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A CONSTRUCTED PEACE by Marc Trachtenberg


The Making of the European Settlement, 1945-1963

by Marc Trachtenberg

Pub Date: April 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-691-00183-9
Publisher: Princeton Univ.

paper 0-691-00273-8 An impressive account of what really happened during the Cold War. A happy byproduct of the recent international thaw is the freeing of scholars from ideological assumptions. In this tour-de-force of diplomatic history Trachtenberg (History/Univ. of Pennsylvania) steps outside the Cold War mindset that has often rendered barren discussions of the post-WWII era and explores a seemingly endless stream of primary documents in pursuit of a more subtle and less political explanation of events. What he finds is not a simple, dualistic struggle between capitalism/democracy and communism, but rather a clash over the traditional elements of international relations’sovereignty and security—addressed through the traditional tools of international relations—military power and diplomacy—involving many players, not just a bipolar superpower world. The central theme throughout is the place of Germany in the postwar world. Trachtenberg traces the negotiations between the wartime Allies, the unraveling of the initial agreement, and the twists and turns of American policy in confronting the continuing dilemma of how to balance the need for Germany’s strength in establishing a credible NATO security alliance with the fears of a strong Germany present in both the Soviet Union and western Europe. Ultimately, a resolution emerged after the Cuban Missile Crisis, but the critical steps involved working out relations between the major NATO countries as much as or perhaps more than relations between the US and the Soviet Union. The scholarship is first-rate throughout and Trachtenberg backs up his more unorthodox interpretations with reams of evidence. The length, level of detail, and expository prose of this volume make it unlikely to hold the attention of casual readers, but scholars and those with a serious interest in international affairs or the history of the Cold War will find it a gold mine. The complex dance of foreign policy and international diplomacy is rarely presented with such clarity.