EDGE OF FREEDOM by John B. Oakes
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The thesis of John Oakes' book is a provocative one and it is this: America's hope in the battle of the cold war lies in promoting neutralism among the newer nations of Africa and the Near East. The prevailing policy of demanding commitment to the Western bloc is self-defeating. Newly emergent nationalist states want to remain aloof from choosing sides in the struggle between the two great powers of the U.S. and Russia. Neutralism has the positive effect of halting the extension of Russian power and domination. Mr. Oakes speaks with authority and incisiveness. He examines three areas of political ferment representing poles of thought in the new neutralism: sub-Sahara Africa, Yugoslavia and Poland. Poland is the typical Communist satellite determined to resist German resurgence. Yet its antipathy to Russia is sufficient to permit a minimal national flavor. Yugoslavia is between two worlds, bound by a similar ideology to Russia but enjoying the largest amount of national independence within the house of Communism. Mr. Oakes feels that a bold policy of encouraging and respecting such positions within the Soviet orbit would be to the West's profit. He is at his best in dealing with the rise of nationalism in the newly formed states of Africa. The tribal heritage of Africa has predisposed the African to the national leader or governmental chieftain and this almost automatically invests the leader with dictatorial powers. Therefore the new African states within the neutralist bloc are authoritarian rather than democratic. Although neutral it is Western colonialism rather than Russian colonialism which has been their experience. Here, on the part of the West, the velvet glove rather than the big stick is called for. By all odds this is the most thoughtful and thought-provoking book to appear on the African crisis. No serious discussion of international politics will fail to mention Oakes' fine analysis.

Pub Date: April 19th, 1961
Publisher: Harper