Harper (European Studies/Johns Hopkins; America and the Reconstruction of Italy, 1986) creatively melds biography with...


"AMERICAN VISIONS OF EUROPE: Franklin D. Roosevelt, George F. Kennan, and Dean G. Acheson"

Harper (European Studies/Johns Hopkins; America and the Reconstruction of Italy, 1986) creatively melds biography with cultural and diplomatic history in this triptych of portraits of important architects of US policy toward Europe during the ""American Century."" America's ""historic ambivalence"" toward Europe, the author argues, is reflected in the lives of his three subjects, each of whom decisively influenced America's European policy during and after WW II. Franklin D. Roosevelt was proud of his Dutch ancestry and his descent from American Revolutionaries and, unlike other members of the American establishment, never identified with Great Britain. Although he came of age during an era of American isolationism, he was also shaped by youthful experiences in Germany and by his tenure as Woodrow Wilson's assistant secretary of the Navy. The result, Harper contends, was Roosevelt's policy of ""partial internationalism,"" which he defines as ""aiming to arrange the retirement of Europe from world politics while avoiding direct U.S. entanglement."" George Kennan was, in Harper's view, an aesthete whose ""romantic egotist"" sensibilities were shaped by his midwestern upbringing, his Princeton education, and his pre--WW II work in the US Foreign Service in Germany; he was also a conservative whose ""partial isolationism,"" resulting in the policy of containment of Soviet communism, was intended ""to restore Europe's centrality and autonomy through temporary U.S. engagement."" Dean Acheson was a lawyer-statesman who sought to establish the US as a permanent presence in Europe. Harper concludes that the differing, clashing philosophies of these and other leaders often produced results at variance with those intended by US policymakers, and asserts that US ambivalence continues, with America supporting European unity but recoiling before its probable consequences. An absorbing study of the linkages between personal and diplomatic perspectives -- illuminating as historical background in this period of European integration and diminished American power.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 1994


Page Count: 352

Publisher: Cambridge Univ.

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1994