. How to track them down was the big question. The Bureau of Investigation (BI) only had three hundred agents with no automobiles. The answer to his problem was answered by a man (Alfred Briggs) in Chicago, he offered to recruit twenty or thirty men and furnish them automobiles to hunt spies. Briggs, went to the BI and proposed a nationwide organization, the American Protective League (APL), which would operate undercover as a “Secret Service Divisions” in cities and towns throughout the United States. By June the APL had 250,000 activists in its ranks and was rooting out dissent in six hundred cities and towns. It was very easy to join the APL; a dollar would get you membership and entitled to be called an employee of the “Secret Service.” Their methods involved, opening peoples’ mail, breaking into peoples’ homes and offices, tapping their telephones, planting listening devices in their bedrooms. (BI, API or the Secret Service did not find a single German spy) An Ohio farmer was sent to prison for twenty-one months for declaring that the murder of women and children by German soldiers was no worse than the crimes that American soldiers committed in the Philippines during the 1900-1902 insurrection there. An elderly farmer got 5 years in prison for urging a young man not to enlist in a war that was “all foolishness.” Movie producer Goldstein, was sentenced to ten years in federal prison for making the movie, “The Spirit of ’76,” the judge found him guilty of “exhibiting exaggerated scenes of British cruelty, which may question the good faith of our ally, Great Britain.” Hollywood got into the act of spreading propaganda against Germany with movies, My Four Years in Germany-the Kaiser was portrayed as a man with IQ of a paranoid six-year-old. He rode a hobby horse as he made plans to invade Belgium. In the first reel there was a card that read-“Fact Not Fiction!” next, “The Kaiser: The Beast of Berlin,” opened on Broadway in 1918. In “The Unbeliever,” a German officer murdered old people and children and seemed to enjoy it. In Heart of Humanity, he reached the (high or low point) when he lusted after an attractive Red Cross Nurse, in a cradle nearby was her baby, when the baby cried, he threw the child out the window. The New York Tribune reported on January 22, 1918, that ten-year-olds were being organized in an Anti-Yellow Dog League to detect disloyalty among their neighbors. Spokesman of all stripes fanned the flames of war wage with shrill pronouncements. A Detroit minister said any American who claimed to be neutral should be, “jailed, interned or labelled.” The Rev. Newell D. Hillis of Brooklyn’s Church published a book on German atrocities. The tome ended with an exhortation to tell the Kaiser and his staff: “You should not skewer babies upon your bayonets…you shall not nail young nuns to the doors of the schoolhouses…. you shall not mutilate the bodies of little girls and noble women.” (-all propaganda from Britain) On the War front, there were many reports of soldiers freezing in summer uniforms, froze plumbing, barracks without heat, several thousand sick men in hospitals built to hold 800. The same was true overseas, the soldiers were freezing to death, without food many days. When Wilson declared war, the U.S. was unprepared, not a single aircraft, very few guns. MacArthur’s brigade lost 2,835 men out of 5,135. Again, and again, MacArthur’s troops and other American divisions found their flanks exposed by the failure of the French division to keep pace with the attack. The French repeatedly ordered Americans to make attacks that were close to suicidal and gave them objectives they could never reach. Aug. 27, 1918, a French order sent two understrength companies of the Twenty-Eighth Div. (about 200 men) across a river to seize the hamlet of Fismette. They were surrounded by 200,000 Germans. All but 39 were killed or captured. On Oct 1, the French army that was supposed to be protecting the division’s left flank were nowhere to be seen. Gen. Pershing said to attack anyway, within four hours, the entire force of 550 men was surrounded. –“The Lost Battalion” The capture of Chatillon had taken three weeks and cost 100,000 casualties. Pershing and his staff had thought they could do it in a single day!!! Aisne-Marne offensive cost 90,000 Americans, dead or wounded. While they bled, they also starved. Monumental traffic jams developed on the roads into the Argonne. Food did not get forward and the wounded lay un-evacuated. Stragglers were another problem. Gen. Liggett estimated that, at the height of the battle, 100,000 runaways were wandering around the First Army’s rear. Early in October, Pershing authorized officers to shoot any man who ran away. What was the price of winning Woodrow Wilson a seat at the peace table??????? The Americans had been in combat two-hundred days- approx. 