At the end of his first term in 1916, Woodrow Wilson had emerged as one of the most forceful and progressive presidents in American history. At home, he had pushed through legislation that restricted child labor, provided workmen's compensation, secured a truly progressive income tax, and established the eight-hour day for railroad workers. He had also appointed two prominent "radicals," Louis Brandeis and John Hessin Clarke, to the Supreme Court. In world affairs, he had already taken his place as the great voice of the New Diplomacy, the inspiration of "progressive internationalists" in both the United States and Europe. Indeed, in a world gripped by the Great War, he was seen as the shining hope for a new, more moral and rational system of international relations. But four years later his presidency ended under a cloud of defeat, his greatest work of all--the Covenant of the League of Nations--discredited and voted down by the Senate.
In To End All Wars, Thomas J. Knock provides a fascinating narrative of Wilson's epic quest for a new world order. Massively researched and filled with intriguing and provocative insights, this account follows Wilson's thought and diplomacy from his early historical writings to his policy towards revolutionary Mexico, from his dramatic call for "Peace Without Victory" in World War I to America's entry into that conflict, and from the Fourteen Points Address to the frustrating negotiations at Versailles, through to his stroke and the Senate's rejection of the League. Knock takes a revealing look at the place of internationalism in American politics, sweeping away the old view that isolationism was the cause of Wilson's failure. Internationalism, he writes, was an accepted viewpoint in the mainstream of both major parties as well as the Socialist party of America; at stake, though, were competing visions of internationalism--conservative and progressive.
Knock brilliantly weaves together world events with the debates in American politics to show how World War I wrecked Wilson's alliance with progressive forces, as he permitted the U.S. government to stamp out dissent and acquiesced in the "one hundred percent Americanism" fever that overcame the country in a wave of intolerance. At the same time, his plans for a new world order incensed such conservative internationalists as Theodore Roosevelt and Henry Cabot Lodge; after the peace conference, even the sympathetic William Howard Taft worried that Wilson had signed away American power and sovereignty. Jane Addams, Max Eastman, John Reed, Eugene Debs, Walter Lippmann, and other compelling figures of the era all play important roles as Knock traces the rise and fall of progressive internationalism at home and abroad--putting Wilson's tragic stroke in a new and strikingly different context.
Today, as the world emerges from the Cold War, Woodrow Wilson's appeal for collective cooperation, disarmament, and self-determination echoes with new meaning. Knock's penetrating analysis of Wilson's thought and diplomacy offers a fresh understanding of this pivotal statesman and his ideals, which continue to affect world politics at the beginning of a new epoch.