Acclaimed historian Thomas Fleming brings to life the flawed and troubled FDR who struggled to manage WWII. Starting with the leak to the press of Roosevelt's famous Rainbow Plan, then spiraling back to FDR's inept prewar diplomacy with Japan, and his various attempts to lure Japan into an attack on the U.S. Fleet in the Pacific, Fleming takes the reader inside the incredibly fractious struggles and debates that went on in Washington, the nation, and the world as the New Dealers, led by FDR, strove to impose their will on the conduct of the War. Unlike the familiar yet idealized FDR of Doris Kearns Goodwin's No Ordinary Time, the reader encounters a Roosevelt in remorseless decline, battered by ideological forces and primitive hatreds which he could not handle-and frequently failed to understand-some of them leading to unimaginable catastrophe. Among FDR's most dismaying policies, Fleming argues, were an insistence on "unconditional surrender" for Germany (a policy that perhaps prolonged the war by as many as two years, leaving millions more dead) and his often uncritical embrace of and acquiescence to Stalin and the Soviets as an ally.For many Americans, Franklin Delano Roosevelt is a beloved, heroic, almost mythic figure, if not for the "big government" that was spawned under his New Deal, then certainly for his leadership through the War. The New Dealers' War paints a very different portrait of this leadership. It is sure to spark debate.
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Always fiercely contested on matters of domestic policy, Franklin Roosevelt faced even more opposition when it came to international relations. His first two terms in office coincided with the rise of a powerful isolationist movement that urged the government not to involve itself in foreign entanglements. That movement, coupled with strongly anti-British sentiment that owed much to America's large Irish and German populations, hampered Roosevelt's efforts to set the nation on the side of England when it became apparent in the late 1930s that a European war loomed.
To placate his opposition, Thomas Fleming charges in The New Dealers' War, Roosevelt promised "that he would never send American soldiers to fight beyond America's shores." Yet, Fleming continues, on December 4, 1941, the Chicago Tribune revealed the existence of elaborate war plans involving the landing of an American force 5 million strong in Europe by 1943. The revelation gave isolationists fits, of course, but their criticism was effectively silenced three days later when a Japanese force attacked Hawaii. In declaring war on Japan and its allies, Roosevelt's New Deal administration imposed what Fleming considers to have been an unreasonable demand for the unconditional surrender of the Axis powers. That demand, he believes, compromised internal resistance to the enemy regimes. Its prosecution also legitimized the use of what Fleming calls "hateful tactics" such as the bombing of civilian targets and the use of nuclear weapons.
Fleming's revisionist study will be of greatest interest to those already inclined to the view that Franklin Roosevelt tricked his country into fighting Fascism. Other readers may take issue with his ad hominem, ideological arguments. Either way, his provocative thesis is sure to promote debate. --Gregory McNameeAbout the Author:
Thomas Fleming, a widely respected historian and compelling writer, is the author of more than forty books of fiction and nonfiction, including most recently Duel: Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr and the Future of America and Liberty! The American Revolution. Fleming is a frequent guest and contributor to NPR, PBS, A&E, The History Channel, and "The Today Show." He lives in New York City and Westport, Connecticut.
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