A COVENANT WITH POWER: American and World Order from Wilson to Reagan by Lloyd C. Gardner

A COVENANT WITH POWER: American and World Order from Wilson to Reagan

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Rutgers U. historian Gardner (Architects of Illusion) says that each chapter in this narrative ""is really an 'essay,' or think-piece."" He couldn't be more wrong. There's one not-so-new idea here: that Woodrow Wilson represented a kind of fundamental liberal paradox in pursuing a world safe for American capitalism. The requirements of domestic progress called for the exercise of power abroad, while that exercise conflicted with the liberal principle of self-determination. That modest observation might have been the starting-point for the ""think-piece"" Gardner had in mind; instead, Gardner just adds chapters on FDR, the postwar settlement, NATO, the Korean War, Vietnam, etc., that are presumably meant to deepen the irony, but only add up to a conventional account of the matters discussed. NATO and the Marshall Plan, for example, are assumed at the outset to have been shields for the preservation and promotion of American capitalism, and their establishment becomes an exercise in simple power on behalf of a system of greed. (Wilson is one of the few who are here allowed to really believe in the virtues of the American system.) Gardner's judgments are generally heavy-handed, and his delight at the manifestations of Richard Nixon's neuroses--Gardner is enthralled by the ""madman theory"" attributed to Nixon--is puzzling in what is supposed to be a study of systematic directions in foreign policy. A run-of-the-mill summary in a fancy guise.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1983
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press