Posted 19 February 2007 - 08:22 PM
Consider what Americans and American historians think about when they judge whether a president is "great."
One of the first things they think about is whether he led the nation in a war, preferably a war that the United States won.
So, for example, Franklin D. Roosevelt is often judged to be great because of World War II.
As it happens, I think the United States might have needed to get involved in the European part of World War II, but Roosevelt could have easily avoided war with Japan.
FDR's measures to cut off a major part of the oil supply to Japan helped lead to the Japanese government's attack on Pearl Harbor.
Or consider Woodrow Wilson, who got the United States into World War I.
There was a war that the United States could easily have avoided. Moreover, had the U.S. government avoided World War I, the treaty that ended the war would not likely have been so lopsided.
The Versailles Treaty's punitive terms on Germany helped set the from stage for World War II.
So it's reasonable to think that had the United States not entered World War I, there might not have been a World War II. Yet, despite his major blunder, which caused over 100,000 Americans to die in World War I, Wilson is often thought of as a great president.
Another "great" president, Theodore Roosevelt, pushed for war before becoming president and continued McKinley's war to make the Philippines into a colony after McKinley was murdered.
Can you think of any presidents who are called "great" but who neither got the United States involved in a major war nor carried out a major bloodbath in a war they inherited? I can't.
from David Henderson