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Journal of Cold War Studies 7.1 (2005) 152-158

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Looking for Love (or Tragedy) in All the Wrong Places

The early Cold War period continues to attract and fascinate us. It is a process that will likely continue until the last folder in the last recalcitrant archive is finally opened and revealed to an anxious scholarly public. Most of the newly available documents suggest that the traditional accounts of the period were remarkably accurate despite the limited data available at the time, and that a good deal of revisionist history amounts to an ideological refraction of reality. Still, confrontations are never completely black and white, nor are their outcomes predetermined. Whether personal or national, these differences develop in a dynamic atmosphere of action and reaction to perceptions, anxieties, confusions, and uncertainties. Conflict at any level is far more a dialectic process than one of pure reason.

Michael Cox and Caroline Kennedy-Pipe (hereinafter C&KP) go looking again for "tragedy in American diplomacy," incorporating some of the recent scholarship. They target particularly the unfortunate situation of Eastern Europe, which fell under the military control of victorious Soviet armies in 1944-1945. Their argument is centered on the effect that the prospects of significant U.S. economic aid to Europe in general had on the areas occupied by the Soviet Army. Specifically, they contend that the West failed to give sufficient consideration to the security needs of the Soviet Union in Eastern Europe and should have been more vigilant in keeping the door open to cooperation with the Soviet Union in suggesting a program of aid for European recovery. They assume that Stalin might not have exercised such tight control over the East European states had the West been more understanding. If this had been the case, Europe might not have been divided and the Cold War might not have taken place. In short, it was the Marshall Plan that divided Europe and that constituted the real "tragedy of American diplomacy."1

I agree that the Marshall Plan divided Europe, but the evidence seems patently clear that it was Stalin who did the dividing, with blatant threats to his reluctant "friendly allies." I also agree with Carolyn Eisenberg that the Americans [End Page 152] realized what they were doing—that they had already come to the conclusion by June 1947 that the Soviet Union would not cooperate with the West in the reconstruction of Europe, and that if the Western democracies were to be given a chance to recover economically, socially, and politically, the United States would have to provide that assistance itself. U.S. officials also realized that the result probably would be a Western Europe of mixed capitalist democracies, and an Eastern Europe of socialist republics, dominated by the Soviet Union. Germany would be divided because neither the Soviet Union nor the West could allow that country to be united under the domination of the other side. Because the Soviet Union would not participate in any meaningful discussions of economic unity for Germany, the proposal to combine the Western zones to achieve economic viability became a practical necessity that Secretary of State George Marshall confirmed when he returned from the abortive Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) meeting in Moscow in April 1947. On the flight back, after an illuminating meeting with Josif Stalin,2 he landed in Berlin and met Lucius Clay on the hardstand at Tempelhof, telling him to proceed with his proposal to unify the American and British zones to rationalize their economic prospects. Division was not a desired outcome for anyone in the West; it was merely a recognition of the reality of the situation.3

So far, so good. But C&KP go further in their quest for tragedy, seeking a motive for this outcome. Having done a good deal of work on the origins and development of the European Recovery Program (ERP), I am surprised that they believe the Marshall Plan, from its inception, was really part of "Operation Rollback." This is a term usually associated...