Author: Brian J. Auten
Reviewer: John Dumbrell

Brian J. Auten. Carter's Conversion: The Hardening of American Defense Policy. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2008. xiv + 344 pp. $44.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8262-1816-2.

Reviewed by John Dumbrell (Durham University) Published on H-Diplo (June, 2009) Commissioned by Christopher L. Ball

Converting Carter

Most commentators on the presidency of Jimmy Carter see his international policy as falling into two distinct periods: the early phase, dominated by the human rights initiatives and by efforts to combine a general acceptance of detente with a distancing from Henry Kissinger's realist/globalist version of world order; and a second phase of more orthodox anticommunist containment, exemplified by Washington’s reaction to the Iranian revolution and to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Conventional views put considerable emphasis on what Brian J. Auten calls “innenpolitik” (p. 2). These domestic factors include bureaucratic politics--primarily the growing strength of national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, the relative eclipse of Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, and the exit from the administration of United Nations ambassador Andrew Young--the growing conservative critique of detente from the right wing of the Democratic Party as well as from the Committee on the Present Danger, and associated electoral pressures.

In Carter’s Conversion, Auten launches a direct assault on this innenpolitik explanatory consensus. He accepts that there was a major shift in the Carter administration’s view of the world, but attributes it primarily to the working out of the logic of neoclassical realism, a theoretical tradition that “highlights the role played by statesmen or central decision-makers” in assessing global shifts in relative material power (p. 33). Ultimately, decision makers, though they are influenced by domestic pressures, undertake adjustments to global power transformation. What Gideon Rose calls “‘relative material power capabilities’” always, in the final analysis, is “the first driver of grand strategy, foreign policy, and defense policy” (p. 31).[1] Thus, Carter is seen as finally awakening to the burgeoning nature of the Soviet threat--something that had been obscured by the image of the Vietnam War and by the politics of detente. Carter’s prepresidential strategic thought is dealt with incisively, if somewhat narrowly, in chapter 3. Auten emphasizes the impact of Carter’s concern for governmental efficiency and defense-budget waste elimination as well as his espousal of complex world-order ideas via his association with the Trilateral Commission.

Auten’s thesis draws on his impressive expertise in defense issues. The heart of this book is an extremely scholarly and detailed account of Carter’s defense budgeting, his administration’s growing commitment to the MX missile, to “countervailing” nuclear strategies, to shifts in American strategic policy for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and so on (p. 286). Auten offers detailed exposition of the administration’s developing assessment of the Soviet threat and of Soviet strategic thinking, particularly in 1978-79. The new assessments were not confined to the Pentagon. By the later part of 1978, Brzezinski was drawing on “countervailing” ideas advanced by Fritz Ermath, a RAND specialist who had joined the national security adviser’s staff in the early part of that year.

Auten’s analysis bears some similarity to that offered by Richard Thornton, who argues that the trajectory of the Carter administration is explicable in terms of its fear of enhanced Soviet missile guidance capability.[2] Auten holds, however, that Thornton “overstates his case,” especially in the claim that the administration was actually back-footed in its very first week in office by intelligence concerning Soviet guidance capability (p. 27). Auten lays great stress on timing. For Thornton to be correct, argues Auten, policy transformation would have had to come much earlier. Similarly, Auten invokes timing to counter the common-sense view that the policy shift was caused by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and other “shocks” of 1979: “the grand strategic and defense policy decisions that collectively represent Carter’s conversion ... were all initiated well before the Soviet move into Afghanistan” (p. 25).

Auten’s analysis is intellectually strong, but, like Thornton’s, it also is oversold. Virtually all commentators on the Carter presidency--even those, like myself, who offer a defense of Carter as a human rights president--acknowledge that the administration eventually embraced nuclear war-fighting strategies, primarily in response to technological change. The idea of Carter as a “soft” president was a product of Reaganite and neoconservative polemic, and to some degree of Carter’s postpresidential conduct, rather than of any objective analysis. There were always “hard” and “soft” threads within the administration’s thinking. Auten seeks to deflate Thornton’s thesis by noting that early defense cuts were made despite apparent evidence of enhanced Soviet nuclear capability, before a clear assessment of the danger had been effected. But Auten also shows how “hard” positions--such as Brzezinski’s interest in new versions of Soviet targeting--were there from the beginning. Auten acknowledges that Carter, during the 1976 election campaign, expressed considerable concern about the increase in Soviet naval capability. In fact, Carter’s criticism of the Ford-Kissinger foreign policy during the 1976 election campaign reflected both “soft” and “hard” foreign policy positions.

Is not the simple truth somehow as follows? The Carter administration came into office determined to offer an alternative to the Kissinger approach, appreciating the force of both leftist and rightist critiques of detente. The key policy of the early years was that of global human rights, designed precisely to respond to such criticisms, and also to unite the Henry Jackson and Tom Harkin wings of the Democratic Party. The human rights policy broke down, though was never entirely extinguished, through its own internal contradictions, especially toward Iran. The first phase of Carter’s foreign and defense policies was also undermined by evidence of Soviet nuclear capability and Soviet adventurism (in places such as Yemen, well before the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan). Policy development was also intimately bound up with internal bureaucratic politics (primarily the Vance-Brzezinski rivalry), and with the failure of the human rights policy to resolve the various domestic pressures on detente. Running alongside all this was Carter’s darkening attitude toward Soviet power--not only associated with nuclear and general defense intelligence, but also with his growing horror at Moscow’s intransigence over the treatment of dissidents. Defense policy was inextricably bound up with foreign policy, and both were mediated through elite perception, domestic pressure, and bureaucratic politics.

Carter’s Conversion will take a deserved place among the very best academic work on American defense policy in the 1970s. It is, however, a very fine piece of specialist scholarship, rather than a completely convincing, historically based reinterpretation of the Carter presidency.

Notes

[1]. Gideon Rose, “Neoclassical Realism and Theories of Foreign Policy,” World Politics 51 (1998): 146.

[2]. Richard Thornton, The Carter Years: Toward a New Global Order (New York: Paragon House, 1991).

Printable Version: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showpdf.php?id=24296

Citation: John Dumbrell. Review of Auten, Brian J., Carter's Conversion: The Hardening of American Defense Policy. H-Diplo, H-Net Reviews. June, 2009. URL: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=24296

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Author: Michael Lumbers
Reviewer: Pierre Asselin

Michael Lumbers. Piercing the Bamboo Curtain: Tentative Bridge-Building to China during the Johnson Years. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2008. x + 286 pp. $79.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-7190-7778-4.

Reviewed by Pierre Asselin (Hawaii Pacific University) Published on H-Diplo (June, 2009) Commissioned by Christopher L. Ball

Johnson's China Syndrome

This well-researched and lucidly written monograph considers U.S. policy toward the People’s Republic of China (PRC) during the presidency of Lyndon Johnson.  Based on a wide array of revealing documents, the book posits that the breakthrough in Sino-American relations customarily credited to President Richard Nixon and National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger represented, in fact, the culmination of policies and proposals formulated by their immediate predecessors.  Nixon and Kissinger “built on ideas that had already gained high-level credence” between 1964 and 1968, and it is those ideas Michael Lumbers, an independent scholar based in Toronto, Canada, explores in his work (p. 231).

Though Johnson ended the stagnation that had characterized Washington’s approach to China for over a decade, the impetus for change came from not the president or his senior advisers but mid-level specialists in the State Department.  Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs Roger Hilsman, who believed that the Chinese threat to American national security was inflated, set the wheels in motion.  In a seminal speech in December 1963, Hilsman called for a calibrated policy of engagement and containment of the PRC to end its political isolation and nurture moderate forces in Beijing on the one hand, and deter Chinese aggression in Third World on the other.  Hilsman and others at the State Department felt that policy review would also enhance American prestige globally and stem the loss of international support for Taiwan.  Unfortunately, Johnson’s senior aides either rejected or ignored these recommendations, convinced as they were that such “appeasement” would only embolden the PRC’s fiery leadership (p. 92).  Concerned about his own credibility and unwilling to reward Beijing after it successfully tested an atomic bomb, Johnson sided with his aides.  The president’s position plus Hilsman’s resignation in March 1964 proved a severe albeit temporary setback for the “China reform camp” in Washington (p. 145).

In late 1964, James Thompson, a Far East specialist at the State Department assigned to the National Security Council, spearheaded a second campaign to change the administration’s stance on China.  He argued that engagement of China and the concomitant exposure to Western goods, people, and ideas would attenuate Chinese revolutionary fervor and “erode” the worldview of Beijing leaders (p. 87).  However, the start of the American intervention in Vietnam and publication of Lin Biao’s “Long Live the Victory of People’s War,” urging colonial and semicolonial nations to pursue violent national liberation in 1965, militated against endorsement of Thompson’s recommendation by Johnson, and, in fact, “confirmed the worst suspicions of Chinese intentions” of the White House (p. 98).  Sensing that Beijing sought in Vietnam to affirm its leadership of global militant communism in light of the open split with Moscow while avoiding a direct, Korea-like confrontation with the United States, Johnson opted to contain but not confront China, and thus did not alter his administration’s policy vis-à-vis Beijing.

The approach to China underwent “symbolic and substantive alterations” in 1966 (p. 137).  Johnson and his cabinet suddenly became “more receptive to some of the arguments advanced by the China policy reform camp” owing to the declining prestige and growing vulnerability of China occasioned by the overthrow of Sukarno’s leftist regime in Indonesia, reaffirmation of Soviet leadership of the world communist movement, mounting tensions with Moscow, and the chaos engendered by the Cultural Revolution (p. 145).  Academics, members of Congress, and press secretary Bill Moyers, “a decisive voice” who became “increasingly convinced of the urgency of presenting the peaceful side of America’s face in Asia,” echoed the sentiments of the reform camp (p. 156).  Against the advice of Secretary of State Dean Rusk, the administration’s most ardent opponent of policy review, Johnson eventually undertook the “most significant bridge-building initiative” of his presidency, a July 12, 1966, address to the American Alumni Association articulating the rationale for a new China policy and “laying the rhetorical foundation and justification for redefining America’s relationship with the mainland” (pp. 157, 159).  The rhetoric never translated into action, however, as events in Vietnam, public opinion, concerns of regional allies, and fear of irrational behavior by Beijing embroiled by the Cultural Revolution constrained Johnson.  “With the advent of China’s intense political and social turmoil, the deferment of substantive policy reform was no longer mandated by an expansionist menace, but by the calculation that a xenophobic, inward-looking leadership would refuse to accept any olive branch offered to them [sic]” (p. 203).

The 1968 Tet Offensive and mounting evidence of a military stalemate in South Vietnam led Johnson to consider, once more, building a rapport with Beijing, this time to drive a wedge between Chinese and Vietnamese communist leaders and thus press Hanoi to accept a negotiated solution to end the war.  Rusk himself recognized the merits of that plan, and for the first time supported policy review.  Again, however, circumstances intervened to derail rapprochement.  Most notable among those was the unfavorable disposition of allies--notably, Seoul, Bangkok, and Taipei--and the American public, Johnson’s concerns about personal and national credibility, and, perhaps most important, the president’s March 31 announcement that he would not seek a second term, which nullified all prospects for tangible improvement of Sino-American relations until Johnson’s successor assumed the presidency.  As it turns out, even if Johnson had decided to proceed with policy review then--or at any other time during his presidency, for that matter--it is unlikely that Beijing would have responded positively.  Mao Zedong’s commitment to continuous revolution and the demonization of Washington it mandated precluded “any relaxation of attitudes toward the US” in Beijing, the author notes on the basis of arguments advanced recently by China scholars (p. 233).  Therefore, there was no lost chance for peace with China during the Johnson years.

As intimated above, the author considers public and allied opinion instrumental in shaping the administration’s policy toward China.  While it does appear that Johnson’s “instinctive hostility to China policy reform sprang more from a politically infused aversion to rocking the boat and a determination to preserve his martyred predecessor’s record than from any personal fixation with Chinese power,” that is not effectively corroborated by the source material (p. 78).  Also, while the author weighs in on the influence of newspaper editorialists and academics, he ignores the stance and pull of the American business community.  Ultimately, it is never clear from the book precisely where the American public and interest groups stood on China.  While it seems public opinion and academics in particular favored policy review, the author partly attributes the White House’s decision against rapprochement in 1968 to the domestic mood.  The author more ably addresses the disposition of allied Asian governments and the consideration accorded to it by Johnson.  The White House’s desire to indulge those allies may well have been the greatest obstacle to policy review and the reason Nixon, not Johnson, achieved the breakthrough in Sino-American relations.

