I think that the bits of truth in his conjectures makes them all the more dangerous. I do agree that had the Treaty of Versailles been less punitive, Germany would not have found itself in the throes of hyperinflation (among other things) that led to the rise of Nazism and directly brought on WWII.
America’s Second Crusade by William Henry Chamberlin (available for free from mises.org), although it focuses primarily on WWII, traces the causes of the second war through the leadup and prosecution of the first. Chamberlin cites excerpts from Wilson’s speech to the U.S. Senate on January 22, 1917:
Victory would mean peace forced upon the loser, a victor’s terms imposed
upon the vanquished. It would be accepted in humiliation, under duress,
at an intolerable sacrifice, and would leave a sting, a resentment, a bitter
memory upon which terms of peace would rest, not permanently, but only
as upon quicksand. Only a peace between equals can last, only a peace
the very principle of which is equality and a common participation in a
Later, he privately observed to the editor of the NY World:
America’s entrance would mean that we would lose our heads along with
the rest and stop weighing right or wrong. It would mean that the ma-
jority of the people in this hemisphere would go war-mad, quit thinking
and devote their energies to destruction. . . . It means an attempt to
reconstruct a peacetime civilization with war standards, and at the end
of the war there will be no bystanders with sufficient power to influence
the terms…. Once lead this people into war and they’ll forget there
ever was such a thing as tolerance.
Had the United States not entered WWI, the result would most likely have been a treaty based on the status quo ante bellum – the way things were before the war.
Another book that has come highly recommended to me (although I have not read it myself) is The Myth of a Guilty Nation by Albert Jay Nock (also available from mises.org).
The virus that is American Exceptionalism seems to lead those infected to think “If only America had fixed everyone’s problems sooner, this horrible part of history might not have happened.” The truth, sadly, is closer to “If only America had not tried to fix everyone’s problems at all, this horrible part of history might not have happened.”