Happy Warriors

Readers of The War Lovers, a fascinating account of the dawn of America’s imperial age by Newsweek reporter Evan Thomas, are bound to feel a twinge of déjà vu as they put down the book.  Focusing on three men—Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Cabot Lodge, and William Randolph Hearst—Thomas shows how they collaborated to usher in America’s age of empire.  Revolving each around the other like spiders spinning interlocking webs, they ensnared a nation in their shared delusion, occasioning a bout of mass hysteria that culminated in the Spanish-American War.

No three men were more dissimilar.  Roosevelt hated Hearst, considered him the very height of vulgarity, and routinely denied making comments attributed to him in the Hearst press, yet they were brothers in spirit, fellow ideologues committed not only to war with Spain but to an explicitly imperialist doctrine promulgated by a man very unlike either the bombastic Roosevelt or the uniquely eccentric Hearst.  Lodge, a fastidious and studied patrician, was nervous and prone to melancholia.  While Hearst was the publicist and Teddy the politician, the Waspish Lodge was the theoretician.

Lodge was widely disliked in the elite Boston circles from which he sprang.  The Boston Brahmins, stalwart anti-imperialists, gave rise to the Anti-Imperialist League led by Edward Atkinson and his fellow New England “mugwumps”—the...

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