I recently finished a book entitled The Illusion of Victory: Americans in World War I by Thomas Fleming.
One of the crazy things about my developing interest in history is that it's really hard to know where to start. A few years ago, I was curious about how World War II started, so I did what any reasonably savvy computer user would do and checked out wikipedia and a few other Google searches. Almost every article or essay on the subject of the beginnings of World War II began with a statement something like this: "To fully understand the reasons for the start of the second World War, one must understand the reasons for the start of World War I, and the failure of the Treaty of Versailles.
Well, I knew little about World War II, I knew even less about World War I. So, I went on a little hunt, and found a great book: A Storm in Flanders. I've commented on this book before. I really found it very interesting, and as the war was, very depressing. This book focused on the Great War mostly from the European viewpoint, though the author's intent was to write it for Americans who knew little about the war.
Fleming's book, Illusion of Victory, focuses on America's involvement in the war, and primarily focuses on Woodrow Wilson's failure as president to guide the country into the war (after running for re-election with the slogan "He kept us out of war"), and his failure as diplomat as he asserted himself as an almost unwelcomed negotiator for peace on the European stage.
One of the most startling things I took from this book is how unbelievably deceptive and censoring the federal government became toward it's citizens. People live in a great deal of ignorance about the current conflict in Iraq (and I use the term "conflict" intentionally since the 2nd World War was technically the last war declared by the US). If more people had a better sense of history, (and I can say I only feel like I'm getting my bearings lately), they would be surprised at what the Wilson administration (and later the Roosevelt administration) sanctioned regarding propaganda, what we would consider political "incorrectness" today, and stubborn political unilateralism. If you weren't on board with Wilson, too bad, he was gonna do things the way he wanted them done.
As I am learning, the problem with history is that it is hard to know where to start. I have now gained a broader appreciation for the start of WW II because of understanding WW I a little better. However, there were world events that took place before WW I that influenced it! Many US military commanders of World War I got their experience from fighting in the Spanish-American War! Now who can tell me something about THAT?
More on other books I've reading to come....