Amer Pres: Wilson
H. W. Brands. Times Books, $22 (192pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-6955-6
At a time when U.S. foreign policy and the country's role in the world are very much at issue, what could be more appropriate than to revisit the president who set U.S. foreign policy on its course in the 20th century? Brands, best-selling author and Pulitzer finalist for The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin, gives a sober portrait of a president dedicated to peace yet compelled to enter a brutal war. Yet more than his actions, Brands says, it is Wilson's words that remain with us:""The world must be made safe for democracy."" Brands writes elegiacally of Wilson's""beautiful words, soaring words, words moved a nation and enthralled a world, words that for a wonderful moment were more powerful than armies."" Though recent events cast doubt on Brands's statement that Wilson's views (""idealism is sometimes the highest form of realism"") have triumphed and that the U.S. concedes the U.N.'s""role at the center of world affairs,"" his contribution to the American Presidents series, edited by Arthur M. Schlesinger, is a stirring reminder of the ideals that underlie American policy.
Reviewed on: 06/01/2003