Diplomacy Good and Bad

These two volumes shed considerable light on the fateful events of 1945-46, events determinative of much that followed in American foreign relations.  The first argues that, had Franklin Roosevelt lived, even if for only another year, postwar history would have been altogether different.  The second, by an experienced “realist” foreign-service officer, views the postwar developments in Asia as all but inevitable.  Costigliola’s book mines some unexploited sources, including the diaries and correspondence of various women, an underappreciated oral history given by Averell Harriman, and diaries maintained by Maisky, Litvinov, and Gromyko.  Davies’ autobiography contains little that will surprise readers of the Stilwell diaries and Barbara Tuchman’s book on Stilwell.

Costigliola’s ventures into amateur psychoanalysis are less than fully convincing; his book nonetheless illuminates the period and suggests some important lessons for those who would influence American foreign relations.  Davies’ book, by contrast, de-emphasizes the personal, contingent, and ephemeral aspects of international politics.

Costigliola’s central thesis, granting FDR more time in the Oval Office, suggests that Roosevelt’s vision of international relations would have prevailed.  That vision was of a world governed and regulated by four or five “policemen”: China, Britain, the United...

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