THE ECCENTRIC TRADITION: American Diplomacy in the Far East by Robert A. Hart

THE ECCENTRIC TRADITION: American Diplomacy in the Far East

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Impulsive Americans have ""a habit of going to extremes"" and a chronic intolerance for the complexities of diplomatic situations like the Chinese civil war or the Korean conflict. This is the theme of Hart's chatty survey of US policy toward East Asia from the days when sailors' coffins were used to smuggle opium into Whampoa to the ""dullish diplomacy of the middle 1970s."" Genially debunking America's Open Door self-righteousness, the book points out that US commercial interests were as voracious as the old-fashioned colonialists in demanding dismemberment of China--whose inhabitants were considered ""bizarre,"" while the Japanese remained ""quaint."" American bankers turned to loans as a way to take over China and ran into fierce Tokyo competition. ""Isolationism"" then prevailed until FDR's ""hard line"" toward Japan provoked Pearl Harbor, which is characterized as neither a setup nor a surprise. In Vietnam, the US became precipitous, a departure from the days of the ""moral values"" of the ""brave,"" ""intelligent"" John Foster Dulles, who ""dropped no bombs, declared no wars""--although it is noted that the Secretary of State considered using nuclear weapons to aid the French at Dien Bien Phu in 1954. Hart hopes for a return to ""balance of power"" conceptions and accordingly commends Sino-American rapproachement. A journalist turned professor, he elaborates his rather trite theme with assurance, producing a lightweight survey of unusual breadth.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1976
Publisher: Scribners