Tuesday, May 6, 2008

They Said It

By Drew

"What I am opposed to is not the feeling of the pacifists, but their stupidity. My heart is with them, but my mind has contempt for them. I want peace but I know how to get it and they do not. You will notice that I sent a friend of mine, Colonel House, to Europe, who is as great a lover of peace as any man in the world, but I didn't send him on a peace mission yet. I sent him to take part in a conference on how the war was to be won, and he knows, as I know, that that is the way to get peace."

Woodrow Wilson

(Just in case you thought George Bush was the only headstrong president we've ever had in wartime. Wilson also held presidential powers that would have made Bush blanche, but that's another story.)

There's much truth in what Wilson says, though. In particular, I will never believe the hoary liberal quote about being unable to simultaneously prevent and prepare for war, for peace is more than merely the absence of war. Wilson's main flaw was his inability to differentiate between disagreement and opposition - from the earliest times he displayed something of a "you're either for me or against me" mentality, a trait that was exacerbated during his years as president.

Wilson's presidency provides a prime example of the arrogance of power and the delusion of idealism. Without the hubrus that regards disagreement over policy as a personal attack, Wilson might have avoided his place as a tragic figure in history, and his administration the contempt it often deserves. Wilson was what he was, however, and thus sealed both his fate and that of America: a changed conception of the presidency, a changed role for America in the world, and a century of warfare.

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