THE UNITED STATES AND THE ORIGINS OF THE COLD WAR, 1941-1947 by John Lewis Gaddis

THE UNITED STATES AND THE ORIGINS OF THE COLD WAR, 1941-1947

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Revisionist historians have sometimes erred in trying to correlate foreign policy and economics with deterministic precision. Gaddis takes on revisionism by returning to a ""pluralistic"" approach that dissolves Cold War history into manifold and random causality. The burden falls on bureaucratic bungling, ""internal pressures,"" ""even ignorance and irrationality,"" ""a variety of preconceptions,"" ""personality"" and ""ideology"" so that ""it becomes clear that neither side can bear sole responsibility for the onset of the Cold War."" Revisionists are upbraided for their narrowness though Gaddis' approach fails to go beyond the limited confines of the bureaucracy and Congress. Policy is seen as the result of intersecting pressures: Truman swerves from detente to Cold War because of Congressional suspicions and public outrage against the Soviet Union. Politicians are judged according to their available options, allowing Gaddis to put an extra ounce of responsibility on Stalin's shoulders since he was ""immune from pressures of Congress,"" etc. The ""perceptions and preconceptions"" of American officials are given more consideration than the web of interrelated policy decisions establishing U.S. international political and financial hegemony and the scrapping of the Morgenthau Plan for the Marshall Plan, Bretton Woods, and rearmament, remain metaphysical whims -- as do the origins of the Cold War. The revisionist emphasis, for example, on the fact that Stalin ordered the Communist Parties of Europe to help rebuild capitalism are not met headon. The book remains essentially a rehash of conventional commentary rather than a fresh grappling with the historical material or a genuine debate with opposing historians.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1972
ISBN: 023112239X
Publisher: Columbia Univ. Press