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  • Between Empire and Alliance: America and Europe during the Cold War
  • Henry R. Nau
Marc Trachtenberg , ed., Between Empire and Alliance: America and Europe during the Cold War. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2003. 209 pp.

This snappy, little volume is well worth the read. Marc Trachtenberg and an evenly split group of American and European scholars contribute a series of essays exploring riddles in U.S.-European relations in the early and most intense period of the Cold War, from 1950 to 1974. Each essay addresses selected events during this period, identifying unexplained puzzles and offering new insights in light of recently released archival materials. History attacks mystery, and the admirably succinct accounts in this volume can be read with a kind of suspense characteristic of good mystery novels.

The common theme emerging from these essays is relevant today. The United States, according to the authors, often treated its European allies with a heavy hand. Its imperious or, some might say, imperial policies provoked a backlash, and Europe united during the early years of the Cold War (and perhaps continues to do so today) in large part in reaction to American highhandedness. Europe needed the alliance but not the empire. Rather than being freed of high politics to pursue European integration, as some have argued, Europe pursued integration to reclaim its autonomy and exert influence on high politics, especially U.S.-Soviet relations.

Trachtenberg and Christopher Gehrz reexamine the U.S. proposal in September 1950 to station substantial troops in Europe if the European countries rearmed and agreed publicly and immediately to the rearmament of West Germany. The proposal went too far and too fast for France and West Germany and inspired the French and West German governments to cooperate in the military as well as economic area. The U.S. secretary of state at the time, Dean Acheson, claimed in his memoirs that the proposal was devised by the U.S. Defense Department, but the authors mine new archival sources to show that Acheson himself came up with the proposal and presented it to the allies in an unnecessarily aggressive and "bare-knuckled" manner.

Paul Pittman questions the argument that the Suez crisis in 1956 or long-term economic policy differences between Europe and the United States drove the establishment of the European common market and atomic energy community. Rather, he argues, French and West German dissatisfaction with the Eisenhower administration's New Look policies played the principal role. These policies limited American commitments in Europe by substituting nuclear for conventional forces and inspired the basic Franco-West German compromises (French concessions on the common market, [End Page 149] West German concessions on nuclear energy) that consolidated the European community. According to Pittman, "conclusive documentary evidence" (p.48) shows that these decisions were made in September and early October 1956, well before the denouement of the Suez crisis in November and not on economic grounds alone.

Wolfram Kaiser develops new evidence to show that even the Christian Democrats in Europe, America's staunchest supporters in the early years of the Cold War, fundamentally diverged from the "trigger-happy Protestant materialists" in the United States in their vision of Europe. This mostly Catholic vision emphasized institutional, even supranational, authority more than individual rights, and stressed traditional cultural concepts such as the Christian Abendland over democratic materialism. The goal of European conservatives no less than socialists was to find "a third way" in world affairs between American liberalism and Soviet communism.

Leopoldo Nuti reexamines U.S. policy vis-à-vis the opening to the left in Italy from 1953 to 1963 and concludes that "the international environment, and external pressures, played a fundamental role" in facilitating the gradual rapprochement between Christian Democrats and Socialists. In the 1950s the Eisenhower administration's efforts to block such an opening and British policies to encourage it led to a moderation of Socialist Party policies. Some officials in the Kennedy administration (especially Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., whose private journal Nuti uses) then privately backed the Socialists under Pietro Nenni and secretly encouraged aid from U.S. labor organizations. In this case domestic and foreign influences worked together to produce what Nuti clearly considers...