Revisionist historian Kolko (The Politics of War; The Limits of Power; Anatomy of War; etc.) continues his relentless...


CONFRONTING THE THIRD WORLD: United States Foreign Policy, 1945-1980

Revisionist historian Kolko (The Politics of War; The Limits of Power; Anatomy of War; etc.) continues his relentless assault upon the premises and promises of American foreign policy since WW II. Kolko has often analyzed American foreign policy vis à vis the Soviet Union, finding the US to blame for most of the more insidious outcroppings of the Cold War. Now he turns his attentions to our policies vis à vis the Third World countries, and his conclusions are no less hostile to American diplomacy. Kolko's breadth is expansive, treating, in turn, US roles in the Korean conflict, the longstanding Philippine struggle for democracy, our support of the Shah of Iran, and the various turmoils in Central America, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Middle East. In all of these affairs, Kolko finds that there have been times when ""surrealist poetry would have been much more appropriate to describe the relationship than the relatively stale prose of social science."" He accuses US leadership of short-sightedness and an inability to predict the costs of its actions to the nation's global interests. In short, Kolko argues, US policy toward the Third World could be summed up in one word--interventionism--which until the Vietnam fiasco was hardly ever questioned by those in power. Kolko uses irony to question American persistence in this policy, stating that US leaders often ""ascribe astonishing powers to the Left despite its repeated failures or frequently inept political talents."" They also have to realize, he writes, that ""inflation may affect a nation's politics more profoundly than all the radicals in it combined."" As with most Kolko volumes, this is sure to stir controversy. One caveat: with all that has transpired in Central America during the Reagan years, it's a shame that Kolko ends his survey with 1980.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1988


Page Count: -

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1988