When told about war games played at the War College, Wilson said to his Secretary of War, “That seems to me a very dangerous occupation. I think you had better stop.”
This speaks volumes about Woodrow Wilson, the way he managed the military, and his suitability to serve as the nation’s Commander-in-Chief.
One would imagine these words being spoken to Lindley Garrison, who was Wilson’s first secretary of war and who found himself at loggerheads with POTUS over the need to prepare for the possibility of war. Garrison finally gave on Wilson in disgust and resigned in 1916 to return to his law practice.
History would, of course, prove Garrison to be correct, and prove Wilson to have been shortsighted. Garrison’s successor, Newton Baker, was an ardent pacifist whose sole discernible service to American arms was to insist on keeping American troops under American command during the war. Beyond that, he was a cipher.
Most important, though, Baker was a reflection of his president. One can take the stand that America’s hesitance to get involved in World War I was eminently justifiable. Yet as it became evident that war was on the horizon, Wilson lacked the courage or foresight to prepare the nation for it.
As we look at the troubles faced by US troops in World War I, and the differences in how FDR prepared the nation for WWII, attention must land on Wilson and his failings as a peacetime Commander in Chief.