Jim Powell: Wilson’s War

How Woodrow Wilson’s Great Blunder Led to Hitler, Lenin, Stalin and World War II

Crown Forum, 2005     Amazon.com

Book Description:

President Woodrow Wilson famously rallied the United States to enter World War I by saying the nation had a duty to make “the world safe for democracy.” But as historian Jim Powell demonstrates in this shocking reappraisal, Wilson actually made a horrible blunder by committing the United States to fight. Far from making the world safe for democracy, America’s entry into the war opened the door to murderous tyrants and Communist rulers. No other president has had a hand – however unintentional – in so much destruction. That’s why, Powell declares, “Wilson surely ranks as the worst president in American history.”

Wilson’s War reveals the horrifying consequences of our twenty-eighth president’s fateful decision to enter the fray in Europe. It led to millions of additional casualties in a war that had ground to a stalemate. And even more disturbing were the long-term consequences – consequences that played out well after Wilson’s death. Powell convincingly demonstrates that America’s armed forces enabled the Allies to win a decisive victory they would not otherwise have won – thus enabling them to impose the draconian surrender terms on Germany that paved the way for Adolf Hitler’s rise to power.

Powell also shows how Wilson’s naiveté and poor strategy allowed the Bolsheviks to seize power in Russia. Given a boost by Woodrow Wilson, Lenin embarked on a reign of terror that continued under Joseph Stalin. The result of Wilson’s blunder was seventy years of Soviet Communism, during which time the Communist government murdered some sixty million people.

Just as Powell’s FDR’s Folly exploded the myths about Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal, Wilson’s War destroys the conventional image of Woodrow Wilson as a great “progressive” who showed how the United States can do good by intervening in the affairs of other nations. Jim Powell delivers a stunning reminder that we should focus less on a president’s high-minded ideals and good intentions than on the consequences of his actions.


“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

About the Author:

Historian Jim Powell is the author of FDR’s Folly and The Triumph of Liberty. A senior fellow at the Cato Institute since 1988, he has written for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, American Heritage, Barron’s, Esquire, the Chicago Tribune, Money magazine, Reason, and numerous other national publications. He has lectured at Harvard, Stanford, and other universities across the United States, as well as in Europe, Asia, and South America. Powell lives in Connecticut with his family.

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All original writing and photography © Jan Olof Bengtsson

"A Self-realized being cannot help benefiting the world. His very existence is the highest good."
Ramana Maharshi