The book offers revealing insights into Johnson’s leadership style.  The author affirms that in the matter of Sino-American relations Johnson emerges as an “attentive and well informed leader who dominated the foreign policy process” (p. 7).  Actually, the president comes across as tentative and indecisive in the narrative, victim of the pressures of his advisers, public opinion, and foreign allies.  The author himself notes that Johnson deferred U.S. military intervention in Vietnam in 1964 in order to “avert disaster” and win the November presidential contest (p. 99).  Such timidity is not the mark of dominant leadership.  Rusk was arguably more assertive--and central--in the China policy debate.  By the author’s own admission, the president accorded Rusk “a considerable degree of leeway,” allowing Rusk to become the “most forceful and articulate voice of opposition within Johnson’s inner circle to any modification of America’s posture towards the PRC” (pp. 60, 61).  Ultimately, Rusk prevailed.

The book has other shortcomings.  For instance, the author argues that the Johnson “administration’s refusal to compromise its ties to Taiwan most likely contributed to the radical orientation of China’s foreign policy in the late 1950s” (p. 21).  But reputable scholars have shown that revolutionary China’s own internal dynamics and Mao himself, not Washington or Taiwan, were responsible for that radicalization.  The author contends that Taiwan was the “most pressing issue in Sino-American relations, rather than U.S. opposition to world revolution,” but never develops that idea (p. 217).  The third chapter on the origins of the Vietnam War and attendant reaffirmation of Washington’s rigid China policy is captivating but filled with data only tangentially related to the topic.  The chapter is less about Sino-American relations than Vietnamese revolutionary activity and China’s role in abetting it.  Chapter 5 similarly contains information about the Cultural Revolution immaterial for delineating the Johnson administration’s response to it.  In that chapter, the author should have expounded on the substance of the Sino-American ambassadorial-level dialogue taking place in Warsaw and Washington’s understanding of the Sino-Soviet dispute.  The author does address the dispute, but mostly as it affected Beijing’s relations with Moscow and Hanoi.  Lastly, it is not clear from the book whether the Cultural Revolution was a positive or a negative for the White House’s bridge-building effort with Beijing.  The author vacillates on the implications for Sino-American relations of the Cultural Revolution, as he does with public opinion.

Despite some lacunae, this book offers valuable new insights into the history of the Cold War.  It thoughtfully assesses Johnson’s foreign policy as it concerned East and Southeast Asia, and sheds important light on the Vietnam War and the Cultural Revolution in the PRC, among other related matters.  Though it is difficult to discern how the Johnson administration “pierced the bamboo curtain”--its ideas never going beyond the stage of rhetoric--the book successfully traces the evolution of the China policy review process in Washington.  This impressive piece of scholarship is sure to prove useful for both students and experts, and is a must for all university libraries.

Printable Version: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showpdf.php?id=23391

Citation: Pierre Asselin. Review of Lumbers, Michael, Piercing the Bamboo Curtain: Tentative Bridge-Building to China during the Johnson Years. H-Diplo, H-Net Reviews. June, 2009. URL: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=23391

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
In: H-War
Author: Ari Daniel Levine
Reviewer: Eva Goldschmidt

Ari Daniel Levine. Divided by a Common Language: Factional Conflict in Late Northern Song China. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2009. 273 pp. $55.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8248-3266-7.

Reviewed by Eva Goldschmidt Published on H-War (June, 2009) Commissioned by Brian G.H. Ditcham

From Factional Discourses to Blacklists of Factionalists

Ari Daniel Levine analyzes the linguistic rules that were applied and had to be adhered to by faction theorists and factional rhetoricians in Song China. His analysis is based on a broad and deep reading of a wide array of edicts, memorials, and essays, and provides a very detailed insight into the ideological and institutional causes of factional conflict during the Late Northern Song period (1067-1104) in the context of the decay of the Northern Song dynasty (960-1127). In addition, in the first six chapters of his book, Levine elucidates how these debates altered the political culture and climate at the imperial court in Kaifeng. In the last, the seventh chapter, he gives a cursory survey on how factionalists were regarded and treated by the following dynasties and in modern China.

In his introductory chapter, Levine introduces readers to the reign of Emperor Shenzong (r. 1067-85), during which court officials engaged in factional infighting to advance their preferred candidates for office and implement their polities. The emperor remained the ultimate arbiter between a still diverse spectrum of political ideas. With the onset of Shenzong’s reign, Wang Anshi’s chancellorship, and the dominance of leading politicians and intellectuals of the reforming party the situation changed dramatically. The emperor became a political ally or guardian of one loosely associated political group of ministers with executive powers.  

In chapters 2 and 3, Levine explains the linguistic roots of the rhetoric of factionalism and how the specific vocabulary was applied to describe relationships between the ruler and his ministers.  As in a classical poem, the terms “faction” and “factionalism” had to be defined in accordance with specific linguistically determined patterns. These patterns were sought and found in particular standard works of the Confucian tradition: The Narratives of Zuo, The Book of Documents, The Analects, and to a lesser extent the Book of Changes. All Late Northern Song political rhetoricians were well versed in the classical canon and very skilled at arbitrarily stitching together linguistic tropes to support their argument that only vertical alliances between the ruler and a unified bloc of like-minded ministers could save the current ruling house. From Wang Anshi and Sima Guang to Su Shi and Qin Guan, all composed essays on factionalism and demanded that the ruler should again become an independent-minded and enlightened arbiter of men, capable of distinguishing between “petty men” and “superior men.”

A very meticulous examination of the rhetoric of the later antireform movement led by Sima Guang proves Levine’s hypothesis that both political blocs applied the same rhetoric. The many quotations from edicts and memorials submitted by the antireform group are hardly distinguishable from the ones of the rivaling bloc. Although the rhetoric remained at the same elevated level, the practical implementation of politics changed. Political adversaries were exiled into the malaria-infested South, and later they appeared on blacklists. The last chapter spans the historical arc from the onset of Southern Song dynasty's usage of the term “faction” to the modern Anglo-Japanese translation of it.

The book is an almost clinical dissection of Late Northern Song political rhetoric and political factionalism. There are only a few references to the most aggravating external factors, i.e., the surplus of examination candidates, a fragile and costly peace at the northern borders, and a state budget chronically in deficit, which help to explain why the tone of the debates and the means of dealing with political adversaries became increasingly harsh.  The closing chapter 7 is an interesting but hurried overview of subsequent historiography and is not of the quality of the previous six chapters.

Divided by a Common Language is one of a few very detailed and very carefully documented and researched studies that focus exclusively on political rhetoric. The book and its extensive literature list make a pleasurable read and will be an academic asset for postgraduate students and scholars of political rhetoric in imperial China in general and the Song dynasty in particular.

Printable Version: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showpdf.php?id=24695

Citation: Eva Goldschmidt. Review of Levine, Ari Daniel, Divided by a Common Language: Factional Conflict in Late Northern Song China. H-War, H-Net Reviews. June, 2009. URL: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=24695

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
In: H-War
Author: Michelle A. White
Reviewer: Jasmin L. Johnson

Michelle A. White. Henrietta Maria And the English Civil Wars. Aldershot, England: Ashgate, 2006. xiv + 224 pp. $99.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-7546-3942-8.

Reviewed by Jasmin L. Johnson Published on H-War (May, 2009) Commissioned by Brian G.H. Ditcham

"Generalissima of all the traitours in Scotland, England and Ireland’?[1]

Much ink has been spilled concerning just how much influence the much-maligned Queen Henrietta Maria had over her husband, King Charles I, in the years leading up to and during what Michelle Anne White chooses to term the "English Civil Wars" (surprising, since her study of the queen is far more broadly based in terms of her relationships with other European powers).

From the start, the queen was regarded with suspicion, especially by those of a more Puritan and parliamentary sympathy, for the triple crimes of being, in descending order of importance, Catholic, foreign, and female. She was subjected to attack in the pamphlets, scandal sheets, and newspapers of the day, making it refreshing to see a writer who is willing to return to these primary sources and add to the recent scholarship on this important material. It is also pleasant to see another volume being added to the recent revival in the much-understudied topic of royalism which one hopes will move us away from the "wrong but romantic" view that has bedeviled the study of the wars of the three kingdoms for so long.[2]

Henrietta Maria was perceived as a failure by her early biographers, and later represented as a dominant, overbearing figure, totally in control of her husband’s thinking and political actions. Neither of these views is anything like true and more recent thinking tends to the idea that while the queen was influential, especially in her "court within a court" where Catholic thinking predominated, she never entirely controlled her husband’s thought and action. In other words, his many errors were largely of his own making. While it is easy to overestimate the queen’s importance in the affairs which led to the civil wars, it is equally important not to underestimate this forceful and able woman.

The author chooses to concentrate roughly on the period from 1637 to 1649 because, as she states, it is an under-researched and important period, spanning from the birth of Princess Anne to the execution of Charles I. White makes the point that what is important is not so much what influence the queen wielded over her husband, but what influence she was perceived as wielding: what was it that people believed about their queen and her access to power, whatever the truth may have been? The queen was plainly capable of eliciting great admiration and love as well as deep detestation.

In chapters 1 and 2 the author undertakes an examination of the young Henrietta Maria from her arrival in England in 1625 as an immature and devout fifteen-year-old to 1635, a period which spans much of Charles’s disastrous personal rule (1629-40). Her arrival with a French household and a legion of Catholic clergy can have done nothing for her popularity or for the suspicions held about her husband’s intentions towards the Anglican Church. For all Charles’s faults, he was well aware of the potential political disaster this might cause and dismissed the French entourage within a year. The death of Charles’s favorite, George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, proved a turning point and the relationship between Charles and Henrietta Maria turned from a political marriage into a genuine love match, with the all-important heirs following in quick succession. The death of the disapproving Lord Treasurer Weston made space for the queen to take center stage, although her refusal to undergo a Protestant coronation, her tendency to gather an "alternative" Catholic court around her and to display her Catholicism in overt ways, combined with her tendency to trespass outside accepted feminine boundaries by such actions as appearing in masks had already made her formidable enemies.

Chapters 3 explores the queen at the height of her power, the self-titled "she generalissima" often displaying greater military acumen and more understanding of the need for practical lines of supply than ever her husband did. The queen’s travels in Holland and France in an effort to gain arms, men, and money for her husband’s cause are impressive, as is her willingness to put herself in harm’s way when it came to delivering these armaments; indeed, the cover illustration for the book shows the famous occasion when the queen brought her ships in at Bridlington under fire in a (largely unsuccessful) effort to resupply Charles’s armies. The sight of a queen having to pawn her jewelry (not to mention the crown jewels) in an effort to raise funds to continue the fight is not an edifying one but one cannot help admiring what the author describes as "her breezy energy and single-minded determination" (p. 61). Her military advice to Charles, contained in a flood of letters (in which she more than once threatens that she will enter a convent if he doesn’t get a grip) is often germane to the issues facing the armies in the field, but is as often ignored. Henrietta plainly loathed the dashing young Prince Rupert, master of the king’s horse, rightly thinking him too rash for his own (and her husband’s) good. However, although the matériel the queen was able to supply was never enough, she did provide a courageous figurehead around which at least some royalist support felt able to rally.

Chapter 4 examines how the press of the day (and it is often overlooked that the wars of the three kingdoms were the first to receive the attention of anything like a modern press and propaganda organization) perceived the queen, how they attacked or supported her, and how they justified or condemned her actions. Press vitriol was every bit as unpleasant as in our own day (perhaps more so, as the middle of a civil war is an unlikely time for the courts or the censors to be taking an interest in reportage) and the queen suffered as much from character assassination and invasive and false reporting as any contemporary "personality" does. As the author boldly states, recent research into the reportage (including this book), propaganda, and oral sources of this period must once and for all strike down Jurgen Habermas’s contention that a "public sphere" only emerged in the eighteenth century (p. 120).

Chapter 5 examines the queen’s reunion with her husband at Oxford. This was a time when things seemed to be going well for the royalist cause--the indecisive battle of Edgehill was followed in quick succession by royalist victories at Adwalton Moor, Lansdown, and Roundway Down and, finally, with the arrival of the queen’s new supplies and men, the capture of Bristol. The queen advised her husband to march on London, but Charles took Prince Rupert’s advice to capture Gloucester first--perhaps a good example of why we should never assume that Henrietta controlled her husband’s military thinking. The Gloucester campaign was a disaster. The queen left Oxford on April 17, 1644 and the two were never to meet again. Disaster began to follow upon disaster; the capture of the "Dunkirk ship" containing the so-called popish picture (allegedly intended as a present from the king to the pope to demonstrate his allegiance to Rome but in truth, nothing of the sort) was a propaganda coup for the parliamentarian cause.