6 months. In that time, 50,300 were killed, 198,059 were wounded. Another 62,668 died of disease- an appalling 38,815 of these in training camps in the United States. Another 4,503 were killed by accidents. Almost 1,000 committed suicide. Adding in minor causes, the total deaths were 120,139. In 1930, the Veteran’s Bureau estimated that war related diseases, wounds and other kinds of trauma inflicted on the Western Front had raised the total cost to 460,000 deaths. The U.S. Navy enabled the British to create a virtually impenetrable blockage of Germany. On August 13, 1917, the U.S. State Dept. reported; The death rate among old people in Germany is huge, as it is with small children. One Senator's condemnation of the British blockade as an attack on defenseless women and children and old people but there was not even a glimmer of guilt about killing innocent civilians. (the same as today). There is a chapter 6 of the women of No-Man's Land. Chapter 7 Politics Is Adjourned, HA-HA-HA Back in the United States, the exploits- but not the appalling casualties! Chapter 9 The president assumed that the allied leaders would welcome his announcement that he was coming to Europe for the peace conference. Instead, they sent word that they would be much happier if he stayed home. Even his friends, Congressmen, everyone was telling him not to go but Wilson would not listen. Wilson was infuriated, he went anyway. I think King George sums up how most people felt about him overseas- he said, “I could not bear him. An entirely cold academical professor-an odious man.” The French leaked reports of Wilson’s “impracticable ideals,” and Paris papers opened a ferocious attack on him. The British tried a subtler approach. They argued that the League of Nations already existed and proposed to divide the colonial spoils as mandates under its aegis. When the Japanese delegate tried to bolster Tokyo’s argument by pointing to a Wilson article affirming religious equality, the president sat mute while the British said both racial equality and religious equality should be discarded. Rome was also hard at work demolishing Woodrow Wilson’s image as the savior of the world. In the End- thanks to Wilson’s collapse and the reduction of the mandates to the status of hypocritical fiction, the British empire acquired an additional 8,156,475 people and 862,549 square miles, The French empire gained 5,568,191 people and 238,168 square miles. Neither in the Middle East nor in Africa was there the slightest attempt to apply the principle of self-determination. Worst of all was Wilson’s capitulation on Germany’s reparations. The British and French wanted to add pensions on to the multi-billion-dollar indemnity. Financial experts on the staff of the American delegation begged him to veto this deal, they said it was not logical. Logic? Logic? Wilson shouted. “I don’t give a damn about logic”- and gave the pensions his approval, thereby doubling the reparations package against Germany. Wilson could only watch numbly, while his promise to make peace without punitive damages was blown to shreds by this explosion of the hatred generated by four years of unrelenting anti-German propaganda and the slaughter on the Western Front. Wilson became sick, yielding to the inner disgust and revulsion that tormented him as his illusions of power and glory disintegrated before his eyes. In Paris, the completed treaty, 440 articles in 75,000 words were sent to the printer on May 5. It ran to more than 200 printed pages. A copy was sent to Herbert Hoover, who finished reading it at dawn. Hoover had sent a letter to Wilson, advising him, if they could not get a treaty on the basis of the Fourteen Points, “we should retire from Europe, lock, stock and barrel.” Hoover could not believe his own disappointment. The thing was an abomination, a parody of the Fourteen Points. The economic clauses, aimed at crippling Germany, would “pull down the whole continent.” Unquestionably the terms “contained the seeds of another war.” Overnight, Wilson went from the most admired to the most hated man in Germany. On May 24, 1919, Villard published “Out of His Own Mouth” a collection of quotes from Wilson’s speeches, in which the president opposed the venal things that had been done with his apparent approval in fashioning the treaty. Everyone tried to get Wilson to change the treaty, but Wilson would not budge an inch. He told Germany, if they didn’t sign it, within 24 hours the allies would invade with thirty divisions backed by aircraft and a renewed blockage that would cut off every scrap of food from the outside world. Before Wilson was finished, he was the most hated man in America. Wilson had made a botch of his Mexican intervention in 1914, edged the United States into WWI, and screwed up the fight for the Treaty of Versailles.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Mike Hankins

