Book Reviews -- Joseph Alsop and American Foreign Policy by Leann Grabavoy Almquist

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Almquist, Leann Grabavoy. Joseph Alsop and American Foreign Policy. Landham, MD: University Press of America, 1993. 226 pp. $46.50.

Joseph Alsop was one of postwar America's most influential columnists, with perhaps only Walter Lippmann and James Reston ranking above him in importance. His first column, in collaboration with Robert E. Kintner, appeared in the New York Herald Tribune in 1937. He soon had a new partner, his brother Stewart, a new flagship, the Washington Post, and a growing readership. At one point 137 newspapers and the Saturday Evening Post carried his analyses.

Alsop put most of his energy into reviewing American foreign policy, an emphasis that forms the basis of Leann Grabavoy Almquist's book, Joseph Alsop and American Foreign Policy. Although a fierce critic of the domestic anti-Communist crusades of Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, Jr., Alsop ardently sought to check Communism throughout the globe. Promoting the new national security state, he criticized both Presidents Harry S Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower for not spending more on the military and for not using armed forces more often. He advocated the use of U.S. ground troops in Indochina as early as 1950 and four years later helped to popularize the "domino" theory. If Indochina fell to Communists, he averred, so would all of Southeast Asia.

A Democrat, Alsop joined those urging President John F. Kennedy to step up America's military presence in Vietnam; such was Alsop's access to the President, one colleague complained later, that he should have been tried as a war criminal. At the same time, Alsop lambasted those reporters in Saigon who saw the war going badly. Alsop, Reston recalled in his memoir, "seldom allowed the facts to interfere with his prejudices." He supported the Vietnam War long after virtually all other syndicated columnists and opinion-leaders had sickened of the conflict. …