Worse was to follow. Chapter 6 examines the defeat of the royalist cause and the queen’s exile in France. Although the disaster at Marston Moor in 1644 was followed by final major royalist victory at Lostwithiel and a bloody draw at second Newbury in the same year, the king’s cause went down to irreparable defeat at Naseby in 1645. This battle of "all for all" (p. 163) was not only a military disaster, but led to the capture of the entire royalist artillery and baggage train. The baggage wagons contained the "king’s cabinet" and his most personal and secret correspondence. It also contained the key to all the king’s cyphers. The disaster this represented to the royalist cause cannot be underestimated. Parliament published much of the contents in the infamous pamphlet, "The king’s cabinet opened." The couple’s letters proved (or seemed to prove) that the queen ruled the king and this led to what the author describes as "an early modern media blitz" (p. 167). It was a gift to that first recognizably modern journalist, Marchamont Nedham, and he made full use of the opportunity. The "King’s Cabinet" affair led to a collapse in any remaining confidence in Charles’s ability to rule effectively and it was all downhill from this point. Perhaps Henrietta Maria is seen at her most human on receiving, in exile in France, on February 9, 1649, the news of her husband’s execution: "At first she was reduced to complete silence, and sat motionless and mute for some time. When her childhood friend, Madam de Vendôme, fell to Henrietta’s knees and implored her to say something, the distraught queen finally burst into tears" (p. 188).

The author concludes with the view that the queen certainly had influence with (if not over) her husband (and this is an important distinction) and that she certainly had influence with those close to Charles, the likes of Henry Jermyn, George Goring, William Davenant, and Henry Rich. She was a brave and selfless campaigner for her husband’s cause, sacrificing both her health and her wealth on his behalf.

It is, perhaps, a sad comment that Henrietta Maria, whose remains were scattered in the sack of the French royal mausoleum at the abbey of St. Denis during another revolution, is now memorialized with a simple plaque which refers to her not as the "she generalissima" or even "Reine d’Angleterre, Ecosse, Irlande et de la France" (the claim had not been rescinded in the queen’s day) but simply as "Henriette Marie, Princesse de France." This surely belittles this remarkable and tenacious woman.

Michelle Anne White has added a fascinating study to the growing literature on the subject of the royalist cause in the British isles and beyond during the civil wars and it is to be hoped that she and others will follow up the various topics she recognizes as worthy of further research in their own right.

Notes

[1]. Anon., Mercurius Brittanicus, September 1-8, 1645. 

[2]. W. Sellar and R. J. Yeatman, 1066 and All That (London: Methuen,1930), 71.

Printable Version: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showpdf.php?id=24238

Citation: Jasmin L. Johnson. Review of White, Michelle A., Henrietta Maria And the English Civil Wars. H-War, H-Net Reviews. May, 2009. URL: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=24238

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Author: Asaf Siniver
Reviewer: Jussi Hanhimaki

Asaf Siniver. Nixon, Kissinger, and U.S. Foreign Policy Making: The Machinery of Crisis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008. xvi + 252 pp. Illustrations. $80.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-521-89762-4.

Reviewed by Jussi Hanhimaki (Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies) Published on H-Diplo (May, 2009) Commissioned by Christopher L. Ball

Crises as Cases

What new could there possibly be to say about Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, and their foreign policy efforts? Both have written massive memoirs (Kissinger’s amounting to over 3,500 pages in three volumes). Over the years Stephen Ambrose, Herbert Parmet, Anthony Summers, Marvin and Bernard Kalb, Jussi Hanhimäki, Robert Schulzinger, Seymour Hersh, Walter Isaacson, Robert Dallek, and Jeremi Suri, among others, have written lengthy biographies of the two. In-depth and insightful analysis of their complex bond, the policies they forged, and the crises they faced can be found in any and all of these works. It is hard to imagine a stone left unturned.

To his credit, Asaf Sniver has managed to find yet another angle from which to peer into the inner workings of the Nixon administration’s foreign policy machinery. In a book that mixes international relations theory with detailed archival research, Sniver focuses on the role of the Washington Special Actions Group (WSAG), a small interdepartmental group of high-level decision-makers chaired by Kissinger. Indeed, the author “is concerned with the mechanism of crisis decision-making during four major foreign policy crises between 1969 and 1974” (p. 1). Therefore, while Nixon and Kissinger are the key actors on the pages of Sniver’s book, his goal is not to reconstruct what their foreign policy was all about but how their personalities interacted with established bureaucratic machineries and rapidly unfolding events.

Constituted in May 1969 and institutionalized in July of the same year, the WSAG functioned as the Nixon administration’s crisis management team. In 1969-73, the WSAG met over two hundred times to discuss the many crises and challenges facing the administration. The record of these meetings provides the raw material for Sniver’s book.

The author has chosen to focus on four crises: the U.S. invasion (sorry, “incursion”) of Cambodia in the spring of 1970, the Jordanian crisis of September 1971, the Indo-Pakistani War of December 1971, and the October War of 1973. In each case, the WSAG played an important role with a significant impact on the outcome. The great virtue of Sniver’s book is, indeed, his expert reconstruction of the crises and their management by the Nixon administration. As such the book has managed to add another layer of analysis to a field filled with competing treatises.

Yet one needs to question how significant these findings are. It is clear, for example, that the WSAG functioned better in the two crises in the Middle East than it did in the cases of Cambodia and India-Pakistan. If this is simply because the president himself was less involved in the Jordanian crisis and almost totally out of the picture during the October War (due to Watergate), what does this tell us about the role of such carefully designed (theoretically) bureaucratic machineries as the WSAG? Did it simply depend on the whims of the president? If so, how many lessons can one draw from the WSAG experience?

One must also call into question the case study method and the cases chosen for this book. In one, Cambodia, American troops were directly in harm's way; in the other three cases, the United States exercised its influence either mainly via diplomatic channels (Jordan and South Asia) or through a combination of diplomatic pressure and large-scale military assistance (the October War). Different regional dynamics probably played a far more important role in the eventual outcomes of the four crises than the internal decision-making processes in Washington DC. In fact, given the outcomes of the four crises, it is no wonder that WSAG gets higher marks for its handling of the Jordanian crisis and the October War: in both, U.S. policy goals were upheld. Did the choice of these cases perhaps determine the end results of the analysis?  

Such questions aside, Sniver has produced a well-written and thoroughly researched analysis of an aspect of the Nixon administration’s foreign policy that required further probing. His book will be welcomed by all who wish to have a succinct and thought-provoking analysis of how--rather than why--Nixon and Kissinger addressed their foreign policy crises. Perhaps more importantly, Sniver’s book provides lessons about the constant interplay of personalities and bureaucratic processes in the making of foreign policy, whether in the United States or elsewhere. It is a valuable addition to the continuously growing body of scholarship on Nixon’s and Kissinger’s tenures in office.

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Citation: Jussi Hanhimaki. Review of Siniver, Asaf, Nixon, Kissinger, and U.S. Foreign Policy Making: The Machinery of Crisis. H-Diplo, H-Net Reviews. May, 2009. URL: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=24551

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Author: Kevin B. Witherspoon
Reviewer: John Sugden

Kevin B. Witherspoon. Before the Eyes of the World: Mexico and the 1968 Olympic Games. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2008. xi + 212 pp. $35.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-87580-388-3.

Reviewed by John Sugden (University of Brighton) Published on H-Diplo (April, 2009) Commissioned by Christopher L. Ball

Sport, Culture and Controversy

If you wanted to write a short history of the twentieth century, you could do worse than focus on the Olympic Games and all that has swirled around this quadrennial festival of sport, culture, and controversy. Since its reincarnation in the twilight of European imperial ambition in Athens in 1896, every four years the modern Olympics has provided a nuanced snapshot of world power relations. Could anyone, for instance, who witnessed the demonstration of Nazi organization, prowess, and power at the 1936 Berlin Olympics harbor any doubt that the specter of fascism was a real threat to the existing world order? Likewise, when "Gimn Sovetskogo Soyuza," the anthem of the Soviet Union, and the raising of the Hammer and Sickle, began to rival the playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" and the flourishing of the Stars and Stripes at the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki, the world knew that the Cold War had found new expression through Olympic competition.

In this regard, Before the Eyes of the World is more than a book about sport and mega-event management (although it definitely is about this too). It is also a window into the state of local and transnational political and economic relations at the end of one of the century’s most turbulent and transformative decades. With excellent use of original, archival research, Witherspoon recounts how, against considerable odds, Mexico--a country that at the time was widely regarded as "third world" if not "third rate"--managed to secure the hosting rights to the 1968 summer Olympics, despite competition from two of the world’s leading and most prosperous modern cities, Chicago and Paris. This opening section of the book should be compulsory reading for current and future municipal Olympic Games bidding committees as the author reveals how, with a mixture of humility, cunning, and opportune grandstanding, the Mexicans were able to win the contest to hold the Games. Only a few years after the Cuban Missile Crisis, a key to their success was the way in which they  garnered votes by understanding and working to their advantage the complex political dynamic between the United States and the Soviet Union and its impact on wider Latin American and emergent African allegiances.

The core of the book addresses two major themes, both of which were global in context and local in terms of framing and impacting upon the 1968 Olympics. The first focuses on domestic political unrest and student radicalism. The 1960s in general and 1968 in particular are seminal in the history of student radicalism and activism. In France, the government of Charles de Gaulle fell after sustained, student-led rioting in Paris. This came on the heels of the Prague Spring when student activists were at the forefront of a movement for democratic change in Czechoslovakia that temporarily led to the overthrow of the incumbent Communist government. In the United States, there was widespread unrest at university campuses across the country as students added their voices to the growing clamor to end their county’s military involvement in Southeast Asia. So, in the build up to the Games, when in increasing numbers students took to the streets in Mexico City to protest against their government’s social and economic policies, its totalitarian tendencies, and what they perceived as the waste of resources that were being lavished on the Olympics, President Diaz Ordaz had every right to be nervous. The Mexican government’s heavy-handed response was also encouraged by the United States, which, at this point in its history, saw a Communist plot behind every popular movement for reform in Latin America. Matters came to a head on October 2 when, "before the eyes of the world" barely a week before the Games started, hundreds of student protesters were gunned down in cold blood  by Mexican security forces in Plaza de las Tres Culturas in the Tlateloloco district of Mexico City. The world watched and did nothing as, shamefully, did the myopic Olympic mandarins, citing, just as they would four years later when Israeli athletes were massacred in Munich, "the Games must go on."[1]

And go on they did, but, there was another time-bomb ticking at their heart, namely the explosive issue of race relations. Even before they started, the viability of the Games had been called into question when, responding to the decision of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to readmit apartheid-governed South Africa into the Olympic movement, thus allowing them to participate at Mexico, a succession of African and Communist-led nations threatened to boycott the Games. As Witherspoon explains in some detail, this was avoided at the eleventh hour when the IOC executive, albeit reluctantly, reversed its decision and South Africa remained excluded. But South Africa was only one battleground in the struggle for equal rights for people of color, the other was in the home of one of the IOC’s longest standing members: the United States of America.

Today the image through which most people remember Mexico 1968 is neither Kip Keino doing a lap of honor after having defeated the legendary American Jim Ryun in the 1,500 meters, nor of Bob Beamon sailing through the air to shatter the Olympic and world long jump records. It is much more likely to be the bowed heads and black-gloved clench fists of African American sprinters John Carlos and Tommy Smith at the medal ceremony after the final of the 200 meters. The civil rights movement and resistance to it in the United States were at their height in the late 1960s and, as the author explains, sport was caught up in this conflict. African American track and field athletes had been radicalized by decades of unfair treatment in domestic competitions and, in an era when sport mega-events were beginning to get significant media exposure, the 1968 Olympics was targeted by the most politically conscious athletes as a perfect event through which to showcase their grievances, particularly coming as it did only a few months after the assassination in Memphis of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Witherspoon does an excellent job of forensically examining these major themes, as well as looking at other important issues of the times, such as amateurism, performance-enhancing drugs, and security, in doing so making clear the linkages between wider social and political influences and their practical impact on Mexico’s Olympics. The book is very well researched and equally well written, managing as it does to weave material from archival and interview sources into an embodied documentary-style narrative. Before the Eyes of the World is a book that should appeal widely to Olympic and general sports historians and to those concerned with the political sociology of sport. It should also be of interest to the growing numbers of people studying sport mega-events and event management as well as those members of the general public who are simply interested in reading good historical narrative.

Note

[1]. Arnd Kruger, "The Unfinished Symphony. A History of the Olympic Games from Coubertin to Sameranch," in The International Politics of Sport in the Twentieth Century, ed. Jim Riordan and Arnd Kruger (London: E. & F. N. Spon, 1999), 20.

Printable Version: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showpdf.php?id=23906

Citation: John Sugden. Review of Witherspoon, Kevin B., Before the Eyes of the World: Mexico and the 1968 Olympic Games. H-Diplo, H-Net Reviews. April, 2009. URL: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=23906

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Author: Ted Widmer
Reviewer: Don H. Doyle

Ted Widmer. Ark of the Liberties: America and the World. New York: Hill and Wang, 2008. 384 pp. $25.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8090-2735-4.

