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RecentAmericanDiplomaticHistory: AMouse'sEye View Gregg Herken. The Winning Weapon: TheAtomic Bomb in the Cold War, 1945-1950. NewYork:Knopf, 1980.425 + xiv pp. Timothy P.Ireland. Creating the Entangling Alliance: The Origins of the North Atlantic Trea(i'Organization. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press,1981. 264pp. Akiralriye. Power and Culture: Thelapanese-American War, 1941-1945. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1981. 336pp. William W.Stueck. The Road to Confrontation: American Policy Toward China and Korea, 1947-1950. Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of NorthCarolina Press, 1981.337pp. Robert Bothwell Ofallthe forms of contemporary historiography, diplomatic history has had the worst press over the past decade. Scorned as an elitist preoccupation withpersonalities and mere chronology, diplomatic history has receded from theconsciousness of many of today's graduate students, making way for vast, quantifiable waves of oppression, violence and crime. While facing this assault from the front, diplomatic historians have found that their flanks havebeen turned by the disappearance of their political-science auxiliaries into a wonderland of computerology, word counts (disguised as "operational codes"), graphs and jargon-opaque and splendidly costly, if somewhat baffling and fruitless. Compared to the heuristic mansions in which political science's international relations specialists now dwell, diplomatic historians labor, or slumber-according to choice-in hovels better suited to the cottage industry that is their specialty. Strangely,however,diplomatic history has survived. Unlike some other areas ofhistory,it is still a more or less unified discipline precisely because it must continue to rely on personalities and mere chronology and make reference, occasionally, to a finite number of verifiable facts from which to distill its probabilities and plausibilities. But what diplomatic historians gain through comprehensibility and modesty they often lose through falling into microhistory ,miniaturized accounts of lilliputian quarrels whose uniqueness is preservedforall time behind the cheap and bilious covers of universitypress tomes. Canadian Review of American Studies, Volume 15, Number 1, Spring 1984,99-108 100 Robert Bothwell American diplomatic history has lately been much afflicted by this occupational disease. The giants of the discipline, a recent essayist lamented, have all vanished, and their replacements, though worthy, have yet to achieve the same pre-eminent stature as, say, the late William L. Langer. The easing of governmental rules of access, and the great, though temporary, bonanza of freedom of information, have expanded opportunities for historians in the United States and Great Britain, and even to a degree in Canada. Indeed, the thirty-year rule makes British and Canadian documents generally easier of access than American on~s; the Canadian liberalization has naturally gone unnoticed by all but a very few American historians. That is of small account, most of the time, but occasionally it has added to the myopic tendencies of historians whose vocation it is to see the world. Many are convinced that they are indeed seeing the world, and so they are-through American spectacles originally devised in the American executive. In a small number of cases this tendency may even lead the unwary historian into error, outright and abject. These deficiencies indiplomatic history are not much in evidence in the first volume to be considered here, Akira Iriye's Power and Culture: The Japanese· American War, 1941-1945.By "culture" Iriye appears to mean political culture or, more precisely, the cultural determinants of politics. Political options, for Iriye, may conform to a desired cultural end, defined by pre· selected national traditions and cultural phenomena. In Japan, Iriye suggests, there was a conflict between decades: the liberal internationalism of the 1920s, similar to internationalism elsewhere, and the militarism and pan· Asianism of the 1930s.The fundamental question, for Iriye, does not liein the conventional dichotomy of "aggression and resistance" but in whether "a return to the past was possible or desirable." Although that question seemed to have been definitively resolved, in the negative, by the outbreak of war in December 1941, the conflict between East and West evoked by the official Japanese ideology was never completely straightforward or whole-hearted. As an army memorandum of January 1942 put it, Japanese residents of China were distinguished by their devotion to "individualism, utilitarianism and utopian hedonism," qualities against which the "new Asia" was supposed to be struggling...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-114X
Print ISSN
0007-7720
Pages
pp. 99-108
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-02
Open Access
No
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