"A PREPONDERANCE OF POWER: National Security, the Truman Administration, and the Cold War" by Melvyn P. Leffler
Kirkus Star

"A PREPONDERANCE OF POWER: National Security, the Truman Administration, and the Cold War"

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Massive, brilliant post-glasnost analysis of early cold-war realities by Leffler (History/Univ. of Virginia). This study of how Truman dealt with a world sealed off to him by FDR is a book and a half. It deals with the inception of the cold war in terms that make the Korean War a logical extension of existing policy rather than an atypical crystallizing event. It penetrates the strident rhetoric that gripped American thinking for 40 years down to the eternal verities of economic advantage and the pursuit of power, carefully articulating their linkage and diplomacy. At stake, Leffler explains, was domination of European and Asian resources: The US had its incomparable economy, a highly visible standard of living, and a State Department not yet hobbled by willful chief executives; the Soviet Union had an ideology that could ""capitalize on social dislocation and take advantage of nascent nationalism in the third world."" The feisty Truman emerges here as unprepared to formulate serious foreign policy, with his subordinates often at odds; and despite jingoistic political fulminations and the progressive eroding of security, Leffler says, there really wasn't much fear at the top of a hot war between the US and the Soviets. Rather, the heart of the matter was the US financed revival of free European and Asian economies. Khrushchev's famous ""We will bury you"" was a whistling in the dark, Leffler says: the US had already forged its ""configuration of power in the core of Eurasia."" Indispensable for anyone interested in what really happened during this period, although Leffler's conclusions may be too optimistic. ""Capitalizing on past successes"" seems difficult for a nation that today probably could not capitalize a Marshall Plan, and stability via ""curtailing arms sales that fuel local rivalries"" seems a fond dream for the world's largest exporter of arms.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1992
Page count: 700pp
Publisher: Stanford Univ. Press