    The title of this book could more accurately be changed to: "Woodrow Wilson is the worst president ever." Fleming's work, although well-researched and enjoyable to read, easily turns to diatribe and is so scathing as to be on the side of ridiculous. That's not to say it isn't worth reading, it certainly is, it's just rather one-sided. There are some biographers of Wilson that praise him as a visionary ahead of his time. His idealistic notions of the League of Nations predicted an idealized future The title of this book could more accurately be changed to: "Woodrow Wilson is the worst president ever." Fleming's work, although well-researched and enjoyable to read, easily turns to diatribe and is so scathing as to be on the side of ridiculous. That's not to say it isn't worth reading, it certainly is, it's just rather one-sided. There are some biographers of Wilson that praise him as a visionary ahead of his time. His idealistic notions of the League of Nations predicted an idealized future where different nations worked together in harmony to eliminate the horrors of war. But for Fleming, this blind devotion to naive, utopian idealism made Wilson refuse to compromise on any points, even reasonable ones. Fleming does make a good case for this, mostly by completely ignoring Wilson's first term in office. Coming from a religious background, Wilson is presented as an uncompromising brow-beater who tends to turn his political ideas into moral absolutes, refusing to see in shades of grey. His presidency in itself is viewed as an accident -- as result of Teddy Roosevelt splitting the republican vote in his bid for a third party. Fleming doesn't really address how Wilson managed to get reelected. In any case, again the man's background led him to be favorable toward Britain when World War I broke out. Thus, American "neutrality" during the war was a sham from the beginning. Fleming shows that America was giving overt aid to the allies and making demonstrably false accusations against the Central powers -- for example, German submarine commanders often gave ships plenty of warning to escape before being attacked, going above the requirements of the law -- yet American authorities had told captains to fight back, because after all, many of their ships were carrying vital cargo for allied aid. Fleming's war narrative is the standard treatment, and there are probably other works that focus on the actual military history of the War and America's involvement in it. Specific battles are rarely mentioned, and usually only in passing. Fleming adds many human interest stories about nurses, soldiers, etc. but the main action is on the upper level, dealing with General Pershing's refusal to allow U.S. armies to be broken up and placed into allied armies. A large portion of the book is devoted to the peace talks, as a demonstration of Wilson's complete ineptitude and political impotence. Wilson's decision to leave the country was unprecedented, and created a huge controversy. President's leave on a regular basis in the present day, but at the time it had barely been done, especially for such a long time, many, many months. Few Americans wanted Wilson to go to the peace talks, and few European leaders wanted him their either. Almost all of his fourteen points went ignored. At home, he could not convince congress to accept the peace treaty, because of reservations to the League of Nations. Instead of compromising on reasonable concerns about the League, he became obstinate. Perhaps the most glaring defect that Fleming brings to light is Wilson's failure to realize his unfitness to lead -- health-wise. The man suffered from serious mental health issues and strokes toward the end of his term. These left him incommunicado for over seven months, during which the country was run by his wife and doctor -- neither of whom had any political experience, much less constitutional authority. Barely able to speak, half his face inoperative, and unable to deal with issues of the day, Wilson refused to realize that he was completely unfit for command. He refused to step down from office, instead clinging to ridiculous pipe dreams of running for a third term. Clearly, Fleming makes a strong case that Wilson made horrible decisions on a regular basis. His refusal to compromise, his utopianism, his inability to recognize how he was completely compromised, all demonstrate a man unfit for leadership. Yet Fleming takes it a step too far. He claims that if Wilson had truly enforced a real neutrality in the opening years of the war, things would have ended better. That is highly debateable. He also argues that Wilson is singly and personally responsible for the rise of Hitler and World War II. While clearly many of Wilson's decisions helped pave the pave for the rise of the Third Reich, he cannot be held personally responsible. If anything, German punishment might have been worse had Wilson not been involved. Fleming's work is solid, and his book is easy and fun to read. But many of his overstated claims don't hold water. The book is worth your time, just take it with a grain of salt.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Tres Herndon

