America’s Greatest Blunder by Burton Yale Pines

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MWSA Review

History is said to be the propaganda of the winners. In America’s Greatest Blunder, Burton Pines shows how skilful propaganda can determine who the winners are.

With the one hundredth anniversary of the start of World War I approaching, many are re-examining the conflict. What perhaps has not been sufficiently noted was Britain’s clever manipulation of U.S. opinion, turning it from initially a neutral or slightly pro-German bent into a virulently anti-German declaration of war. For example, Britain cut Germany’s two trans-Atlantic cables to the America’s at the war’s outset, insuring her version of events would be the one most heard. Moreover, Britain had a highly effective covert government sponsored propaganda machine, cleverly disguised as “news.” The drumbeat was non-stop and clever. Germany, by comparison, had to handle its dispatches openly through its embassy and consulates. Hence, its efforts were seen as mere government propaganda.

Pines painstakingly, and occasionally laboriously, leads up to the events which tipped the military advantage in favor of Britain and France. He is at his best here, showing how President Wilson and the American public inevitably jumped on the war bandwagon. Pines then theorize that the outpouring of American troops broke the military stalemate. Where a status quo ante bellum and a less punitive peace might have occurred, Britain and France rammed home the harsh terms which Wilson protested but proved unequal to prevent. Pines then follows a familiar thread, the resulting radicalization of Germany and rise of Hitler, leading to World War II. Insightful, well-researched and documented, America’s Greatest Blunder is worth considering.

Reviewed by: B. N. Peacock (2014)


Author's Synopsis

Entering World War One against Germany was America's greatest blunder of the 20th century. America had no reason to join the 3-year-old struggle. By sending two million doughboys to the Western Front, America shattered the battlefield stalemate and won the war, allowing Britain and France to impose a devastating peace on Germany, thus igniting toxic German cries for revenge.

Absent America's entry into the war, the exhausted combatants, however unhappily, would have had to drag themselves to a negotiating table and there make a peace of compromise. There would have been no victor, no vanquished, no Versailles Treaty, no reparations, no German demands for revenge, no Hitler and surely no World War II and even no Cold War.

The tale of how America stumbled into war is told byAmerica's Greatest Blunder. It chronicles America's journey from sensible neutrality to its war declaration. It then describes how legions of doughboys were mobilized and trained and how they won the war, giving victory to Britain and France - thus launching the young 20th century on its course of decades of unprecedented violence.