George Kennan and the Dilemmas of US Foreign Policy

Oxford University Press
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One of a select group of American foreign service officers to receive specialized training on the Soviet Union in the late 1920s and early 1930s, George Frost Kennan eventually became the American government's chief expert on Soviet affairs during the height of the Cold War. Drawing upon a wealth of original research, David Mayers' fascinating life of George Kennan examines his high-level participation in foreign policy-making and interprets his political and philosophical development within a historical framework. Mayers presents an engaging and lucid account of Kennan's training; his rise to prominence during the late 1940s and his policy failures; and his later roles as critic of America's external policy, advocate of détente with the Soviet Union, and proponent of nuclear arms limitation. Mayers also explores Kennan's complicated relationships with such important political figures and analysts as Dean Acheson, John Foster Dulles, and Walter Lippmann.
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About the author

David Mayers is Associate Professor of Political Science at Boston University. He is the author of Cracking the Monolith: U.S. Policy Against the Sino-Soviet Alliance, 1945-55 and co-editor of Reevaluating Eisenhower: American Foreign Policy in the 1950s.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Oxford University Press
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Published on
Apr 12, 1990
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Pages
416
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ISBN
9780195345117
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Historical
History / United States / 20th Century
Political Science / International Relations / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Alanson B. Houghton—American industrialist, politician, and diplomat—was the world's most influential diplomat during the "New Era" of the 1920s. Houghton, who served as ambassador to both Germany (1922–1925) and Great Britain (1925–1929), offers a unique window into the formation and implementation of American foreign policy. This fascinating new text by Jeffrey J. Matthews provides a clear and concise account of Houghton's diplomatic experience and consequently a fresh assessment of U.S. foreign policy during a pivotal decade in world history.

As the leading ambassador in Europe, Houghton played a key role in the major diplomatic achievements of the era, including the Dawes Plan for reparations, the Locarno security treaties, and the Kellogg-Briand peace pact. While Hougton's significant contributions to these international accords is fully explored, the major theme of this book is his emergence as chief critic of U.S. foreign policy within the Harding and Coolidge administrations.

Alanson B. Houhgton: Ambassador of the New Era offers students a concise historical narrative and a substantive reevaluation of 1920s American foreign policy. This text will help students understand why the United States failed to establish a stable world order during the New Era and additionally sheds light on the key historiographical themes of isolationism, new-imperialism, and corporations. For students taking courses on the Gilded Age, the interwar years, and U.S. foreign policy, this new volume will be an invaluable resource.
Henry Kissinger dominated American foreign relations like no other figure in recent history. He negotiated an end to American involvement in the Vietnam War, opened relations with Communist China, and orchestrated détente with the Soviet Union. Yet he is also the man behind the secret bombing of Cambodia and policies leading to the overthrow of Chile's President Salvador Allende. Which is more accurate, the picture of Kissinger the skilled diplomat or Kissinger the war criminal? In The Flawed Architect, the first major reassessment of Kissinger in over a decade, historian Jussi Hanhimaki paints a subtle, carefully composed portrait of America's most famous and infamous statesman. Drawing on extensive research from newly declassified files, the author follows Kissinger from his beginnings in the Nixon administration up to the current controversy fed by Christopher Hitchens over whether Kissinger is a war criminal. Hanhimaki guides the reader through White House power struggles and debates behind the Cambodia and Laos invasions, the search for a strategy in Vietnam, the breakthrough with China, and the unfolding of Soviet-American detente. Here, too, are many other international crises of the period--the Indo-Pakistani War, the Yom Kippur War, the Angolan civil war--all set against the backdrop of Watergate. Along the way, Hanhimaki sheds light on Kissinger's personal flaws--he was obsessed with secrecy and bureaucratic infighting in an administration that self-destructed in its abuse of power--as well as his great strengths as a diplomat. We see Kissinger negotiating, threatening and joking with virtually all of the key foreign leaders of the 1970s, from Mao to Brezhnev and Anwar Sadat to Golda Meir. This well researched account brings to life the complex nature of American foreign policymaking during the Kissinger years. It will be the standard work on Kissinger for years to come.
Dean Acheson was one of the most influential Secretaries of State in U.S. history, presiding over American foreign policy during a pivotal era--the decade after World War II when the American Century slipped into high gear. During his vastly influential career, Acheson spearheaded the greatest foreign policy achievements in modern times, ranging from the Marshall Plan to the establishment of NATO. In this acclaimed biography, Robert L. Beisner paints an indelible portrait of one of the key figures of the last half-century. In a book filled with insight based on research in government archives, memoirs, letters, and diaries, Beisner illuminates Acheson's major triumphs, including the highly underrated achievement of converting West Germany and Japan from mortal enemies to prized allies, and does not shy away from examining his missteps. But underlying all his actions, Beisner shows, was a tough-minded determination to outmatch the strength of the Soviet bloc--indeed, to defeat the Soviet Union at every turn. The book also sheds light on Acheson's friendship with Truman--one, a bourbon-drinking mid-Westerner with a homespun disposition, the other, a mustachioed Connecticut dandy who preferred perfect martinis. Over six foot tall, with steel blue, "merry, searching eyes" and a "wolfish" grin, Dean Acheson was an unforgettable character--intellectually brilliant, always debonair, and tough as tempered steel. This lustrous portrait of an immensely accomplished and colorful life is the epitome of the biographer's art.
A New York Times 2016 Notable Book

“By far the most enigmatic leading figure” of World War II. That’s how the British military historian John Keegan described Franklin D. Roosevelt, who frequently left his contemporaries guessing, never more so than at the end of his life. Here, in a hugely insightful account, a prizewinning author and journalist untangles the narrative threads of Roosevelt’s final months, showing how he juggled the strategic, political, and personal choices he faced as the war, his presidency, and his life raced in tandem to their climax.