    Though the author was a bit too virulently anti-Wilson, I thought this book was fascinating. I didn't realize that the British had a secret propaganda org designed to demonize the Germans and build up America's "war rage." American groups were complicit as well. Thousands of Americans were essentially thrown in jail without trial for speaking against America's involvement in the war. A sitting senator was almost expelled for being anti-war. The Constitution was in shreds. I could go on, but read Though the author was a bit too virulently anti-Wilson, I thought this book was fascinating. I didn't realize that the British had a secret propaganda org designed to demonize the Germans and build up America's "war rage." American groups were complicit as well. Thousands of Americans were essentially thrown in jail without trial for speaking against America's involvement in the war. A sitting senator was almost expelled for being anti-war. The Constitution was in shreds. I could go on, but read the book. Tomorrow is the 99th anniversary of Armistice Day. I think most Americans believe the USA got into the war to save our friends the French & Brits, kicked some Hun ass, then came home triumphant. The truth is far more complicated.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kelly Bolin

    Very thorough book, primarily about the"administrative" side of WW1. Interesting to read about how the US got involved and the negotiations of the Treaty of Versailles. It became obvious very early on that Fleming has a very negative view of President Wilson. So, while most of his arguments supporting Wilson's missteps were persuasive and contained evidence to support the argument, at times it was difficult to separate the argument from the author's vitriol.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    I agree with the author's conclusions. However, he didn't do a good job on the book. He references no primary sources, which makes me wonder how he got to his conclusions.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jim Gallen

    “The Illusion of Victory” is a type of counter history that argues against all the themes that the United States entered World War I to make the world safe for democracy and that it provided the margin of victory for the Allies. It is also an anti-Wilson work. Wilson is portrayed as the flesh and blood Phillip Dru of Wilson aide Col. Edward House’s novel, “Philip Dru: Administrator: A Story of Tomorrow” This tome begins with the week of President Wilson’s war message then turns back to the Britis “The Illusion of Victory” is a type of counter history that argues against all the themes that the United States entered World War I to make the world safe for democracy and that it provided the margin of victory for the Allies. It is also an anti-Wilson work. Wilson is portrayed as the flesh and blood Phillip Dru of Wilson aide Col. Edward House’s novel, “Philip Dru: Administrator: A Story of Tomorrow” This tome begins with the week of President Wilson’s war message then turns back to the British propaganda that enticed America into the war, the struggle over neutrality or belligerency, the redefinition of patriotism and the persecution of those not meeting that definition. Segments move on to the military milieu into which Gen. Pershing and the American Expeditionary Force were inserted and the peace conference at which President Wilson claimed his role. This saga presents its protagonist, Woodrow Wilson, against a host of antagonists attacking from all angles, Theodore Roosevelt for not engaging in the war soon enough or aggressively enough and Robert LaFollette for being drawn into the war by American financiers and industrialists desperate to have their loans repaid and orders replenished by the Allies. The portrayal of Assistant Secretary of the navy, Franklin D. Roosevelt as working to undermine the Secretary, Josephus Daniels, in order to gain his job is interesting, but not one that I had read of before. Author Thomas Fleming has crafted a history with an agenda. He does cover a broad range of incidents required in any study of America’s involvement in World War I and adds some trivia that would otherwise be overlooked, such as the irony of American soldiers being transported to the front by Vietnamese drivers. Fleming’s point is that Wilson was wrong about the war, dishonest about the reasons for American entry, agreed to a peace that violated many of his Fourteen Points in order to get the League of Nations, and then lost it due to his stubborn refusal to accept reservations that would have ensured Senate ratification. An agenda promoting book such as this can be intriguing, if its facts are correct. When I I catch errors I wonder how many others there are, and how many of them are crucial to the work’s agenda. I found two clear errors in this book. Campobello Island is placed in the St. Lawrence River when in fact it is a short distance across a bay from Lubec, Maine. The author also identifies Southwest Africa as the current Zimbabwe. In fact, Zimbabwe is the former Rhodesia while Southwest Africa is now known as Namibia. I value “The Illusion of Victory” for presenting new perspectives on America’s role in World War I but believe that its facts need to be checked before accepting its conclusions.

  13. 4 out of 5

    David Longo

    Thomas Fleming, may God rest his soul, is a first-rate historian and author. As such, it pains me to give "The Illusion of Victory," his account of the United States in World War I, both at home and abroad, only three stars. Fleming's book was too wordy and too long. His sentences fell flat. They lacked the passion of his better works, usually narratives on either the American Revolution or the Founding Fathers. "Illusion" was uber detailed in terms of Woodrow Wilson and the politicking back here Thomas Fleming, may God rest his soul, is a first-rate historian and author. As such, it pains me to give "The Illusion of Victory," his account of the United States in World War I, both at home and abroad, only three stars. Fleming's book was too wordy and too long. His sentences fell flat. They lacked the passion of his better works, usually narratives on either the American Revolution or the Founding Fathers. "Illusion" was uber detailed in terms of Woodrow Wilson and the politicking back here at home (and among the allied nations comprising the AEF) and greatly lacking in regards to the fighting by U. S. doughboys in France itself. I found Fleming's endeavor to be uneven and uninspiring. I sure have enjoyed numerous other works from him over the years, however. My condensed bottom line on "Illusion" is this: stay away from the book but do not shut out the author. Thomas Fleming, for my money, is truly one of the all-time greats.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Raul

    Oh how we learn from well told hitory!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Benjamin