Reviewed by Don H. Doyle (University of South Carolina) Published on H-Diplo (April, 2009) Commissioned by Christopher L. Ball

The Dangers of Idealism

Ted Widmer is a historian, a former political speechwriter, and an observer of American politics and foreign policy who is as worried as he is hopeful.[1] He is a gifted writer with a good eye for the apt quote--and a good ear, for many of his most memorable quotes come from oratory. He also has a knack for utilizing obscure, even quirky anecdotes to make his point. For example, he notes that during the U.S. incursion in the Philippines, the Senate debated torture techniques, including a “water cure” whose origins went back to the Spanish Inquisition (p. 155). In 1906, Teddy Roosevelt was the first sitting president to venture outside the United States. Operation Iraqi Freedom was originally named Operation Iraqi Liberation, until someone noticed the acronym.

In places, especially the discussion of the twentieth century, his interpretation seems partisan in its slant, but not consistently so and not to the point of undermining the author’s credibility. He is given at times to soaring prose and loves to quote poetry, often to very good effect. This book, in turns, is inspiring, troubling, and often witty. Scholars of U.S. foreign policy will likely find much of the main story laid out here familiar, but the originality of this book lies in its ambitious scope (from the European discovery to the war in Iraq). The author’s bold but not uncomplicated reaffirmation of America’s historic mission in the world ought to provoke reflection and argument. This is a good book for the college classroom, and it will likely find an audience among more readers outside than within the corps of specialists in U.S. foreign relations.

This is a study of America’s national ideals and how they have guided (and misguided) not only America’s foreign policymakers but, more fundamentally, the popular understanding of America’s role in the world as well. The title comes from Herman Melville’s 1850 novel, White Jacket, or the World in a Man-of-War: “'And we Americans are the peculiar, chosen people--the Israel of our time; we bear the ark of the liberties of the world.... We are the pioneers of the world; the advance-guard, sent on through the wilderness of untried things, to break a new path in the New World that is ours'” (pp. xi-xii).

What may seem a classic instance of national chauvinism was, we learn, part of a lengthy diatribe against flogging in the American navy, a practice Melville condemned as an idiotic, backward custom inherited from the aristocratic British and entirely out of place in a democratic society. It is this juxtaposition of lofty principle and shameful practice that Widmer uses to preview his concept of American idealism and set up a standard against which national failings, as often as achievements, may be measured. It is only the first of many such inconsistencies he acknowledges aboard the good ship U.S. liberty as he tracks its unpredictable voyage through history. 

The metaphor of the ark performs multiple tasks, most often as a ship at sea rather than a religious totem signifying God’s covenant with the nation. The ark as ship is a speechwriter’s delight, full of possibilities for references to wandering off course, drifting, or sailing full speed ahead. This nautical symbol also serves Widmer’s artful interpretation of American history as a voyage, rarely straight from point to point, often stopping to take on new passengers, always moving. He likes “ark” as a figure of speech for another reason, he reveals, because it suggests arc-en-ciel, the French word for rainbow, with its promise that “something wonderful--a pot of gold or simply a new beginning--waits over the next horizon” (p. xiii). Rainbows, readers less disposed toward such sunny expectations may recall, also result from dreadful weather.

Widmer rarely lets his optimism get the better of his task as historian for very long. By his account, the ark of the liberties keeps running aground, drifting, or, worse, launching unwelcome invasions on the shores of other nations. Though he spares none of these mishaps in his log, some readers may be left wondering whether this American ark of the liberties is a righteous vessel veering off course now and then, a Titanic doomed by its own arrogant recklessness to disaster, or some dreadnought battleship portending trouble for the world whenever it leaves port. He quotes Simon Bolívar, who wryly observed: “'The United States appears to be destined by Providence to plague America with misery in the name of liberty'” (p. 83).

American historians, a British acquaintance once told me, rather than seeing their purpose as providing sardonic witness to human folly, like to think their work will somehow make things better. Widmer exudes American optimism but he is worried; he wants America “to learn from our mistakes and chart a new course” to move toward some more perfect version of our national ideals (p. 315). Accusations of hypocrisy and moral failings are rarely effective without the target espousing high principles against which actual behavior can be assessed. More than most nations, the United States seems to set itself up for poor marks in sincerity and moral consistency by its proclivity for idealistic pronouncements, not only, but especially, in its foreign relations.

Yet this is not the usual scolding book that excoriates leaders and citizens for their failure to live up to the nation’s ideals, for Widmer wants to retrieve and restore the ideals themselves, applauding those moments when the nation rises toward its own lofty standards and anguishing when it betrays them. At the opening of the book, he promises to avoid “excessive adulation and criticism” of his subject, but he does so typically by countering one with the other (p. xiv). Throughout the book is a constant back and forth between an inspiring invocation of the nation's ideals and nagging reminders of its failings. At times, I wondered whether Widmer was straining to curb his enthusiasm for America’s promise or keep his despair over current failings in check. 

An opening chapter, aptly named “Fantasy Island,” traces the origins of America as an idealized nation back to early European imaginings of the New World as a place where human society might redeem itself. Another chapter on the colonial era is the familiar story of the New England Puritans and early millennial thinking about America as the place God would work out his plan for humans. Though warning us against viewing Jonathan Winthrop’s “city upon a hill” as a preview of the future Republic, Widmer stresses the millennialism that would continue to influence America’s national creed (p. 29). Perhaps unintentionally, Widmer’s exclusive focus on New England illuminates how this region would shape America’s nationalist narrative long after it took its secular turn. New England dominates Widmer’s telling of the American Revolution as well, but he closes with Thomas Jefferson predicting that his Declaration of Independence would, sooner or later, inspire all peoples to follow the American example. A chapter on “Empire of Liberty” gives the stage over to Jefferson and to foreign relations in the young Republic from the Louisiana Purchase to the Monroe Doctrine. 

Widmer’s treatment of the Mexican War is incisive and damning. The first full-scale invasion of a foreign country by the United States (an earlier invasion of Canada in 1812 was quickly defeated) was a radical departure from American national ideals, he explains. Few articulated those ideals more eloquently than John O’Sullivan who coined the phrase “Manifest Destiny” and prophesied America’s role as the “great nation of futurity.” Widmer seems to understand that the concepts underlying O’Sullivan’s “Manifest Destiny” fall very close to his own understanding of America as the ark of the liberties. The ideas were “not entirely bad,” he allows; it was their misuse and misapplication in an aggressive war of conquest that he laments (p. 110). The invasion of Iraq is never mentioned here, nor, in the equally cogent passages, is the U.S. incursion in the Philippines, but no one can read these passages without thinking of the American war in Iraq. By the end of the book, we understand how much the recent turns in U.S. foreign policy have informed Widmer’s interpretation of the past--and vice versa.  

Widmer, the historian, wrote the chapters on America and the world through the nineteenth century; Widmer, the political speechwriter and Democratic Party partisan, tends to loom larger in the telling of the rise of America as a world power in the twentieth century. He opens with a spirited interrogation of the dichotomy that has, on one side, Teddy Roosevelt, the “realist,” who “vigorously asserted U.S. military might,” and, on the other side, Woodrow Wilson, the “idealist,” “tortured by naïve aspirations for democracy and reluctant to project the full force of American power” (p. 189). This myth, Widmer argues, laid the foundation for Republican and Democratic party identities ever since, and he wants to set things right by reassessing Wilson as “a visionary who saw things not only as they were, but as they needed to be” (p. 189).

If Widmer props up Wilson, he positively elevates Franklin D. Roosevelt as a hero not only of America’s national ideals but also of the cause of world peace and democracy. In Widmer’s rendering, we have in Roosevelt an intellectually inspired and learned president who was imbued with a pervasive sense of America’s historic role in spreading democracy and liberty throughout the world. The Atlantic Charter, the United Nations, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stand as testimony to Roosevelt’s idealistic vision and also to his capacity to realize ideals. “At long last,” Widmer writes with buoyant enthusiasm, “America’s capacity to change the world had caught up to her desire. The ark was sailing at full speed” (p. 213). This highly burnished version of Roosevelt is dulled slightly by the admission that he “was not a perfect crusader for freedom,” the author conceding as evidence of this imperfection the internment of Japanese Americans, the slow response to Jewish and other refugees from Nazi Germany, and repressive measures against critics (p. 212).

Two chapters on the Cold War link its Manichean vision of good and evil with deep traditions of America’s idealistic vision of itself as the champion of liberty in the world. George Kennan’s “Long Telegram” in 1946 and his “Sources of Soviet Conduct” in Foreign Affairs (July 1947) that followed forecast the coming world struggle between Russian Communism and American democracy. Widmer notes similarities between Kennan’s article and a Puritan Jeremiad sermon in which Kennan compared the Soviets to “a dangerous rival church with ‘mystical, Messianic’ tendencies (he disliked its claim to ‘infallibility,’ a favorite complaint the Puritans had voiced about the Catholic Church).... He even ended his essay with an appeal to Providence and advanced the classic Puritan argument that this moral challenge was welcome, even necessary, if Americans wanted to live up to their potential” (p. 234). So much for Kennan the realist. 

Likewise, Harry Truman’s commitment to “support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation,” along with the entire discourse on the “free world,” recapitulated centuries of America’s self rendering as the beacon of liberty in the world (p. 235). Widmer neatly illustrates the dark side of U.S. Cold War policy in three episodes of intrigue in Iran (1953), Guatemala (1954), and Vietnam (1954), each with lasting and disastrous practical results, to say nothing of their violations of the nation’s vaunted ideals.

At this point in the voyage, it seems piloting duties on the ark of the liberties alternate between messianic zealots and sinister, paranoid Captain Queegs. John F. Kennedy comes aboard to rescue the ship with a renewed sense of America’s mission: “'We do not imitate--for we are a model to others,'” he proclaimed the night before he took office (p. 269). But Kennedy appears to win points with Widmer for his signs of backing off the Cold War hard line and admitting America cannot impose its will on the world. The spirit of Captain Queeg, in the form of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, took back the helm after Kennedy’s untimely death, and America’s ark drifted deeper into troubled waters at home and abroad.

Ronald Reagan is depicted as something of a fool at the helm, albeit one with “an engaging manner, a mellifluous voice, and an unflinching belief in the superiority of American institutions” (p. 291). His references to America as a “shining city upon the hill” might have sent Winthrop (whose 1630 sermon to the Puritans inspired this image) spinning in his grave, but it drew very effectively on deep currents of America’s idea of itself as a model for all peoples. Reagan, or rather his speechwriters and handlers, understood how to appeal to that historic idealism of the American people, Widmer concedes, though not without letting us know just how shallow and limited his understanding of those ideals was. While issuing paeans to freedom around the world, Reagan opposed or ignored the civil rights movement and other efforts to expand freedom at home.     

Widmer’s allegiance to Bill Clinton’s administration reveals itself briefly and modestly. After offering kudos to several unappreciated achievements during the Clinton years, he writes: “As a minor participant in the Clinton administration, I realize that my perspective is hardly objective. But still, it seemed at the time--and it still seems, a decade later--as if the best of U.S. foreign policy was working and the worst was held in check” (p. 308).

In the epilogue, however, Widmer takes off his gloves and sets forth a withering assessment of just how far the United States has fallen since George W. Bush took office. “This is not a book about the Bush administration,” he writes in the epilogue, but by this point it seems much of this story of America’s engagement with the world is informed by recent events. “It is worth pausing for a moment,” he continues, “to contemplate how a group of patriotic leaders could have inflicted so much harm, so quickly, on the world order that had been created by their own country” (p. 317).

Though couched in the language of America’s traditional idealism as the ark of the liberties, Bush’s incursion in Iraq, by Widmer’s account, is a terrible betrayal of that idealism. Those who led America into the Iraq war, he argues, were the opposite of naïve idealists; they were cynics who exploited America’s tradition of idealism: “what does one call an effort to spread democracy by people who do not seem to believe in the basic consensus of democracy? What does one call airy theories of perfect human behavior floated by people with no inclination to utopia? What does one call the interventionist yearnings of people who have shown very little interest in foreign cultures?” These were nothing more than “wolves in Wilsonian clothing” (p. 321).

Widmer tells us in closing that “we Americans are at their best, and our most truly world-shaping, when we reject the idea of special destiny and simply get to work” (p. 328). Many readers of this book may feel less inspired to set sail on voyages reshaping the world in our image and more inclined to head for port and get to work repairing their own ship. 

Note

[1]. Widmer previously authored (under the name Edward L. Widmer) Young America: The Flowering of Democracy in New York City (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999); and coauthored with Arthur Schlesinger Jr. a biography of Martin Van Buren, Martin Van Buren (New York: Times Books, 2005). He also edited two collections on American political oratory for the Modern American Library. Currently, he serves as the director of the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University, and before that served as speechwriter and foreign policy advisor for President Bill Clinton.

Printable Version: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showpdf.php?id=24488

Citation: Don H. Doyle. Review of Widmer, Ted, Ark of the Liberties: America and the World. H-Diplo, H-Net Reviews. April, 2009. URL: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=24488

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Author: Markus Mosslang, Torstan Riotte, eds.
Reviewer: Linda S. Frey

Markus Mosslang, Torstan Riotte, eds. The Diplomats' World: The Cultural History of Diplomacy, 1815-1914. Studies of the German Historical Institute London Series. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. 480 pp. $140.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-19-954867-5.

