Cold War, Atomic Peace
That Wilsonianism--and disarmament and arms limitation efforts--played an important role in setting the stage for World War II has long been acknowledged by Western commentators and historians (even if it has been forgotten by much of the public). Less widely appreciated even in historical writing of the twentieth century has been the crucial role played by the Wilsonian vision in the genesis of the Cold War. Yet just as liberal-pacifist assumptions blinded Western leaders in the 1930s to the growing threat posed by Nazi Germany, so the Wilsonian perspective continued to blind American officials during World War II to the dangers posed by the emergent power of the Soviet Union.
Curiously enough, Munich--and the disasters that followed from it-- did not in any sense settle the Western debate on war and peace. On the contrary, World War II would bring a reenactment, behind the scenes, of essentially the same foreign policy debate that had occupied the British Parliament in the years leading up to 1939. Once again, in the diplomatic councils of the Grand Alliance, Winston Churchill (now the British prime minister) would seek to persuade fellow Western politicians to regard a potential enemy--in this case the Soviet Union--with wariness, and to remain attentive to the details of the military balance of power. Once again, Western leaders would largely ignore him, opting instead for a policy of appeasement anchored in Wilsonian hopes.
By no means could all Soviet gains in the aftermath of World War II be blamed on wartime Western policies: Given Western military weak-