    Very well written and extremely thought-provoking. Fleming gives a clearer understanding to why the US entered the war and how it was concluded. Fleming holds back no punches against Woodrow Wilson and his 0ne-sided and egotistical idealism. Wilson's hypocrisy in claiming freedom of the seas in the face of German U-boats as a causus belli while ignoring the British blockade against German civilians is infuriating. His abuse of civil rights and blatant use of lies and propaganda is appalling. Fle Very well written and extremely thought-provoking. Fleming gives a clearer understanding to why the US entered the war and how it was concluded. Fleming holds back no punches against Woodrow Wilson and his 0ne-sided and egotistical idealism. Wilson's hypocrisy in claiming freedom of the seas in the face of German U-boats as a causus belli while ignoring the British blockade against German civilians is infuriating. His abuse of civil rights and blatant use of lies and propaganda is appalling. Fleming does well to point out Wilson's "sham neutrality" and argues that genuine neutrality with true impartiality (instead of following his Anglophile and Germaphobe feelings) may have led to an earlier and less vindictive peace which the Germans were willing to negotiate in 1916. When the Germans accepted an armistice on the basis of the Fourteen Points, Wilson betrayed them for the sake of his pet project, the League of Nations. This betrayal, we all know, caused an even more horrific war 20 years later. This quote summarizes the consequences of Wilsonianism "Woodrow Wilson's covenant with power remained a reality, twenty years after e had bungled its presentation to the American people. By breaking his promise to Germany to make peace on the basis of the Fourteen Points, Wilson had also betrayed the liberals who created the Weimar Republic at his invitation. In 1941, the republic was dead and Germany was ruled by a man who personified the accumulated rage at that betrayal: Adolf Hitler." -pg 483 It would be interesting to contrast this perspective with authors who aren't so negative of Wilson.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Tristan

    This was a good book. It tells the alternate history of Woodrow Wilson and World War I, some of which has been neglected over time. Fleming recounts the contemporary criticisms of Wilson from both the right and the left. The alternating focus between opposing viewpoints make it a little difficult to track Fleming's position initially, but these forgotten sides of the debate are important history regardless of which camp one falls into. The book had at least one factual error (Treasury Secretary This was a good book. It tells the alternate history of Woodrow Wilson and World War I, some of which has been neglected over time. Fleming recounts the contemporary criticisms of Wilson from both the right and the left. The alternating focus between opposing viewpoints make it a little difficult to track Fleming's position initially, but these forgotten sides of the debate are important history regardless of which camp one falls into. The book had at least one factual error (Treasury Secretary William McAdoo resigned in November 1918 because the war ended, not in January 1920 as a protest against his father-in-law, President Wilson), but overall, Fleming's ability to illustrate what was going on throughout the country during World War I while still focusing on Wilson makes this book much more warm and engaging than John Milton Cooper's Woodrow Wilson: A Biography. Fleming is a great storyteller, and his account brings the era to life.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Raymond

    Recommended to me, one I’ve meant to read anyway. Two thoughts: 1) Wilson was a crappy President and 2) this book was a slog. I don’t like World War 1 much, though, so that might be part of the reason why.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Greg D'Avis

    Interesting and persuasive, though the argument loses some force just through its vehemence -- Fleming savages Wilson at every opportunity, to the point where it seems over the top. He's got some stylistic quirks that grate on me, but overall it's very readable.

  19. 5 out of 5

    James M.

    Great insight into Woodrow Wilson's presidency and the events surrounding the U. S. entry into World War I.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Peter A. van Tilburg

    In depth on the USA entering the war and the historical importance that the US stepped in the world and out of their islolation policy. Also the role and person of Wilson very interesting described.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tychos Elk

    Well worth the time

  22. 4 out of 5

    Caleb

    Not a bad place to start getting aquatinted with history. Sourced well, engaging and hard for me to put down. Well researched.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Dave Bernard

    Fleming is too critical of Wilson, but this is an eye-opening book, especially for those interested in propaganda, censorship, and public opinion's involvement in the Great War, or any war really.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jenna

    An excellent and well-written account of the United States in WW1.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Erik Graff

    This is a revisionist (?) history of World War One and the participation of the United States of America in it. In any case, it's quite different than what I'd been taught in high school.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Scholes

    I gruesome account of the end of WWI. I guess any book that really tells what goes on in war is gruesome. I didn't come away with good feelings about Woodrow Wilson.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Patrick Link

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kenneth

  29. 5 out of 5

    SkipO

  30. 5 out of 5

    Lynn Wheeler

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