cover image THE NEW DEALERS' WAR: FDR and the War Within World War II

THE NEW DEALERS' WAR: FDR and the War Within World War II

Thomas Fleming, . . Basic, $32.50 (628pp) ISBN 978-0-465-02464-3

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.