I greatly enjoyed the interview with A. Scott Berg ’71 about his new book on Woodrow Wilson 1879 (Q&A, Sept. 18). I would like to take issue with the response from Norman Ravitch *59 *62 (Inbox, Oct. 23).
Mr. Ravitch is quite correct that President Wilson’s leadership propelled America to a newly engaged role on the world stage. However, Mr. Ravitch bases his criticism of Wilson’s “worldwide interventionism,” as he phrases it, on unfair conclusions and takes it out of its historical context.
Wilson’s decision to bring America into World War I came in 1917, three years after the war had begun and only after he had offered numerous times to mediate a peace settlement. When he finally asked for a declaration of war, he did so to “make the world safe for democracy.” He brought his ideals for a new and peaceful world order to the fore with his Fourteen Points and tireless efforts during the Paris peace conference and the treaty-ratification battle that followed. His ideas may have been flawed, but his vision for a “war to end war” laid the foundations for the peace that followed World War II.
What Mr. Ravitch calls “our disastrous entry into World War I” in fact tipped the scales in the Allies’ favor and helped to end the war. The rise of Hitler and World War II resulted not from Wilson’s ideals, but rather from a failure to implement them. Wilson’s internationalist legacy has indeed directly led future presidents to take a more active role in sharing America’s ideals with other nations, but to deny the value in this is to deny the adage that “to whom much is given, much is required.”