The Cold War in Retrospect: The Formative Years

By Roger S. Whitcomb | Go to book overview

Preface

This book contains an analysis of and critical commentary on the general approach of American foreign policy toward Soviet Russia during the formative years of the Cold War. In a larger sense it is fundamentally a critique of the historical tradition of foreign affairs that conditioned that approach. The point of view reflected in these pages stems from a belief by this writer that America did not handle itself very well during the initial two decades of its post-World War II leadership role. Put in another way, it is we ourselves who must bear a major share of the responsibility for the endless litany of conflicts, crises, and military confrontations that came to mark the record of our foreign relations after 1945.

A key to an understanding of America's inability to exert a more positive impact on the world during this period is to be found in the substance of its foreign affairs tradition. That tradition, for all its strengths and virtues, possessed at least two flaws that served our people poorly in approaching the world during and after World War II. First, it led the country to entertain persistent misperceptions of the realities of the international milieu in which it had to operate. That these misperceptions occurred at all should not be surprising insofar as her conduct flowed from an image structure that reflected a peculiar parochial outlook not always consonant with reality elsewhere. Second, there was a certain incompatability between many of the nation's most cherished values--for example, its commitments to self-determination and democracy--and the habits of action that Americans exhibited in their relationships with others.

Americans were just not psychologically prepared during and after that conflict to assume the burdens of world responsibility. It seems as if history itself decided to play some sort of monstrous joke on us. At the very moment when the nation stepped squarely onto the world stage, the nature of that arena underwent a rather drastic change. The very makeup of the international system became something remote from its former reality, as the bipolar era came to pass.

-xi-

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The Cold War in Retrospect: The Formative Years
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Foreword ix
  • Preface xi
  • Introduction: America Meets Russia, 1941-1961 1
  • Notes 4
  • 1 - The Troubled Partnership: The Bear and Eagle in World War II 7
  • Notes 48
  • 2 - The Postwar Scene (1945-1953): Cold War Triumphant 65
  • Notes 123
  • 3 - The Eisenhower Years: Nothing Fundamental Has Changed 143
  • Notes 184
  • 4 - Babylon Revisited 199
  • Notes 222
  • Selected Bibliography 227
  • Index 253
  • About the Author 261
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