Book Review: World War I: Opposing Viewpoints

World War I:  Opposing Viewpoints, edited by William Dudley

I must say that I like the Opposing Viewpoints series as a whole, and have often enjoyed its takes on various subjects of personal interest [1], and this book is no exception.  Indeed, this book may be among the most entertaining and enlightening of the collections of this series that I have seen so far, and that is because this book has a lot to say about how the contemporary leftist world got so screwed up.  Although it was more than a century ago, the divide that exists in this book between the institutional and Progressive left that saw war-making powers as acceptable so long as it was a suitably Progressive president making war and the radical left that viewed war as being the fault of corporate interests that were supposed to be eliminated in an ideal socialist state mirrors the sort of contemporary divide we see between patriotic but obviously mistaken leftists (typically considered to be liberals or moderates depending on who is doing the labeling) and socialists.  Indeed, it might be said that the contemporary moment is among the most friendly to socialists as as existed since the 1910’s when socialists were imprisoned for being unpatriotic and thus that scourge was halted for a generation at least.

This book is almost 250 pages and is divided into six chapters with various supplementary material.  After a foreword and an introduction the book begins with four perspectives on the War in Europe and American preparedness, with arguments for and against the need to increase America’s preparedness for war and for and against the need for adoption of a system of universal military service (1).  After that the book contains six perspectives on the question of American neutrality, with some supporting neutrality, views that express the harm of neutrality or that justify Germany for sinking the Lusitania, and that express questions of whether or not, in April 1917, the United States should have declared war against Germany (2).  After that comes a look at the criticisms and defenses of America’s going to war from various leftist sources ranging from patriotic labor unionist Gompers to the Socialist Party, New Republic, and various feuding feminists (3).  After that there is a discussion of the war at home relating to freedoms of speech and assembly for dissenters, enforcement of the draft law, and how war funds were to be raised (4).  Next there is a discussion of the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations as to whether the treaty was too punitive and whether the United States should have entered the League of Nations (5).  Finally, the book closes with a retrospective view of whether or not Wilson’s decision to take the United States into war was justified or not (6), followed by an appendix with Wilson’s 14 points, questions for discussion, chronology, an annotated bibliography, and an index.

There are some readers who may be disappointed that this book only focuses on the opposing viewpoints within the United States on entering the war.  Even so, and even though I disagree with quite a few of the perspectives here, this book is genuinely entertaining and that is not something that one can always say about the discussion of World War I.  What makes this book particularly entertaining is the relevance of this discussion to better understanding the state of contemporary politics, as one can see a clear divide between patriotic Americans, Americans who might be left of the middle but are at least savvy enough to exploit the patriotism of America for political choices to defend the national honor, and those whose leftism is so extreme as to make them immune to what ordinary people are concerned about or about national honor or honor at all.  Hearing various leftsplaining and womansplaining going on in the 1910’s helps provide a sense of context to the similar efforts at virtue signalling that go on today among ideologues, which is enough on its own to make this book well worth reading and laughing at some of the more ridiculous opinions to be found here.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2020/01/14/book-review-cuba-opposing-viewpoints/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2019/02/19/book-review-opposing-viewpoints-popular-culture/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2019/10/07/book-review-ukraine/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in American History, Book Reviews, History, Military History and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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