The War Lovers by Evan Thomas - Book review

The War Lovers

Roosevelt, Lodge, Hearst, and the Rush to Empire, 1898

By: Evan Thomas

Published: April 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover, 471pp
ISBN-13: 9780316004091
ISBN-10: 031600409X
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company

"The Spanish-American War is little remembered now. But more than the Civil War or World War II, it was a harbinger, if not the model, of modern American Wars", writes editor-at-large at Newsweek and bestselling historian Evan Thomas, in his brilliant and revealing book The War Lovers: Roosevelt, Lodge, Hearst, and the Rush to Empire, 1898. The author, through a narrative involving several of the towering personalities of the day, describes how that almost forgotten 1898 conflict bears striking parallels with modern wars, journalism, and politics.

Evan Thomas brings to life the extraordinary people and events that turned America on an unexpected path toward a global empire. The Spanish-American War, according to the author, was seen as an opportunity for the upper classes of America to prove themselves in war. Through the writings and words of future President Theodore Roosevelt, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, and news baron William Randolph Hearst, the feeling that members of the elites lacked vigor, became common thought. A war was the tonic, in their eyes, for this perceived malaise. When the American ship USS Maine exploded in Havana Harbor, the supporters of war rejoiced and began preparations for combat. While the ship explosion was an accident as the result of a design flaw, the official report presented an explanation of sabotage. The march to war was on.

Evan Thomas (photo left) points out that the Spanish-American War began with great enthusiasm. William Randolph Hearst provided non-stop stories, both real and exaggerated, to promote the war. The politicians voted in favor of declaring war, even though President McKinley was somewhat lukewarm to the idea. Like the modern day Iraq War, the reasons for entry were considered suspicious, if not outright fabrications, by opponents of the war. At the same time, like the Iraq War, there were few if any solid objectives, exit strategies, and little more than vague human rights concerns. Indeed, according to Evan Thomas, even the torture tactic of "waterboarding" was used in the Philippines against suspected rebel leaders and sympathizers.

The author describes the concerns of two doves as well. They were the renowned philosopher William James and the powerful Speaker of the House, Thomas Reed. Their voices were little heard in the headlong plunge into war. They were overwhelmed by a popular sentiment to fight a war, any war at all, and the hawks were in the ascendancy. Evan Thomas describes, through letters and writings, how Theodore Roosevelt worked tirelessly to get America into the Spanish-American War. Roosevelt craved the experience of battle, and used his success at the charge up Kettle Hill and the occupation of San Juan Hill to establish his legend. William Randolph Hearst newspaper reporters and artists portrayed the war and Roosevelt as conquering heroes. Heart himself even sailed to Cuba to be in on the action. The end result of the war was America as a global power, the problem of Cuban independence remained unsettled, and Theodore Roosevelt won the Presidency.

I highly recommend the enthralling and triumphant history The War Lovers: Roosevelt, Lodge, Hearst, and the Rush to Empire, 1898 by Evan Thomas, to anyone seeking a book that brings the people and times of the Spanish-American War to life. Not only does the author share a masterful portrait of the personalities and events of the era, but provides critical parallels and lessons for our own time. In that sense, the author demonstrates that history is not something in the past, but is part of our current lives and world.

Read the important and remarkable book The War Lovers: Roosevelt, Lodge, Hearst, and the Rush to Empire, 1898 by Evan Thomas, and discover how the past affects the present, and how decisions and choices made a century ago, still resonate in our world today. This book is a must read for anyone interested in the shaping of public opinion and global events, and how they have changed little in one hundred years.

Tags: The War Lovers: Roosevelt, Lodge, Hearst, and the Rush to Empire, 1898, Evan Thomas, Spanish-American War, history book reviews.