Comments to NYT on Reviews (3 July 2011) of A World on Fire by Amanda Foreman, reviewed by Geoffrey Wheatcroft and Conscience: Two Soldiers, Two Pacifists, One Family — A Test of Will and Faith in World War One by Louisa Thomas, reviewed by Alan Riding (July 3, 2011)

5 July 2011

Editor

NY Times Review of Books

Re: A World on Fire by Amanda Foreman, reviewed by Geoffrey Wheatcroft and Conscience: Two Soldiers, Two Pacifists, One Family — A Test of Will and Faith in World War One by Louisa Thomas, reviewed by Alan Riding (July 3, 2011)

When the United States is viewed as a nation state with national interests rather than a philosophy with ideals, perspective of its history and participants in it change.

The morality and continued existence of slavery in the United States was secondary to the survival of the republic. It was clearly in the interest of the United States not to have its territory divided, peacefully or by force. When viewed this way, romanticized rebels become merely traitors For years the conflict was known as the War of the Rebellion. Conversely, those Britons who favored the South no doubt saw a potential weakening of a global competitor, a British national interest.

I wonder if my grandparents, British subjects, would have immigrated to a truncated United States? And, if he did not, would my grandfather have perished on the Somme as a member of the Newfoundland Division in 1916? World War One was the second of three German attempts to dominate the continent of Europe (1870, 1914, 1939) and it was an imperative interest of the United States not to allow that to happen. And, despite our disagreements with France as a republic (or an empire) the United States could not acquiesce in the extinction of the French nation.

How admirable were abolitionists like Charles Sumner or Harrier Beecher Stowe; how pure the motives of Jeanette Rankin and the Thomas Brothers. But only in the abstract, not in the real world.

James B. Ronan II
Lake Wylie, SC

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