If Woodrow Wilson hadn’t entangled the US in WWI, there wouldn’t have been a Hitler.
Hitler, of course, said that the humiliation at Versailles—mostly at the hands of France and England—made it necessary for him to come to power, but he didn’t stop to single out Wilson personally. Never mind: for Cato Institute denizen Powell (The Triumph of Liberty, 2000, etc.), Wilson was the architect of the 20th-century’s worst political disasters, and therefore “surely ranks as the worst president in American history.” By Powell’s account, this is not merely because Wilson dragged America into WWI (as, the right wing once sniffed, FDR dragged America into WWII) for his own selfish and misguided reasons, but also because—that most mortal of sins among libertarians—he turned away from laissez-faire policies, which means more government and more tax. And why? Because Wilson “had dreams of glory, telling other people what to do at the peace settlement.” And to get a place at the peace table, Wilson had to get us into the war: ergo Versailles, and thence Hitler, and Lenin, eased into power because Wilson “utterly misunderstood what was going on in Russia,” and Stalin, because without Lenin there could be no Stalin, and so on. Of course, Waterloo would have turned out differently if Napoleon had only had a few helicopters: this is a book in which post hoc is definitely propter hoc, and never mind the factual niceties, and in which history hinges on single men rather than—as most historians would suggest—a combination of social and economic forces and people in the right place. The upshot is up-to-the-minute: lest we create a few more Stalins down the line, Powell insists, the US must become isolationist rather than interventionist (“American blood and treasure should be reserved for safeguarding Americans”), and thus lessen the reach of that pesky thing, government.
Powell uses up a lot of vitriol, supported by mere assertion, to get to that payoff. None of it is convincing.