An idealist whose vision of a “League of Nations” failed in the Senate–Woodrow Wilson proved to be a canny politician in a fascinating time.
Despite these tendencies, he managed much of the war effort brilliantly, delivering a surprisingly effective army of more than two million men to France by the end of 1918. The United States stumbled onto the world stage a full-blown colossus, turning overnight from the world’s largest debtor nation to practically its sole creditor. Arriving in Europe to negotiate the peace, Wilson was greeted with an ecstasy no American president had ever matched, hailed as the savior of mankind.
In this NPR article the author reveals his access to new Wilson papers–and explores the changing role of the U.S. president, the monumental decision to enter WWI, as well as his vision for global governance:
“The vision was, and still is, a mighty one, I think, which is that there ought to be an almost Arthurian Round Table. There should be a kind of international parliament at which every country could sit. And, in fact, if there’s some problem breaking out somewhere in the world, they could discuss it pre-emptively, and everyone would agree not to go to war until it has been discussed. And if the discussions did not work, there would be a notion of collective security. That is to say, they would all contribute to a kind of army that would, in essence, police the world when necessary. And this was a real idealistic vision, no question about it.”
Update: After a fireside chat on the book Maureen Dowd writes about his mastery of Congressional relations, dating habits, racism and other foibles of his times.