Speaking of Woodrow Wilson, it is often remarked that it is impossible to understand the past century, not to mention our current world problem spots, without a grasp of the world shaped by World War I and the subsequent Paris Peace Conference, in which Wilson was so heavily influential. For a comprehensive account of the Conference, I recommend Paris 1919, by Margaret MacMillan, an engrossing and meticulously researched analysis of the six month period during which the world’s principal political leaders sat, in effect, as a world government in Paris to settle the war. Many of the decisions of that conference still bedevil us today.
I have found British philosopher Roger Scruton to be one of the most insightful and original writers on our current human condition. In his most recent book, The West and the Rest, he outlines the very different worldviews of Islam and Western Civilization and shows how the West must reassert its distinctive identity to have any hope of preserving itself from the radical Islamic threat. Basic to this reassertion, he believes, is to place the concept of freedom in its proper context–not as an end in itself, but as a means to pursue noble ends: “if all that Western Civilization offers is freedom, then it is a civilization bent on its own destruction”.