President Bush's Woodrow Wilson Problem
Mr. Fleming's book on the American experience in World War I, The Illusion of Victory, will be published on June 1.
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Not many Americans outside the historical fraternity have heard of Philip Dru. Even among that well-informed group, not many are willing to admit the powerful role Philip Dru played in shaping the history of the twentieth century.
You may be nonplused to discover that Philip Dru is a character in a novel, Philip Dru, Administrator. It is not a very good novel. But its main character and his message acquired enormous significance when the author, Colonel Edward Mandell House, became the intimate advisor to the president of the United States, Woodrow Wilson.
Philip Dru tells the story of a military and political genius who took over a wealthy disordered quarrelsome nation and led it into an era of superhuman contentment by persuading the people to make him their supreme autocrat. This vision was not very different from Woodrow Wilson's view of how things worked best politically. In one of his books he wrote that the "graver questions" of politics, such as the choice between peace and war, could only be decided by "the selected leaders of public opinion and rulers of state policy."
Wilson maintained that in America the supreme leader of public opinion and most trustworthy architect of state policy was the president. Congressional government was a messy ultimately feckless process, to be avoided at all costs. It was easy to see how in Edward Mandell House's reveries, Woodrow Wilson became Philip Dru. Few historians have bothered to read Philip Dru, Administrator in recent decades. A close examination reveals a surprisingly militaristic side to Dru's approach to political problems. Although the details are submerged in murky generalities, Dru, a graduate of West Point, fights a large scale civil war with the forces of "privilege" before ushering America into an era of domestic peace and harmony.
Wilson's performance as president revealed a similar readiness to resort to military solutions. During his first term, he sent the U.S. Marines into Haiti and the Dominican Republic to support governments that had few backers outside of the business elite and their American friends. Wilson also used the threat of the Marines to make Nicaragua a virtual protectorate of the United States. To prevent the Mexican politician he disliked from acquiring guns from abroad, he ordered the U.S. Army and Navy to seize the port of Vera Cruz. The Mexicans resisted fiercely, and a day of fighting left 126 Mexicans and 19 Americans dead. Even the Mexican politician that Wilson was backing, Venustiano Carranza, denounced the invasion as a gross violation of the rights and dignity of the Mexican people.
This was the president who led Americans into the First World War in 1917 to make sure he had a seat at the peace table. Wilson assumed that America would not have to send any soldiers to Europe. Completely deceived by British and French propaganda, the president thought the war against Germany was as good as won. He was dismayed when British and French military missions showed up in Washington in May of 1917 and confessed they were on the brink of defeat. "We want men, men, men!" the generals said.
This is the sort of thing that can happen when the autocratic style pervades the presidency. Wilson seldom sought advice or information from anyone but Colonel House. His cabinet was a collection of mediocrities whom he rarely consulted. House had selected most of them. Philip Dru's autocratic style also pervaded Wilson's peacemaking. He seemed to think that the enunciation of lofty slogans was the equivalent of realizing them on a practical level. When he and House composed the famous "Fourteen Points" speech, stating the principles the world must accept to have lasting peace, the diminutive Texas colonel (an honorary title) told his diary with immense satisfaction: "Saturday was a remarkable day. We got down to work at half past ten and finished remaking the map of the world, as we would have it, by half past twelve o'clock."
Behind Wilson's back, the Europeans mocked his Fourteen Points. The French premier, Georges Clemenceau, sneered that God had been satisfied with ten commandments. At the Paris Peace Conference, Clemenceau and British Prime Minister David Lloyd George overrode Wilson's objections and wrote a vengeful peace treaty that sowed the seeds of World War II. It was poor compensation for the 120,139 Americans who had died in World War I.
Back in the United States with a treaty that almost every liberal in the U.S. Senate denounced, Wilson became a veritable incarnation of Philip Dru. He refused to compromise with anyone on his version of the League of Nations, which required America to surrender its sovereignty to the world government.
When the Senate rejected the treaty, Wilson tried to overwhelm his opponents with oratory on a nationwide speaking tour. In Pueblo, Colorado, he collapsed with a cerebral thrombosis. After a partial recovery, he forced the Democratic Party to make the 1920 presidential election "a great and solemn referendum" on the peace treaty. By this time the American people were thoroughly sick of Woodrow Wilson, his war and his peace. The Democratic candidates, James Cox of Ohio and Franklin D. Roosevelt of New York, were buried in one of the greatest landslides in American history.
Philip Dru was repudiated but his legacy remains a constant temptation in America's foreign policy. Too many people -- both supporters and critics of President George W. Bush -- seem to think that America can or should achieve instant democracy and respect for human rights in nations such as Afghanistan and Iraq, simply by proclaiming our faith in these principles. Unless we flavor our idealism with a large dose of realism -- and patience -- we may find ourselves a very disappointed nation, again.
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Richard Roper - 7/29/2003
There are good reasons for believing that the good Colonel was a British agent as well.Without american economic support britain could not have continued the war beyond 1915.
Stephen Kriz - 5/28/2003
Let's see, which nutjob conspiracy theories did you leave out?
