Journal of Cold War Studies 2.2 (2000) 112-113
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Race and U.S. Foreign Policy During the Cold War
Michael L. Krenn, ed., Race and U.S. Foreign Policy During the Cold War. New York: Garland Publishing, 1998. 324 pp. US$70.00.
In the spring of 1950, a popular national radio program debated the question, "What effect do our race relations have on our foreign policy?" The moderator explained that he had chosen the subject because "the eyes of the free people of the world have turned upon us," and "American foreign policy [is] a paramount concern" both at home and abroad. During the program, an audience member asked one of the guests whether the United States was "building a foreign policy on issues which it does not intend to tolerate here in America."
The theme of the broadcast points to one of the more intriguing aspects of the national conversation in post-1945 America: the extent to which many Americans identified a connection between the movement for racial justice at home and the containment of Communism abroad. From 1945 on, as the United States assumed much of the burden for defending freedom around the world, a striking number of civil rights leaders, policy makers, and ordinary citizens came to perceive an organic link between the campaign to protect democracy overseas and the struggle to create a genuine democracy at home.
Perhaps it is not surprising, then, that in recent years scholars have begun to focus on the link between race relations and international politics. Indeed, this nexus has become one of the most intriguing lines of inquiry in the field of U.S. international history. The growing interest in the connection between race and U.S. foreign policy is understandable for at least two reasons: first, the centrality of race in American history and the continuing realization that it has touched nearly every aspect of national life; and second, the effort by some scholars to consider less state-centered approaches as they seek to expand our understanding of U.S. engagement with the world.
One therefore can only welcome the publication of Race and U.S. Foreign Policy from the Colonial Period to the Present, a five-volume work compiled by Michael Krenn of the University of Miami. Krenn's volumes bring together some of the most important work published over the past several years. The books in the series, including the fourth volume, Race and U.S. Foreign Policy During the Cold War, are not strictly limited to the subject of "race and U.S. foreign policy." The essays in this volume, for example, cover essays such diverse topics as the way the Indian press viewed racism and U.S.-Indian relations in the early Cold War, world opinion of the U.S. race problem in the 1950s and 1960s, and racial equality and the United Nations Charter. As these themes indicate, the field of race and U.S. international history is distinguished by its conceptual and methodological variety. It encompasses far more than the influence of race on U.S. foreign policy.
Krenn's volume is a superb entry point for those new to the field, and it is also an excellent resource for those specializing in the relationship between race and U.S. international history. It will be especially valuable for instructors who want to present their students with a novel perspective on the history of the Cold War. [End Page 112]
Although many of the book's essays merit discussion, Mary Dudziak's contribution, "Desegregation as a Cold War Imperative," is particularly illuminating. It has already become something of a classic in the field. According to Dudziak, the Cold War aided the drive for racial justice insofar as the U.S. government wanted to appear responsive to the democratic aspirations of African-Americans in order to bolster its credibility in the struggle against antidemocratic forces abroad. Many State Department officials were concerned that the stigma of Jim Crow would harm American diplomatic interests. They cited this pragmatic...