Journal of Cold War Studies 6.2 (2004) 73-75
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Dale Carter and Robin Clifton, eds., War and Cold War in American Foreign Policy, 1942-62. New York: Palgrave, 2002. 250 pp. $79.95.
This book of essays, assembled from a conference that paid tribute to the late Callum Alexander MacDonald, is like a good issue of a good journal. The essays address a disparate array of issues, and no unifying theme binds the individual selections together, but each is grounded in solid research and makes an important contribution to the literature on American foreign policy.
As such they are a fine tribute to the work of MacDonald himself. By the time of his early death from cancer at age forty-nine, he had established himself as a prolific historian of international history, known not only for the wide range of his work but also for his skillful blending of military and diplomatic history. He published six books and over a dozen articles on a wide range of subjects, including appeasement, the Nanking massacre, the Korean War, Anglo-American relations with Argentina, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Dwight Eisenhower's "New Look," and various aspects of the Second World War.
The essays in this volume reflect the broad scope and international focus of MacDonald's work. The book begins with an exemplary introduction that provides a detailed and insightful overview of historiographical trends in diplomacy and military history, as well as clear summaries of the individual essays. The book is divided into four subsequent parts, beginning with a section on World War II, which was a recurring object of MacDonald's research. Warren Kimball writes a penetrating critique of the historiography of the war in an essay that was published earlier, in a slightly different [End Page 73] form, in the journal Diplomatic History. Appropriately subtitled "(Not) Just the Origins of the Cold War," Kimball's essay laments the tendency of scholars to interpret World War II in light of the Cold War that followed. The next chapter, by Lloyd Gardner, revisits the end of the Pacific war. Gardner provides a rich narrative of the "unconditional surrender" debate within the Truman administration that goes beyond the usually polarized and politicized interpretations of the decisions to drop nuclear bombs. Incorporating political and cultural factors into his analysis, he paints a complex picture of the intersection between domestic and international forces shaping U.S. policy toward Japan at the end of the war.
The editors titled the second section of the book "Privates on Parade," a strange and unfortunate heading for two excellent essays on the "Cold War of Words." In an illuminating study of covert action and American foreign policy, W. Scott Lucas surveys the cooperation between the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and various private groups in psychological warfare campaigns and other Cold War projects during the 1940s and 1950s. This "state-private network," he argues, was motivated by a desire to spread American culture and an American ideology of freedom around the world.
Lucas's interest in the "cultural Cold War" is shared by the next essay in the collection, an examination by Richard Crockatt of the curious popularity of British historian Arnold Toynbee's six-volume A Study of History. Crockatt shows how Toynbee's history of world civilizations was susceptible to multiple readings and shifting fortunes attributable to the historical lessons it seemed to provide Americans in the unfolding Cold War. Cited by such figures as George F. Kennan, John Foster Dulles, and Whittaker Chambers, Toynbee's message that "great challenges required great responses" (p.111) was read as a call to arms in the 1940s and 1950s. Perceived as a non-Marxist dialectic for a world in crisis and an ideological weapon against Communism in the chilliest days of the Cold War, A Study of History was reinterpreted by left-wing critics during the upheavals of the Vietnam years. In much the same way that Paul Kennedy's The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers was read as a cautionary tale...