HISTORY AND MEMORY by Charles W. Yost

HISTORY AND MEMORY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Having held diplomatic posts at the UN, in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, served on the delegations at Yalta, Potsdam, and the founding of the UN, and occupied various posts under FDR, Yost is in a good position to hit the memoir trail. But this offering is more on the order of ruminations by someone who's been around a lot. Beginning with his student days in Paris, following his graduation from Princeton, Yost does sprinkle his account of the contours of 20th-century politics with personal reminiscences, but the personal is only secondary. World War I was, in Yost's view, caused by a combination of political complacency and a free market economy, and, in keeping with Keynes' well-known assessment, he locates the origins of World War II in the unfinished business of the Great War, particularly in the heavy reparations demanded of Germany in the Versailles Treaty. Most of the rest of the book becomes the preparation for some thoughts on the future based on what we've learned since. Yost dropped out of the Foreign Service after serving in Alexandria and Warsaw, and joined up with the New Deal back home, working for the likes of Tugwell and Berle, and learned the lesson of planning (unfortunately, he gives us only cursory descriptions of the New Deal world of Washington). While he thinks some aspects of the Cold War could have been mitigated by taking an even more political approach to wartime strategy, Yost sees the confrontation with the Soviets as inevitable--a position compatible with New Deal liberalism--but prefers to fight it out on non-military terrain. The constant threat of the Soviet Union, however, is one convenient goad to reasoned cooperation among the western democracies and between them and the Third World. Yost's pitch is for more planning of international economic activity, arms control, and a sane approach to technology and industrial development. Fleshed out with more detail, these would be good ideas, but coming at the end of a rehashing of the century's history, it's pretty soft stuff.

Pub Date: Sept. 22nd, 1980
Publisher: Norton