Reviewed by Linda S. Frey (University of Montana) Published on H-Diplo (April, 2009) Commissioned by Christopher L. Ball

Men Who Lie Abroad: Diplomats and Their World in the Nineteenth Century

European diplomatic historians, an increasingly extinct species, especially in the United States, will welcome this volume.[1] Although reviewing books is often a thankless task, this book, studded with gems, was not. Based on a conference held at the German Historical Institute London in September 2005, The Diplomats’ World consists of an excellent introduction and fifteen papers, which revolve around a common theme: diplomatic culture and its impact on interstate relations in the long nineteenth century when the diplomatic network both contracted with the unification of Italy and Germany and expanded with the addition of non-European states.

In part 1, “The Diplomatic Establishment,” T. G. Otto (“‘Outdoor Relief for the Aristocracy?’ European Nobility and Diplomacy, 1850-1914”) provides a useful recapitulation of current knowledge on the aristocratic dominance of and bias in the diplomatic corps prior to World War I. He compares the diplomatic corps in the major European states and underscores their extensive family ties and the recourse to nobilitation to tap into the talented middle class. William D. Godsey Jr. carries on this theme and examines two reform efforts by Adolf von Plason, a section councillor and later court and ministerial councillor, and Baron, later Count, Alois Aehrenthal, foreign minister (“The Culture of Diplomacy and Reform in the Austro-Hungarian Foreign Office, 1867-1914”). Their respective backgrounds, Plason in the administration and Aehrenthal in the diplomatic corps, predictably influenced their stances. Plason criticized what he saw as the declining intellectual rigor and the absence of a culture of merit, while Aehrenthal focused on requiring administrative experience and reforming the admissions tests. Nonetheless, admission requirements were often waived with the notable exception of the insistence on a substantial income, as diplomatic pay was poor and did not cover necessary expenses. The Austro-Hungarian diplomatic corps, like others in Europe, was dominated by the aristocracy, but unlike its counterpart in Germany was not militarized. For the foreign office, birth and breeding remained the prime determinants for appointment. In contrast, Saho Matsumoto-Best concentrates on a little-known area, the relationship between art and diplomacy (“The Art of Diplomacy: British Diplomats and the Collection of Italian Renaissance Paintings, 1851-1917”). He analyzes how British diplomats often endeavored to collect art and the tactics they employed, not only for their own collections but also for the National Gallery; they often violated the law and relied on bribes to get desired art work back to Britain. The wrangling over disposition of the art collection of Sir Henry Austin Layard, who brought his collection to his home in Venice and unfortunately died there, highlighted the legal issues and the importance of personal contacts. Layard had stipulated in his will that his collection be given to the National Gallery, but Italian laws prohibiting the export of works of art and their increasingly rigorous application after the unification posed numerous difficulties for his executors. Although Layard died in 1894, the collection was not exported to Britain until 1919. Matsumoto-Best’s sources are predominantly British. Had he consulted more Italian ones his essay perhaps would have had a different perspective.

William Mulligan (“Mobs and Diplomats: The Alabama Affair and British Diplomacy, 1865-1872”) and Dominik Geppert (“The Public Challenge to Diplomacy: German and British Ways of Dealing with the Press, 1890-1914”) examine the question of "Diplomacy and the Public Sphere," the title of part 2. Mulligan bases his essay exclusively on British sources at the Public Record Office and the British Library; he never examines the extensive material available at the National Archives in Washington DC. Confusingly, he begins with the third parliamentary Select Committee on the diplomatic service and its emphasis on cutting costs and improving efficiency. To derail these reforms, British diplomats used the American diplomatic service as a telling example of the disastrous consequences of such reforms. In part, this attack stemmed from the British experience in negotiating the Alabama affair. The author is not concerned with the legalities of the claims but rather the tactics, increasingly creative, that were employed to resolve it. For him, it represented a “clash of political and diplomatic cultures” (p. 114). The British commissioners were critically aware of the necessity of crafting a treaty that would pass the U.S. Senate. To achieve that goal, they tried to restrict public knowledge about the treaty as it was an inflammatory issue. Whereas Mulligan analyzes ways to limit public opinion, Geppert underscores the expansion of the public sphere in the nineteenth century, driven in part by the growth of mass circulation newspapers. Unsurprisingly, he notes that press management became a more important task of governments, especially the foreign office. A few colloquial expressions pepper the text, such as “stuck to their guns” and “rang alarm bells” (pp. 143, 157). He dubs the German type of press management bureaucratic because it tended to rely on offices and officials. The Germans also resorted to repression, such indirect means as funding certain papers or granting certain honors, and selectively releasing information. The British, in contrast, relied on personal contacts to influence coverage as the social worlds of diplomats and newspaper men were often, but not always, closely interlocked. The British also employed more subtle tactics, such as insistence on a dress code for admittance to certain events. Although Geppert stresses the basic differences between German and British approaches, similarities emerged, including limiting or privileging access to information and rewarding certain individuals. Geppert also briefly alludes to the first official visit by a German press delegation to Britain and the return visit by British journalists. Sadly, he underscores that these visits did not fundamentally alter the attitude of Teutophobes and Anglophobes, but rather reflected the dismal state of Anglo-German relations.

In part 3, "Public Politics and Diplomatic Protocol," Susan Schattenberg (“The Diplomat as ‘an actor on a great stage before all the people’? A Cultural History of Diplomacy and the Portsmouth Peace Negotiations of 1905") and Verna Steller (“The Power of Protocol: On the Mechanisms of Symbolic Action in Diplomacy in Franco-German Relations, 1871-1914") address the cultural aspects of diplomacy. Schattenberg begins her essay with an amusing but embarrassing defeat by an American envoy in St. Petersburg (1892-94), who lost a diplomatic skirmish with his British counterpart in an arbitration settlement. Although the American had the stronger legal position, he lost to his British counterpart because the Russians were swayed by other considerations: “influence, prestige and reputation” (p. 167). The British ambassador had a lavish house and entertained frequently, whereas the American minister had poor quarters and was unable to do so. Schattenberg uses this example to underscore the importance of cultural considerations in diplomacy. Just as the British ambassador won in this case so too in the Portsmouth peace negotiations, the Russian representative, again in the theoretically weaker position, also prevailed against the Japanese. Although Schattenberg underscores that many considerations influenced the final victory, she emphasizes the ability of Sergei Witte, the Russian representative, to win over the Americans, who found him appealing. He had mastered in short the art of bridging the cultural divide and making himself liked while his Japanese counterpart had not. In contrast, Steller focuses on the importance of ceremonial in Franco-German relations on the eve of World War I. She begins with the highly ritualized, but nonetheless tense, ceremonial that characterized the accreditation of the new French ambassador in Berlin after the Franco-Prussian War. This ceremonial, replete with critical symbolism, set the precedent for the reception of future ambassadors to Germany. The choice of Viscount de Gontaut-Biron was, on the surface, a strange choice as he was not a professional diplomat and did not speak German. He was, however, an aristocrat. After the Franco- Prussian War, although the new French Republic was tempted to abolish the old ceremonial because they regarded it as both “monarchical and aristocratic,” they did not because they thought it would lower their status in the international order (p. 199). Equally important, the French continued to send members of the old aristocracy as ambassadors because they understood fully the folly of not doing so. Thus, as Steller underscores, “the face of republican France continued to be shaped by aristocrats, both at home and abroad” (p. 200). Perhaps they learned from the mistakes of the French revolutionaries in 1789. She then segues into an analysis of Franco-Russian attempts to form an alliance and the inauguration of the Kaiser Wilhelm Canal before returning clearly to the topic of the essay and analyzing the French ambassador’s atypical and, in the view of some, humiliating departure from Berlin on the eve of World War I.

Part 4 carries on this cultural theme with “Diplomatic Encounters.” Anthony Best analyzes the confrontation between Britain and Japan (“The Role of Diplomatic Practice and Court Protocol in Anglo-Japanese Relations, 1867-1900”) and Sabine Mangold that between Germany and Morocco (“Oriental Slowness: Friedrich Rosen’s Expedition to the Sultan of Morocco’s Court in 1906”). For Best, diplomatic protocol reflects not only Britain’s goal of forcing non-European states, specifically Japan, into their mold but also Japan’s commitment to demonstrating that it was a “civilized power” (p. 235). Indeed, the Japanese developed what many diplomats regarded as an “exhausting fastidiousness” over such matters (p. 235). Diplomatic practice and ceremonial became “a symbolic battleground” between two very different cultures (p. 239). Two very different cultures collide as well in Mangold’s essay on the encounter between Friedrich Rosen, Germany’s envoy to Morocco, and the sultan. As evidence of the cultural divide, in his memoirs Rosen underscored the necessity of following court practice and traveling slowly to reach the sultan. Although a fast rider could reach Fez from Tangier in four days, diplomats typically had to take eleven or more days, an “established and unchanging part of diplomatic practice” (p. 260). Just as in the Europe of the old regime, aristocrats traveled slowly, so too in Morocco. In Europe, time was seen as increasingly valuable especially after the technological changes brought by the Industrial Revolution, whereas in Morocco every dignitary traveled slowly. Traveling slowly was clearly a political privilege. The sovereign was “master of his own time” (p. 278). Other foreign diplomats were not as sensitive to such etiquette and referred to them as “the bagatelles of protocol” (p. 276). Rosen, however, unlike many of his contemporaries, was a well-known scholar of the area and understood well the importance of adhering to local customs.

Part 5, “Representing the Republic,” carries on this theme of a cultural divide--but between republics, the United States and others (David Paull Nickles, “US Diplomatic Etiquette during the Nineteenth Century”), and the Swiss and others (Claude Altermatt, “On Special Mission: Switzerland and Its Diplomatic System”). Nickles points out the “tension between American domestic ideals and foreign diplomatic practice” as Altermatt does for the Swiss (p. 287). In both cases, the ideals of a republic seemed to militate against having a diplomatic corps. In the Swiss case, fiscal considerations weighed more heavily than in the United States. The United States’ attitude can be divided into three eras. In the first (from the Revolution until 1829), Americans attempted to reconcile existing protocol with the “needs and values of the republic” (p. 288). From 1829 until 1890, they  attacked a diplomatic culture they saw as “effete, aristocratic, and immoral,” and in the last, although Americans challenged existing practice, increasingly they made accommodations (p. 288). Controversies centered on diplomatic rank, dress, and the theoretical equality of states. Many in the United States, most notably Thomas Jefferson, associated ambassadors with wasteful spending and monarchical governments. Early presidents did not send anyone with a rank higher than minister, even though such representatives often found themselves at a disadvantage at protocol conscious courts. Jefferson was willing to send ministers to France and Britain but only chargés to Spain, Portugal, and the United Provinces.

He refused outright to send an ambassador to Morocco and instructed the United States’ consul there to inform the ruler that we never send “an ambassador to any nation” (p. 290). By the time Grover Cleveland became president, the American attitude had changed and he sent the first ambassador to Britain. Its growing status in the international community convinced the United States to send individuals of higher rank as differences in rank and precedence had obstructed access and ultimately American policy. The question of costume for American diplomats proved more problematic. The conflict centered on the question of republican simplicity versus prevailing standards. Benjamin Franklin’s stance reflects this dichotomy. When Franklin first went to France to secure aid he dressed in the court style, but later when he returned in 1776 he consciously ignored French fashion and dressed in unfashionable spectacles, a fur cap, and plain dress. While other American diplomats wore court dress, he eschewed traditional apparel and wore his hair unpowdered and undressed. As Nickles points out so astutely, Franklin’s appearance appeared to be “simple and unaffected but was actually nuanced and calculated” (pp. 296-297). A number of presidents later mandated certain diplomatic dress, not wholly successfully. The goal was to appear simply dressed, but all too often American representatives were mistaken for waiters or undertakers or lower servants. On one occasion, another envoy asked the American representative to call him a cab and the American wittily riposted: “All right, if you wish it, ‘you’re a cab’” (p. 306). Such rejoinders were not always appreciated. Some courts refused to receive diplomats who were not appropriately garbed. Queen Victoria, for one, was relieved when the United States abandoned totally black garb: “I am thankful we shall have no more American funerals” (p. 304). Last, Nickles deals with the issue of how the expansion of the international order affected diplomatic practice and led to repeated clashes, especially the Americans’ celebrated refusal to perform the kowtow. In the Swiss lands, too, the republican ideology, such as an aversion to the office of diplomat, clashed with monarchical diplomatic practice. While the Swiss often empowered honorary consuls (who cost nothing), they were niggardly about sending permanent paid representatives abroad. They preferred that other nations send representatives to them. Nor did the Swiss respect the rule of reciprocity that mandated the reciprocal exchange of representatives. Only international crises, such as over Neuchâtel and Savoy, impelled the Swiss to change their attitude. In 1857, the Swiss appointed Johann Conrad Kern as minister plenipotentiary to Germany, and, in 1864, they sent a permanent envoy to Turin. As late as 1882, the Swiss had only four legations abroad and by 1892, seven. In some cases only threats worked. In 1906, Brazil threatened to suspend relations if the Swiss did not send at least a chargé. By 1914, the Swiss had 11 legations abroad and 112 honorary consulates. Ultimately, strategic interests as well as the mandates of international courtesy convinced the Swiss to conform to international usage.

