The Cold War in Retrospect: The Formative Years

By Roger S. Whitcomb | Go to book overview

offer nothing but a naked struggle for power that makes any kind of international society impossible. The human will shall continue to seek an escape from the logical consequences of realism in the vision of an international order that, as soon as it crystallizes itself into concrete political form, becomes tainted with self-interest and hypocrisy, and must once more be attacked with the instruments of realism." 40

For much of the twentieth century, America has struggled to locate the happy mean between these two lodestars--a search that has been greatly complicated by its tradition of foreign affairs. That she has yet to resolve the great dilemmas deeply embedded in her world view remains most unsettling indeed. The courage to change, however, is something that is learned from experience. In foreign policy, as in life, there is a "time and a season." Such courage frees a nation from the chimera of a foolish and crippling consistency. It shatters the illusion that every problem is the same as every other problem and puts a premium on political imagination. This was something that was not ever really learned or understood in the Truman and Eisenhower administrations. It is a problem that continues to plague America as the twentieth century comes to an end.


NOTES
1.
He told U.S. Senators in January 1945, for instance, "that the Russians had the power in eastern Europe, that it was obviously impossible to have a break with them and that, therefore, the only practicable course was to use what influence we had to ameliorate the situation." Robert Dallek, Franklin D. Roosevelt and American Foreign Policy, 1932-1945 ( New York: Oxford University Press, 1979), pp. 507-508.
2.
"World War II: Thirty Years After," Survey (Winter-Spring, 1975): 35-36.
3.
Cited in Ernest R. May, "Lessons" of the Past: The Use and Misuse of History in American Foreign Policy ( London: Oxford University Press, 1993), p. 33.
4.
Quoted in John Lewis Gaddis, The Long Peace: Inquiries into the History of the Cold War ( New York: Oxford University Press, 1987), p. 36.
5.
For many years after 1945, it became the practice of the State Department to react to notes from the Russians virtually as soon as they were received. Very little analysis was made of the impact of these quick responses on American foreign policy. Indeed, the fact that America possessed a more extensive and elaborate network of communications than almost any other country continued to tempt the government to react too quickly on the basis of incomplete information throughout the Cold War era. See, on this matter, John Franklin Campbell, The Foreign Affairs Fudge Factory, p. 73.
6.
The action-reaction, perception-misperception syndrome that underlay the origins of the Cold War is ably explored by David Reynolds, "The 'Big Three' and the Division of Europe, 1945-48: An Overview," Diplomacy and Statecraft ( London: Frank Cass & Co. Ltd., 1990): 117-136. For a presentation of a comprehensive psycho-social framework for comprehending the Russian-American confrontation, see Deborah Welch Larsen, Origins of Containment: A Psychological Explanation

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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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