SAFE FOR DEMOCRACY: The Anglo-American Response to Revolution, 1913-1923 by Lloyd C. Gardner

SAFE FOR DEMOCRACY: The Anglo-American Response to Revolution, 1913-1923

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The title promises a more coherent interpretation of a tumultuous phase of international relations than Rutgers U. historian Gardner is able to muster. For one thing, as Gardner shows, the two pivotal figures in the story, Woodrow Wilson and British P.M. David Lloyd George, had different ideas about how to approach political change in Mexico, China, Russia, and post-WWI Germany, the principal arenas of revolution. Their greatest disagreement was over the Bolsheviks, whom Lloyd George was willing to tolerate, or at least with whom he was willing to negotiate, while Wilson, facing a Red Scare at home, regarded them with anathema. (It was after Wilson, under Harding, that Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover launched a famine relief plan for Russia, apparently feeling that such a move would place the US in good standing with a post-Bolshevik regime.) In Mexico, Wilson tried to take the high road against anarchy, on one side, and against American and British oil interests, on the other (the British were more concerned with the oil); in China, the Americans tried to pry commercial control loose from the dwindling British hold. In Germany, the disagreement was in part over reparations, with Lloyd George demanding substantial war reparations, while the Americans feared such a policy would push Germany toward Bolshevism. Positions shifted, in short, according to domestic and international political postures. Gardner focuses on the day-to-day details and eschews any organizing themes or concepts, leading to a feeling of free-fall through the diplomatic cables. There's a lot of research here, but it doesn't add up on its own. Arno J. Mayer's still-unsurpassed pair, Political Origins of the New Diplomacy, 1917-1918 and Politics and Diplomacy of Peacemaking: Containment and Counterrevolution at Versailles, 1918-1919, show what a theme can do for this material.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1984
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press