In part 6, “Outsiders in the Diplomats’ World,” C. R. Pennell (“The Social History of British Diplomats in North Africa and How It Affected Policy”) and Martin Ott (“Crossing the Atlantic: Bavarian Diplomacy and the Formation of Consular Services Overseas, 1820-1871”) examine the role of consuls. Pennell analyzes the role of British consuls in North Africa, specifically in Tangier, Tunis, and Tripoli, and stresses, unsurprisingly, that often policy was made locally because of slow communication and significant expertise on the part of the consuls who often remained in place for life. Local consuls were a closed elite; they had few social contacts and often felt isolated because religion and class separated them from the larger society. They developed not only working relations but also close social ties with other consuls. Not until the 1840s when communication improved dramatically did their power become more circumscribed. After the Napoleonic War, the consuls appointed were all former army officers. Until 1823, the Levant Company appointed British consuls who were for the most part merchants mainly because the pay was so poor. Later (1825) the Colonial Office and still later (1836) the Foreign Office supervised them. Although their primary duty was to protect British nationals and oversee trade, their job always had political overtones. For the most part, they relied on custom and precedent and, of course, local exigencies to set policy.

Ott piques our interest when he begins his essay on the Bavarian consular services in New Orleans with the tale of Benjamin Butler, a Union general in the Civil War, who, after capturing New Orleans, created an international furor when his soldiers stormed the house of the Dutch consul, confiscated a large sum of money (which Butler thought were misappropriated public funds), and “laid hands on” the Dutch consul (p. 382). When all eighteen consuls took the part of the Dutch consul and protested, he labeled the pretensions “too absurd” to be entertained (p. 381). Yet Ott never tells us the outcome of this incident nor does he ever spell out exactly what legal rights consuls had in the nineteenth century according to international law. Although Bavaria had no legation in the United States, they did have consulates--eleven of them--by 1870. These consuls were not established according to any master plan. In some cases, direct appeals to the king for a favor for a relative or requests from German merchants resulted in the establishment of consulates. Consuls were strictly honorary and received no salary but were reimbursed for expenses and could charge administrative fees. Many sought this honor because of its social prestige. Consuls who represented Bavaria had to be German (not necessarily Bavarian) citizens, live in the area, have an established professional reputation, and be socially prominent. For Ott, the German consul in New Orleans, Jakob Eimer, crossed the line between consular and diplomatic functions in, for example, reporting on political events, such as the siege of New Orleans, but surely such tragedies had an impact on economic activity. Ott relies, for the most part, on Bavarian sources and a very few American ones, but he might have acquired new insights had he looked at more of the latter.

G. R. Berridge examines the shrinking dragomanate of the British embassy in Constantinople on the eve of World War I and queries why it was so poorly staffed and the strategic implications for Anglo-Turkish relations on the eve of World War I. The dragomans (members of European trading families long established in Constantinople) served not only as translators but also as intelligence gatherers. Although the British and other Westerners as well periodically questioned their loyalty, officials often did nothing about the situation because of their respect, if not affection, for these individuals and because they saw no realistic alternative to what one ambassador referred to as “a detestable system” (p. 413). In 1810, the Levant Company, which paid them until its dissolution in 1825, forced through certain reforms, including the establishment of a language school and the awarding of various titles. Throughout the nineteenth century, attempts to infuse the corps completely with natural-born Englishmen did not succeed until 1903 when even then an unacknowledged Armenian dragoman still worked in the embassy. The denial of diplomatic status, the poor pay and low prestige, the drudgery of the work, and the few opportunities for promotion and honors meant that the service was poorly regarded and led one dragoman to complain bitterly of the “Byzantine dung heap” (p. 427). By the end of the nineteenth century, the dragomanate, “shorn almost entirely of its local expertise” and shrunk in size, had become a more dispirited, indeed sullen establishment (p. 429). Although the author acknowledges that even a far different dragomanate would have had difficulty in exerting influence, undoubtedly such an institution would have made more impact than the one that existed at the outbreak of war. The essay is well argued and the theses easy to follow, except for a puzzling reference to the Chabert affair, which he mentions but never explains.

Matthew S. Seligmann (“‘While I am in it I am not of it’: A Naval Attaché’s Reflections on the Conduct of British Diplomacy and Foreign Policy, 1906-1908”) takes an even more personal, yet outsider’s, view of the diplomatic and consular establishment through the lens of the personal diary of Commander (later Captain) Philip Wylie Dumas who served as naval attaché in Berlin (1906-08). Seligmann tells us a great deal about Dumas: his background, his shrewdness, his extensive travels, and his suggestions for reforms, especially the integration of foreign and security policy. Because few others in his position left behind such extensive diaries, we do not know how representative his views were. The author underscores the widely known homogeneity of British diplomats overseas: a narrow, exclusive, self-selecting elite dominated by aristocrats. In contrast, attachés, although also members of the British establishment, were not “an identical caste” (p. 436). Educationally and socially they differed from the diplomatic corps. In addition, a diplomat had to have a substantive personal fortune as the Foreign Office recognized. The importance of social contacts and the critical role of both formal and informal social occasions is underscored. Nonetheless, for Dumas, his service in the embassy was “delightful” but akin to living “on the edge of a volcano” (p. 460). The book ends hauntingly with the inexorable approach of Armageddon.

Note

[1]. This review was written with Marsha Frey, Kansas State University.

Printable Version: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showpdf.php?id=23681

Citation: Linda S. Frey. Review of Mosslang, Markus; Riotte, Torstan, eds., The Diplomats' World: The Cultural History of Diplomacy, 1815-1914. H-Diplo, H-Net Reviews. April, 2009. URL: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=23681

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
In: H-War
Author: United States.Army
Reviewer: Robert Dienesch

United States.Army. Instructions to American Servicemen in France during World War II. Introduction by Rick Atkinson. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008. 84 pp. $12.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-226-84172-4.

Reviewed by Robert Dienesch (University of Ottawa) Published on H-War (April, 2009) Commissioned by Janet G. Valentine

Through a Tiny Window

The usual focus for military historians is, of course, the military at work on the battlefield. However, it is often forgotten that soldiers are involved with more than just their weapons and the enemy. Behind the front lines, soldiers and civilians are interacting at a wide variety of levels. Often not considered or discussed, this civilian-military experience has a huge impact on how soldiers are seen by the local population, the cooperation they may or may not have, and the perception held by the soldiers of the places they have been.

During the Second World War, the U.S. government put out a series of pocket sized handbooks on the various countries that their soldiers would be fighting through. The goal of the project was to provide the average GI with some understanding of the peoples and cultures they would encounter. Hopefully, it would help them to have a strong and positive relationship with the local populations and avoid trouble. One example of this has now been reprinted under the title Instructions for American Servicemen in France during World War II by the University of Chicago Press. Complete with a new introduction by Rick Atkinson (which explains how the material was produced, and how important Dwight Eisenhower and the American leadership saw it), this little volume opens up an interesting window into the past.

Obviously, it reveals a great deal about the thinking of the American leadership with regard to civilian-military relations within France, but it also provides an interesting look into the United States and its views of the time. Written like a guide book, these instructions place the soldiers into the unique position of both visitor and public relations officer. As a visitor, the soldier received a wealth of small details that would make his or her life easier in France--everything from a small phrase book to insights on French history, culture, and the monetary system, through an understanding of the various districts and the regional differences within France. As a public relations tool, the instructions show the deep concerns that the U.S. government had regarding the conditions of the local populace, as well as the dangers that American soldiers could create by acting without thinking. For example, the simple fact that most of France suffered severely under the Germans, and that the local people often did not have enough food or even daily necessities was a potential problem. Careful to warn the reader about this, the instructions cautioned soldiers against taking from the families they met as the repercussions of this could have been severe. The concept that the average soldier would impact the local populace and therefore should be cautious of how they behave is significant. Usually associated with counter-insurgency doctrine and civil-military relations issues, the fact that this was a concern sixty-four years ago indicates that this is an issue that transcends the current crisis.

Interestingly, the instructions also reflect backwards on the United States. Their views of the French, shaped by wartime propaganda as well as a great deal of myth making since the American Revolution, reveals interesting insights into the United States of the 1940s. As such, this little guide book is a small window into two worlds, and is an interesting addition to anyone’s collection. Educators might find the text a bit more useful in this regard. Courses that deal with social and cultural impacts of conflict might find this small text manageable for assignments or even tutorial discussions; whenever primary materials are brought into the classroom it improves the quality of the class. It would be interesting to see the other volumes in the original series to compare the ideas put forward and the cultural stereotypes and perceptions.

While an interesting read, this small work does not fundamentally change our understanding of the Second World War. Rather, it shines a bit of light into a small area that is very rarely discussed. As such, it is a positive addition to most scholar’s collections.

Printable Version: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showpdf.php?id=24438

Citation: Robert Dienesch. Review of United States.Army, Instructions to American Servicemen in France during World War II. H-War, H-Net Reviews. April, 2009. URL: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=24438

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
In: H-War
Author: Jay A. Stout
Reviewer: Richard Bruce Winders

Jay A. Stout. Slaughter at Goliad: The Mexican Massacre of 400 Texas Volunteers. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2008. xv + 242 pp. Illustrations. $29.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-59114-843-2.

Reviewed by Richard Bruce Winders (The Alamo) Published on H-War (April, 2009) Commissioned by Janet G. Valentine

An Introduction to the Goliad Massacre

Many people know about the Alamo, even though their knowledge about the famous 1836 battle and its significance may be hazy.  But who knows about Goliad, an event which followed closely on the heels of the Texan defeat in San Antonio, and which actually produced more Texan casualties? Jay A. Stout contends that the answer is virtually nobody.  In his latest work, Slaughter at Goliad, the author promises to bring forth "the most comprehensive treatment yet on the slaughter at Goliad" (p. xii).  Thus, the purpose of his book is to shine light on the events that occurred in March 1836 around the old Mexican town of Goliad, and the Presidio La Bahía. 

Goliad has always been the poor step-sister to the Alamo.  Both were military disasters brought on by the inability of the leaders of the Provisional Government of Texas to set aside their personal grievances in order to devise an effective defense against the approaching armies of Mexico.  Throughout the fall of 1835, the Texan victories resulted in the capture of the strategic settlements of San Antonio and Goliad.  As factions within the Provisional Government bickered over what to do next, General Antonio López de Santa Anna showed no irresolution, but led his army back into Texas.

Two columns marched into Texas.  The largest was led by Santa Anna himself, and destined for San Antonio.  The second smaller one was commanded by General José Urrea, and it advanced on Goliad.   The key to understanding why these settlements were so important to both the Mexicans and the Texans is the knowledge that both were population centers, military outposts, centers of commerce, and crossroads laying astride the two major roads that traversed Texas.  The rebels and government forces did not just happen upon these places; they were drawn there by the dictates of war.  Strategic locations have to be controlled.

The Texas Revolution, the setting for the story of Goliad, should be viewed as a reflection of Jacksonian American.  Rampant egalitarianism made it difficult for the Texans to follow orders.  Samuel Houston, appointed commanding general by the Provisional Government, was told that he could not exercise any authority over the volunteers in the field because they had already elected their own leaders.  At the head of an almost nonexistent Texas regular army, Houston could merely suggest a course of action while he issued commissions and waited for his newly appointed officers to recruit their companies.  Two men who received commissions were William B. Travis (Lieutenant Colonel of Texas Cavalry) and James W. Fannin (Lieutenant. Colonel of Texas Artillery).  Respectively, these men--the first a lawyer and the second a struggling planter--were fated to be the commanders at the Alamo and Goliad.  Their commissioning is indicative of the common belief at the time that every American was a natural born soldier, and that no special training was required to lead citizen-soldiers.  As in government, commanding volunteers in antebellum America required the consent of the governed. 

James W. Fannin has come off poorly in the history of the Texas Revolution, an assessment that Stout supports.  The illegitimate son of a Georgia planter, Fannin struggled to find his place in life.  A brief and unsuccessful period of study at the U.S. Military Academy gave him a claim to military prowess that he did not possess.  Like many of his compatriots, Texas offered him the opportunity to reinvent himself.  Once the revolution erupted, Fannin (with his quasi West Point credentials) emerged as a community leader capable of mobilizing volunteers, something his elevation to such a high rank acknowledged.  As lieutenant colonel of the 1st Regiment of Texas Artillery, Fannin was third in command of the regular army, after Houston and Lieutenant Colonel James C. Neill, the post commander at San Antonio. 

