Woodrow Wilson stepped into the presidency as an idealist from Virginia. Wilson played a dominant role in ending the war with his Fourteen Points and played the central role at the Versailles Conference that set the peace terms in 1919. He was the idealist who envisioned Wilson advocated a new international order founded on self-determination, unfettered international trade, the end of militarism, Wilson was also the initiator of the vison of a universal world organization that was League of Nations, so that would keep the peace rather than alliances. His progressivism in 2009 terms is a mix of liberal and conservative ideas, with a much deeper religious underpinning than is seen today. He ranks with Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Lyndon B. Johnson and Ronald Reagan as the nation’s most active and dominant chief executives. Theodore Roosevelt and Wilson held the reins of government when world affairs were drawing a reluctant nation into whirlpool. Roosevelt was a sophisticated analyst of the balance of power, he insisted on an international role for America.
While Roosevelt was holding a style from European views, it was not a surprise that he move toward the global balance of power and that was approached only by Richard Nixon. In the book’s second chapter, “The Hinge: Theodore Roosevelt or Woodrow Wilson,” Kissinger sets up the diplomatic dichotomy that is to control much of the remainder of his argument. He presents Theodore Roosevelt accurately as a pragmatic practitioner of the Realpolitik, whereas he presents Woodrow Wilson, also with complete accuracy, as the idealist whose vision of a League of Nations, the precursor of the United Nations, won him a Nobel Peace Prize although he did not achieve sufficient domestic support for his own country to become a member of the league that he had spawned.