Strategies of Containment: A Critical Appraisal of Postwar American National Security Policy

By John Lewis Gaddis | Go to book overview

CHAPTER
ONE
Prologue:
Containment Before Kennan

"My children, it is permitted you in time of grave danger to walk with the devil until you have crossed the bridge." It was Franklin D. Roosevelt's version of an old Balkan proverb (sanctioned by the Orthodox Church, no less), and he liked to cite it from time to time during World War II to explain the use of questionable allies to achieve unquestionable objectives. 1 In all-out war, he believed, the ultimate end—victory— justified a certain broad-mindedness regarding means, nowhere more so than in reliance on Stalin's Russia to help defeat Germany and Japan. Allies of any kind were welcome enough in London and Washington during the summer of 1941; still the Soviet Union's sudden appearance in that capacity could not avoid setting off Faustian musings in both capitals. Winston Churchill's willingness to extend measured parliamentary accolades to the Devil if Hitler should invade Hell is well-known; * less familiar is Roosevelt's paraphrase of his proverb to an old friend, Joseph Davies: "I can't take communism nor can you, but to cross this bridge I would hold hands with the Devil." 2

The imagery, in the light of subsequent events, was apt. Collaboration with the Soviet Mephistopheles helped the United States and Great Britain achieve victory over their enemies in a remarkably short time and with surprisingly few casualties, given the extent of the fighting involved. The price, though, was the rise of an even more powerful and less fath-

____________________
*
"If Hitler invaded Hell I would make at least a favourable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons." ( Winston S. Churchill, The Grand Alliance [ Boston: 1950], pp. 370‐ 71.)

-3-

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