Fannin quickly became involved in the contentious split that developed in the Provisional Government of Texas.  He sided with the General Counsel, which stood in opposition to Houston and Governor Henry Smith.  His supporters in the General Council rewarded him with a commission as Colonel of Volunteers, and an independent command of an expedition intended to seize and hold the Mexican city of Matamoros.  As such, Fannin controlled the largest gathering of Texas troops at that time. 

Fannin's headquarters was at Goliad where an old Spanish fort was located.  His inability to make critical decisions, coupled with the pervasive Jacksonian egalitarianism of the time, doomed him and his command to destruction and historical disfavor.  He failed to push forward to Matamoros.  When it became apparent that Urrea had already reached that place and was beginning his march northward into Texas, Fannin put his men to work fortifying the old presidio.  When the plea for reinforcements from Travis (who was besieged at the Alamo) arrived, Fannin first ordered a march to San Antonio and then, at the urging of his officers, countermanded the order.  Learning that colonists lay in Urrea's path, he sent a detachment to their rescue.  When that detachment was trapped, he sent another to assist the first.  In the meantime, Houston (who had finally been given command of all troops in the field, even volunteers) sent orders for Fannin to destroy the fort and to retire.  Fannin chose to stay, hoping that his missing detachments would rejoin him.  Once he did decide to leave the relative safety of the fort, Fannin allowed Urrea to surround his command and, after an intense battle, was forced to surrender to the Mexican general.  Fannin and his men were marched back to the fort, held for a week, and then marched out by the Mexicans and killed on March 27, 1836--Palm Sunday. As Stout and others have pointed out, Fannin's record is not admirable. 

Stout's work is not a campaign history of the Texas Revolution--for that, readers might want to see Stephen L. Hardin's book, Texian Iliad (1996). What Stout has done is craft a narrative of events leading up to, and then detailing, the Goliad Massacre.  In order to accomplish this, he relied almost entirely on the information posted on two web sites: The Sons of DeWitte Colony Texas and The Handbook of Texas.  To give Stout credit, he has combined the available primary sources into a readable narrative.  If you are new to the Texas Revolution, Slaughter at Goliad will be a fresh, engaging story.  But, more seasoned students of the conflict will unfortunately render the verdict no author wants to hear:  "there is little here that is new." 

The work is best classified as a trade book rather than an addition to the scholarly works on the Texas Revolution.  Stout’s almost total reliance on accounts published on the internet highlights the opportunities for research made possible by the web.  Nevertheless, he either failed to consult or failed to credit the not insignificant bulk of secondary literature on the Texas Revolution in general, and Goliad specifically.  There are no references (even in the bibliography) to Chester Newell's History of the Revolution in Texas, Particularly of the War of 1835 & '36 (1838), Hardin's Texian Iliad, Kathryn Stoner O'Conner's Presidio La Bahía (2001), Jakie L. Pruett and Everett B. Cole's Goliad Massacre:  A Tragedy of the Texas Revolution (1985), or Stephen L. Moore's Eighteen Minutes:  The Battle of San Jacinto and the Texas Independence Campaign (2004) There is no mention of John H. Jenkins's ten volume set, The Papers of the Texas Revolution (1973).Omissions such as these cast doubt on the author's depth of knowledge about the conflict.  It also makes it possible to discount what could otherwise have been "the most comprehensive treatment yet on the slaughter at Goliad" that Stout intended it to be (p. xii).

What are Stout's contributions if not in the realm of original research?  He is a talented writer who has pieced together a story that has been somewhat fragmented.  Thus, Slaughter at Goliad can best serve as a solid introduction to the killings at Goliad.  Stout also raises the important larger issue about what happened.  Was it a bona fide execution or was it a rank massacre?  Stout's title announces his position:  it was slaughter.

The Mexican government contended that the revolt in Texas was not really a revolt at all, but an invasion by "land pirates."  Volunteers from the United States, in small groups and organized companies, were indeed coming to Texas to help establish an independent republic in the breakaway state.  These men saw real links between the struggles of the American colonists of 1776 and the Texan colonists of 1835.  On December 30, 1835, the eve of Santa Anna’s advance into Texas, the Mexican Congress passed a law stating that any armed foreigner caught fighting against the government would be treated as a pirate.  Although not specifically spelled out, the implication was that this was to be a war without prisoners. 

At its core, the story of Goliad is about the treatment and ultimate fate of men captured on the battlefield.  Older literature on Goliad clearly proclaimed that what happened to the prisoners was a massacre.  What else could you call the shooting down of nearly four hundred men who had surrendered and thrown themselves on the mercy of their captors?  Moreover, subterfuge had been used to make the killings easier by telling the prisoners that they were being marched out of the fort so they could begin their journey to the coast, and then home.  Only the term massacre was strong enough to accurately describe the event.  Modern writers and community leaders sometimes blanch at the word, though.  After all, weren't the Mexican soldiers only following their government's orders?  The volunteers were considered outlaws (men outside the protection of the law) and Mexico had the right to treat them as such.  Even in 1836, however, many Americans and Mexicans had trouble accepting Santa Anna's claim that he was merely "following orders" when he insisted that men of Fannin's command be put to death.

Why should modern military historians care about Goliad?  The treatment of men captured on the battlefield (whether prisoners of war or enemy combatants) is particularly relevant following September 11, 2001.  I do not believe the canard that "one man’s terrorist is another man's freedom fighter."  Nevertheless, nations combating nongovernmental forces encounter the dilemma of what to do with prisoners.  As in the case of Goliad, it is possible to win the battle, but to then lose the public relations war in its aftermath.  One does not have to look far for current examples as to how this lesson still holds true.  Military historians would be well served to take Stout's advice to remember Goliad.

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Citation: Richard Bruce Winders. Review of Stout, Jay A., Slaughter at Goliad: The Mexican Massacre of 400 Texas Volunteers. H-War, H-Net Reviews. April, 2009. URL: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=24485

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Author: David Tal
Reviewer: Jeffrey W. Knopf

David Tal. The American Nuclear Disarmament Dilemma, 1945-1963. Syracuse Studies on Peace and Conflict Resolution Series. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2008. xv + 328 pp. $34.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8156-3166-8.

Reviewed by Jeffrey W. Knopf (Naval Postgraduate School) Published on H-Diplo (April, 2009) Commissioned by Christopher L. Ball

The Same Old Story

In this comprehensive account, David Tal examines state intentions with respect to arms control and disarmament negotiations in the initial stages of the Cold War. The book focuses on U.S. policymaking from the invention of the atomic bomb through the 1963 signing of the Limited Test Ban Treaty (LTBT), which outlawed nuclear weapon testing in the atmosphere, outer space, and underwater but not underground. This time period encompasses the presidential administrations of Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and John F. Kennedy.

In the introduction, Tal frames the book as an exploration of the reasons why disarmament has failed. Why, he asks, have so many people over the course of human history put so much time and effort into the pursuit of disarmament? “And why was it all in vain” (p. xii)? His answer is simple and sweeping: disarmament negotiations failed because no one wanted them to succeed. In particular, the three U.S. presidents who are the focus of this study did not want to achieve nuclear disarmament because they believed the United States needed to retain nuclear weapons for security against the Soviet Union. Hence, successive U.S. administrations deliberately adopted positions that were intended to ensure the failure of disarmament talks.

This appears to be a provocative thesis, but it quickly becomes apparent that there is less to Tal’s argument than meets the eye. Tal accepts the now standard distinction between arms control and disarmament. Disarmament eliminates all weapons, while arms control involves partial measures, such as numerical limits on certain types of weapons. According to conventional wisdom, disarmament is a utopian fantasy sought by idealists, while realists recognize that arms control is a feasible and useful tool of statecraft. When Tal claims the U.S. government did not want disarmament, he means this literally. He does not mean to imply that U.S. presidents also wanted nuclear arms control to fail; quite the opposite. Tal’s book is a detailed description of how, after an initial attempt at nuclear disarmament under Truman, U.S. policy shifted under Eisenhower to embrace the pursuit of arms control rather than disarmament, leading under Kennedy to the first nuclear arms control treaty. This is indeed what happened, but it is hardly news. The necessity of shifting from disarmament as a policy goal to arms control has been the central thesis of most scholarly work on arms control since at least the 1970s. Although Tal sometimes writes as though he has discovered something new and surprising, his book actually reaffirms the long-standing conventional wisdom in arms control studies. Nearly all histories of this period describe disarmament talks as little more than a propaganda exercise that neither side seriously expected to succeed.

The initial framing question of why disarmament has failed is hence a red herring. The real puzzle lies in Tal’s other introductory question: if everyone expected disarmament talks to fail and would have preferred to avoid them, then why did such talks continue for so long and take up so much government attention? The United States participated in talks on “general and comprehensive disarmament” (GCD)--involving conventional as well as nuclear weapons--from the late 1940s through the early 1960s. Moreover, as Tal makes clear, successive U.S. administrations devoted a lot of time to internal deliberations over how best to approach these talks. This is where the “dilemma” of the title comes in. U.S. leaders knew disarmament talks would be a waste of time and did not want them to succeed in any event, but they nevertheless continued to go through the motions of negotiating disarmament. Tal convincingly explains this seeming contradiction in terms of two factors. First, and most important, the U.S. government was highly concerned about international opinion. As long as the Soviet Union put forward new disarmament proposals, U.S. officials felt they could not simply reject those proposals. To maintain the support of allies and prevent neutral countries, especially in the developing world, from supporting the Soviet Union, the United States had to give the appearance it was pursuing disarmament, since that goal had appeal for much of world opinion. Second, America’s own self image constrained it. Given the tradition of Wilsonian idealism, U.S. leaders found it hard to admit that they actually had no interest in disarmament.

The book’s greatest strength is its thoroughness. Tal has done extensive primary source research, as is reflected by the fact that the endnotes and bibliography cover some seventy pages. Tal goes into such extensive detail that the reader sometimes feels like the proverbial fly on the wall, witnessing the back-and-forth internal debate over how to respond to the latest Soviet proposal or scientific breakthrough. This comprehensiveness, however, is also a liability. The writing sometimes gets bogged down in all the detail and becomes repetitive. Because Tal summarizes meeting after meeting, the book sometimes recounts the same officials expressing the same disagreements only to reach the same conclusions.

The American Nuclear Disarmament Dilemma also rescues from obscurity some now largely forgotten negotiations in this time period. Most histories focus primarily on nuclear arms control talks while treating other negotiations as not much more than a historical footnote. Because Tal is concerned with disarmament and not just arms control, he pays great attention to several other lines of negotiation besides the talks over a nuclear test ban. This includes the many rounds of fruitless GCD talks as well as the aftermath of Eisenhower’s Atoms for Peace and Open Skies proposals. Tal gives particular prominence to discussions in 1956-60 about creating limited inspection zones. The basic idea was to identify pieces of territory in both Soviet and Western bloc countries in which to experiment on a trial basis with on-site inspection. The idea created tensions between the United States and its allies, especially West Germany, and never led to an agreement. Yet Tal argues persuasively that these talks were important. They represented the first serious U.S. effort to negotiate a partial agreement that might be acceptable to the Soviet Union. As such, they helped change the dynamic of the arms talks, thereby helping pave the way for the LTBT.

Tal also deserves credit for restoring to prominence the role played by Harold Stassen. In 1955, President Eisenhower appointed Stassen to be his special advisor on disarmament, with cabinet rank. Stassen, a former governor of Minnesota and Republican presidential candidate, clashed repeatedly with Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and frequently exceeded his negotiating instructions, leading Eisenhower to request his resignation in early 1958. While Stassen served in the administration, however, he was the primary intellectual force behind the shift from disarmament to arms control as a policy objective. He also did a great deal to convince Eisenhower to negotiate seriously and be flexible in seeking a proposal that could be acceptable to the Soviets. Tal paints a nicely rounded portrait of Stassen, noting his personal flaws while also giving him due credit for helping engineer a major change in the direction of U.S. policy.

Tal’s account, while broadly accurate, nevertheless contains several flaws. First, he makes some claims without making clear what the supporting evidence is and in general tends to overstate his case. This is most problematic in his treatment of the Baruch Plan. This U.S. proposal, made at the United Nations in June 1946, would have created an international agency to control all aspects of atomic energy that have potential military applications. Once international control had been established, atomic weapons would be outlawed and the United States would give up its existing arsenal. This proposal represents the only time the United States might have been serious about seeking nuclear disarmament and is hence important for Tal’s thesis. The prospects for an agreement would have been slender in the best of circumstances, because it is unlikely the Soviet Union would have agreed to forswear nuclear weapons in a situation that would have left the United States as the only country with the proven know-how to produce the atomic bomb. Whatever slight chances existed for outlawing the bomb were dashed, however, by changes made to the initial U.S. plan by the chief U.S. negotiator, Bernard Baruch (for whom the plan is named). The relation between Baruch’s actions and Truman’s intentions is hence a critical issue.