The story has been told piecemeal but never like this, with a close focus on Roosevelt himself and his hopes for a stable international order after the war, and how these led him into a prolonged courtship of Joseph Stalin, the Soviet dictator, involving secret, arduous journeys to Tehran and the Crimea. In between, as the war entered its final phase, came the thunderbolt of a dire medical diagnosis, raising urgent questions about the ability of the longest-serving president to stand for a fourth term at a time when he had little choice. Neither his family nor top figures in his administration were informed of his diagnosis, let alone the public or his closest ally, Winston Churchill. With D-Day looming, Roosevelt took a month off on a plantation in the south where he was examined daily by a navy cardiologist, then waited two more months before finally announcing, on the eve of his party’s convention, that he’d be a candidate. A political grand master still, he manipulated the selection of a new running mate, with an eye to a possible succession, displaying some of his old vigor and wit in a winning campaign.

With precision and compassion, Joseph Lelyveld examines the choices Roosevelt faced, shining new light on his state of mind, preoccupations, and motives, both as leader of the wartime alliance and in his personal life. Confronting his own mortality, Roosevelt operated in the belief that he had a duty to see the war through to the end, telling himself he could always resign if he found he couldn’t carry on.

Lelyveld delivers an incisive portrait of this deliberately inscrutable man, a consummate leader to the very last. 
George Kennan, Charles Bohlen, W. Averell Harriman, William Bullitt, Joseph E. Davies, Llewlleyn Thompson, Jack Matlock: these are important names in the history of American foreign policy. Together with a number of lesser-known officials, these diplomats played a vital role in shaping U.S. strategy and popular attitudes toward the Soviet Union throughout its 75-year history. In The Ambassadors and America's Soviet Policy, David Mayers presents the most comprehensive critical examination yet of U.S. diplomats in the Soviet Union. Mayers' vivid portrayal evokes the social and intellectual atmosphere of the American embassy in the midst of crucial episodes: the Bolshevik Revolution, the Great Purges, the Grand Alliance in World War II, the early Cold War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the rise and decline of detente, and the heady days of perestroika and glasnost. He also offers rare portraits of the professional lives of the diplomats themselves: their adjustment to Soviet life, the quality of their analytical reporting, their contact with other diplomats in Moscow, and their influence on Washington. Assessing the strengths and weaknesses of American diplomacy in its most challenging area, this compelling book fills an important gap in the history of U.S. foreign policy and U.S.-Soviet relations. Readers interested in U.S. foreign policy, the cold war, and the policies and history of the former Soviet Union will find The Ambassadors and America's Soviet Policy an intriguing and informative work.
The main tide of international relations scholarship on the first years after World War II sweeps toward Cold War accounts. These have emphasized the United States and USSR in a context of geopolitical rivalry, with concomitant attention upon the bristling security state. Historians have also extensively analyzed the creation of an economic order (Bretton Woods), mainly designed by Americans and tailored to their interests, but resisted by peoples residing outside of North America, Western Europe, and Japan. This scholarship, centered on the Cold War as vortex and a reconfigured world economy, is rife with contending schools of interpretation and, bolstered by troves of declassified archival documents, will support investigations and writing into the future.

By contrast, this book examines a past that ran concurrent with the Cold War and interacted with it, but which usefully can also be read as separable: Washington in the first years after World War II, and in response to that conflagration, sought to redesign international society. That society was then, and remains, an admittedly amorphous thing. Yet it has always had a tangible aspect, drawing self-regarding states into occasional cooperation, mediated by treaties, laws, norms, diplomatic customs, and transnational institutions. The U.S.-led attempt during the first postwar years to salvage international society focused on the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, the Acheson–Lilienthal plan to contain the atomic arms race, the Nuremberg and Tokyo tribunals to force Axis leaders to account, the 1948 Genocide Convention, the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the founding of the United Nations. None of these initiatives was transformative, not individually or collectively. Yet they had an ameliorative effect, traces of which have touched the twenty-first century—in struggles to curb the proliferation of nuclear weapons, bring war criminals to justice, create laws supportive of human rights, and maintain an aspirational United Nations, still striving to retain meaningfulness amid world hazards. Together these partially realized innovations and frameworks constitute, if nothing else, a point of moral reference, much needed as the border between war and peace has become blurred and the consequences of a return to unrestraint must be harrowing.

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