Oh yeah, the Illuminati, Elvis is still alive, Bigfoot exists and UFOs are for real. How about adding these to your little meandering monologue:
I think that the Federal Reserve is controlled by the Illuminati, and that they recieve coded messages from Elvis and Bigfoot from their UFO, which periodically emerges from the Bermuda triangle to form crop circles......
How did I do????
Albert Hembd - 5/26/2003
This is a superior article. I have not personally read Phillip Dr, Administrator, but I certainly need to. I've read many a review of that book in "The New American" magazine. Interesting, too, that House in that book states that he favors a "Marxist" form of government for the United States. Interesting especially, given that the neoconservatives of Bush's Administration almost all come from Trotskeyite backgrounds, or, their mentors come from Trotskeyite backgrounds.
It's very important that that this information about the philosophical Weltanschuung of the neconservatives come to light.
We are looking at a military burnout here, I do believe. The United States will not be able to sustain the economic cost of maintaining this world empire for the benefit of the world oil oligarchical elite.
NYGuy - 5/26/2003
I told you to stop being a windbag. All it a takes is your old slogan:
Bush = Hitler
You will get your message across much quicker and we don't have to tolerate your ignorance. Your message is becoming boring, not only because of it repitions but also it is boring because it lacks content. Please don't have your lackeys answer this post, they are even dumber than you are.
Ralph Carlson - 5/25/2003
I did not get the difference between Mr. Silberman's points 1
Lewis L. Gould - 5/25/2003
Arthur Link once said to me that Edward M. House was "a pathological liar." There are serious questions about the accuracy and reliability House's diary. Yet here he is again as the "grey eminence" of the Wilson presidency with Wilson as his instrument. Perhaps John M. Cooper, in his book on Wilson and Roosevelt, said it best when he observed that the president unconsciously regard the Colonel "as something of a stooge." (The Warrior and the Priest, p. 243). Philip Dru is important for understanding House. The novel has much less relevance for understanding Woodrow Wilson and the course of American history.
Edd Roberts - 5/23/2003
It's realy ironic to see neoconservative republicans, who have blamed Wilson for what Lincoln wrought, champion a course of foreign policy which can only be described as Wilsonian.
Neoconservatives are as impervious to irony as the model attorney is supposed to be to insult.
Mark Dankof - 5/23/2003
For the record, I agree with Stephen Kriz's analysis of Mr. Bush's deficient intellectual and scholarly credentials, which are quantified by his 1.68 GPA at Yale and his subsequent rejection by the University of Texas law school because of the GPA. Mr. Bush's history of substance abuse in this period is also a matter of record. For the icing on the cake, the President's 18 months of AWOL status from the Texas Air Guard in 1972-73 is documented at http://www.awolbush.com.
Stephen Kriz - 5/23/2003
I agree with most of what you have said. I think any parallels between Wilson and Bush are purely coincidental, however. Woodrow Wilson was a learned man, who understood history and political trends. George W. Bush is intellectually lazy and could care less about history or other intellectual pursuits. He was born into wealth, had everything handed to him and he pursued hedonistic pleasures entirely until he was 40 years old. Now, as a dry drunk, he is trying to live down his misspent youth by doing something he feels is ennobling and ingratiating to his father. As the book, Ambling Into History, points out, Bush was and is directionless and is entirely shaped by people like Karl Rove and Richard Perle. 9-11 gave Bush a raison d'etre and like the thoughtless bounder he is, he has pursued it without giving a rational thought. He thinks he is going to kill all the terrorists and stand over them with a smoking six-gun and say, "there, I told you so". Anyone with a modicum of intelligence knows how damn foolish that is. He is a buffoon and a very dangerous one at that.
Comparing Bush to Wilson is like comparing General Patton to Barney Fife.
Mark Dankof - 5/23/2003
It is both tragic and ironic to contemplate the fact that Mr. Bush, in repristinating Woodrow Wilson, has managed to team up with his neo-conservative advisors to hijack the American conservative movement and to cajole the latter into supporting endless foreign wars, a burgeoning National Security State, and the curbing of the Bill of Rights at home. The Old Right knew the difference between a Republic and an Empire when it saw them. One cannot say the same for Mr. Bush and his supporters.
David Silberman - 5/23/2003
EXCELLENT PRESENTATION! I am tickled pink that such a RESPECTED
authority of American History has come out with this story.
For the past 40 + years, the John Birch Society has re-published
this book through (Western Islands) Philip Dru Administrator.
sveral points not mentioned in Mr.Flemmings account:
1. 20% of the Communist manifesto was introduced, a. the progressive income tax. b. The Central State bank (Federal Reserve)
2. Woodrow Wilson in 1913 brought on the the Progressive Income Tax, and the Federal Reserve.
3. Edward Mandel House in 1921, formed the super secret and elitist Council on Foreign Relations.
Since 1921 every democratic and republican candidate for president has been a member of the CFR ( one notable exception)
Ronald Reagan was not a member but his cabinet were all members.
Every Presidental cabinet since 1921 have been members of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Today with approximately 3,500 members they control Foundations.Fortune 500 companies, entire media, 3 members of the supreme court, Ginsberg, Souter,O'Connor, The Military etc.