Baruch was well known to the public as a wealthy investor and philanthropist. At the recommendation of Secretary of State James Byrnes, Truman asked Baruch to lead the delegation that would negotiate the administration’s atomic disarmament proposal at the United Nations. According to most accounts, Truman appointed Baruch because he believed Baruch’s conservative credentials and good reputation would improve the chances of getting Congress to approve any deal reached with the Soviet Union. The initial version of the U.S. proposal, known as the Acheson-Lilienthal Report, had been developed by a State Department panel advised by atomic scientists, including Robert Oppenheimer. Baruch objected to being handed a finished product, however, and insisted on the right to modify the plan. He added to the original proposal several changes that made the plan much more objectionable to the Soviets. He added a provision for automatic punishment of any violations, and, to help ensure this, he also insisted that the plan eliminate the veto power enjoyed by permanent U.N. Security Council members with respect to Security Council discussions of possible violations. The Soviet Union, not surprisingly, adamantly rejected any plan that would eliminate its UN veto. The Soviet counterproposal, dubbed the Gromyko Plan after the Soviet ambassador Andrei Gromyko, called for eliminating atomic weapons first before putting in place any international safeguards that could verify compliance. This was completely unacceptable to the United States, and thereafter the negotiations quickly devolved into a fruitless exercise in which both sides only sought to score propaganda points, exactly as Tal depicts them.

If there was any moment when the United States took seriously the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament, the Baruch Plan was that moment. It is thus vital to ascertain whether or not President Truman really wanted Baruch to turn the original State Department proposal into a plan guaranteed to be rejected. Tal claims this is exactly what Truman intended. He contends that, in addition to paving the way for possible Senate ratification of any deal reached, Truman had “another reason for choosing Baruch”--he knew Baruch would modify the Acheson-Lilienthal proposal in ways that would prevent any possibility of agreement, hence ensuring the United States would retain its atomic arsenal (p. 16). Tal does not see a contradiction between these two motivations, but if Truman wanted to prevent any agreement from being negotiated, why would he care whether his appointee could help secure congressional ratification? More important, Tal presents no evidence that directly supports his contention that Truman wanted all along for nuclear disarmament talks to fail. He does not quote or reference any archival source or Truman’s diaries. The endnotes that immediately precede and follow this assertion contain references to memoirs by Dean Acheson, Byrnes, and Truman, none of which say that Truman appointed Baruch because he knew he would wreck any chances for an agreement. There is evidence, moreover, that Truman may not have fully agreed with Baruch’s actions. According to both John Lewis Gaddis and Gregg Herken, Truman and Byrnes tried to persuade Baruch to back off from some of his proposed changes, but he got them to relent by threatening to resign.[1] This could be a sign the president and secretary of state were serious about wanting a deal and calculated it was more important to keep Baruch on board than to overrule him on the plan’s wording. Byrnes reportedly called Baruch’s appointment “the worst mistake I have ever made,” while Truman’s memoir describes Baruch in rather derogatory terms as a self-serving publicity hound.[2] This is not normally the way people would describe an appointee who had effectively carried out their wishes. Tal’s assertion that top U.S. officials never wanted the Baruch Plan to be negotiable is the only time his thesis of a lack of interest in disarmament is at all controversial. The fact that he provides no overt supporting evidence for this claim is hence puzzling.

A second problem area involves the book’s comparative treatment of the United States and the Soviet Union. Tal sometimes casts U.S. motivations in a fairly negative light while taking Soviet positions in the same negotiations at face value. Although his starting premise is that no one wanted disarmament, in practice, he often applies this thesis only to U.S. leaders while assuming Soviet leaders were sincere, at least in wanting nuclear disarmament. In discussing Soviet peace offensives in the late 1940s, Tal declares that “Soviet disarmament plans could not be regarded as mere propaganda.... It seems that, indeed, [Joseph] Stalin was ready to give up nuclear weapons if the United States followed suit” (p. 42). After describing a proposal offered in late 1957 by the then Soviet prime minister, Nikolai Bulganin, Tal writes that, without access to the inner circles of Soviet decision making, “We can only assume that the Soviet government was ready to pledge itself to the points he was making” (p. 121). In June 1960, after a summit meeting and hopes for a test ban treaty had collapsed in the aftermath of the U-2 incident, Nikita Khrushchev revised the Soviet GCD proposal to incorporate some Western positions. Tal asks whether Khrushchev really wanted complete disarmament. “According to his son, yes he did” (p. 160). Tal cites no other source in support of this conclusion and considers no other possible explanation for why Khrushchev, after turning his back on a real opportunity to reach a test ban deal with outgoing President Eisenhower, would have wanted to switch the focus to comprehensive disarmament talks.

Tal rightly points out that U.S. leaders were often excessively mistrustful of the Soviet Union. He notes, again persuasively, that this sometimes led the United States to reject out of hand Soviet proposals on which genuine negotiations leading to a compromise agreement might have been possible. But he overstates Soviet willingness to accomplish nuclear abolition. There are good reasons to believe that Stalin would not have given up the Soviet right to have nuclear weapons during the period when the United States had an atomic advantage. Nor were Stalin’s successors as pure in their interest in disarmament as Tal sometimes portrays them. In rejecting the assumption of many U.S. leaders that Soviet intentions were almost wholly malign, it is not necessary to adopt the opposite position and describe their motivations in the most benign light. The Soviets were well aware that nuclear issues could drive a wedge between the United States and allied and neutral countries, and both sides tended to treat arms talks as an extension of their Cold War competition. At the same time, there is abundant evidence that Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Khrushchev all grasped quite clearly how horrific nuclear war would be and all sought ways to avoid being dragged into a nuclear nightmare. In short, both sides had mixed and conflicting motivations. Because Tal only looks in detail at internal deliberations in the United States and not in the Soviet Union, his book presents an unbalanced portrait of the two sides. Readers see all the evidence for internal debates and hidden agendas in the U.S. government, but the behind-the-scenes considerations that were surely at work in the Soviet government as well do not receive the same attention.

The problem was not that one side wanted nuclear disarmament and the other did not. Rather, both sides saw the reasons to try to get rid of nuclear weapons but both mistrusted the other so much that neither was willing to make the sorts of concessions necessary to induce the other to sign an agreement. In particular, as Tal ultimately recognizes, inspection was the real obstacle to an agreement. The United States wanted more extensive on-site inspection to verify any agreement than the Soviet Union would accept. The United States did not insist on inspections simply to scuttle any possibility of agreement. U.S. leaders would have accepted an agreement with adequate verification, but what the United States deemed necessary was more than the closed, secretive Soviet government could tolerate.

As a third flaw in its account, the book is too dismissive of public opinion. Tal notes some occasions on which political leaders were willing to defy, at least for awhile, the majority preference and other times when, without any clear evidence of what the public wanted, government officials cited public opinion as a reason for advocating policies they already favored for other reasons. He overgeneralizes from these observations, however, averring that public opinion had no influence on U.S. arms control policy. Yet Tal’s own account belies this sweeping generalization. He describes several instances when public opinion shaped policy. In spring 1958, for example, Secretary of State Dulles abandoned his long-standing opposition to a moratorium on nuclear testing. Tal concludes, “The reason for the change ... was [world] public opinion” (p. 128). Eisenhower similarly cited domestic opposition to testing on more than one occasion. Tal tries to dismiss this on the grounds “there was no solid public opinion in the United States against the bomb” (p. 110, emphasis added). But this is a non sequitur. The absence of public demands for disarmament does not equate to an absence of demands to halt testing. Opinion against testing did exist, and it was to this Eisenhower was responding. So too did other leaders. Even Tal ascribes the position of British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan almost entirely to the strong public opposition to nuclear testing in Britain.

Moreover, even though Tal has an extensive bibliography, he does not include references to studies that have focused explicitly on assessing the role of allied and world opinion or U.S. domestic opinion. Tal tends to reduce public opinion solely to polling data; if there is no correlation between an opinion poll and policy, Tal assumes there is no public influence. Sometimes, however, the public opinion that matters more is the portion of the public that can be mobilized into public protest. This reviewer, for example, has shown that antinuclear weapons protest had an impact on U.S. arms control policy at several points during the Cold War. Most relevant for the time period Tal deals with, my work shows that Eisenhower did not really see a test ban as a valuable arms control measure and would have preferred to continue pursuing the ideas he first broached in his Atoms for Peace and Open Skies proposals. It was the test ban movement, both in the United States and worldwide, that persuaded the Eisenhower administration to elevate nuclear test ban talks to the top of the U.S. arms control agenda.[3]

Looking back over this time period, Tal concludes, “In the end, realism prevailed over idealism” (p. 243). But his analysis does not fully support this conclusion. In the United States, the most prominent foreign policy realists generally believed that nuclear arms control would be in the national interests of both sides and that verification measures good enough to deter Soviet cheating could be achieved. Yet, as Tal amply demonstrates, time and time again U.S. officials refused to pursue possible compromises because their mistrust of the Soviet Union led to inordinate fears the Soviets would find a way to cheat. As Tal himself describes it, the belief that the Soviets would take advantage of any possible opening to cheat was more a matter of faith than evidence, to the extent that Kennedy’s Central Intelligence Agency director did not bother to keep up with the most recent technological developments relevant to detecting clandestine nuclear tests. Tal accurately depicts the impact of this overwhelming mistrust, but when it precluded the United States from reaching feasible and mutually beneficial arms control agreements it can hardly be described as the triumph of realism. It would be more accurate to describe U.S. policy as the triumph of one strand of liberal ideology over another. Anticommunism and a more general suspicion of undemocratic regimes overwhelmed the disarmament impulse of Wilsonian idealism. U.S. arms control and disarmament policy in 1945-63 was really a battle taking place inside America’s liberal soul.

Ultimately, Tal’s stance of realist cynicism is too pessimistic. General and comprehensive disarmament is surely a pipe dream, and we are unlikely to see anything like the GCD talks of the early Cold War again any time soon. Disarmament accords covering particular categories of weapons are possible however. There are conventions that prohibit both chemical and biological weapons, and in the 1990s negotiations on a treaty to ban anti-personnel landmines were completed in a remarkably short period of time. None of these treaties have brought about complete elimination of the weapons in question, but the number of countries holding onto these weapons is much lower than it would be otherwise and the existence of these weapons bans has also increased the inhibitions against using these types of weapons. Some disarmament proposals, provided they do not aim too broadly, can succeed.

For those who have not previously learned about arms control and disarmament efforts in the early part of the Cold War, The American Nuclear Disarmament Dilemma provides a readable and thorough historical account of these interesting and important attempts to reduce the dangers of war. The book will also be of interest to scholars who specialize on this subject. The comprehensiveness of its recounting of developments in these years, and especially its extensive references to archival sources, make this book an invaluable reference for students of arms control. In recent years, there have been renewed expressions of interest in abolishing nuclear weapons, including by prominent former U.S. government officials.[4] For those interested in such policy debates, Tal’s book serves as a useful object lesson. Achieving nuclear disarmament has so far proven to be beyond human ingenuity, but more modest arms control measures have sometimes been practically obtainable and quite valuable. Hopes for eventual nuclear abolition should not lead us to neglect shorter term opportunities for arms control. As an old adage states, we should not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Notes

[1]. John Lewis Gaddis, The United States and the Origins of the Cold War, 1941-1947 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1972), 334; and Gregg Herken, The Winning Weapon: The Atomic Bomb in the Cold War, 1945-1950 (New York: Vintage Books, 1981), 169.

[2]. Byrnes quoted in Gaddis, United States and the Origins of the Cold War, 334; and Harry S. Truman, Years of Trial and Hope, vol. 2, Memoirs (Garden City: Doubleday, 1956), 10.

[3]. Jeffrey W. Knopf, Domestic Society and International Cooperation: The Impact of Protest on U.S. Arms Control Policy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), see esp. chap. 5.

[4]. George P. Shultz, William J. Perry, Henry A. Kissinger, and Sam Nunn, “A World Free of Nuclear Weapons,” Wall Street Journal, January 4, 2007.

Printable Version: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showpdf.php?id=24450

Citation: Jeffrey W. Knopf. Review of Tal, David, The American Nuclear Disarmament Dilemma, 1945-1963. H-Diplo, H-Net Reviews. April, 2009. URL: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=24450

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
In: H-War
Author: Raffael Scheck
Reviewer: Yannick Cormier

Raffael Scheck. Hitler's African Victims: The German Army Massacres of Black French Soldiers in 1940. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. xii + 202 pp. $65.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-521-85799-4.

Reviewed by Yannick Cormier (Université de Montréal) Published on H-War (April, 2009) Commissioned by Janet G. Valentine

The Unknown Massacres: Black French Prisoners in 1940

Historically speaking, the Holocaust, and the Nazi mass exterminations and atrocities committed in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union between 1939 and 1945 have always received more attention than other crimes that took place during the Second World War. For instance, a long-forgotten fact was the various massacres of African French war prisoners during the German invasion of France in May and June 1940, when German soldiers randomly executed black Tirailleurs Sénégalais. Raffael Scheck, professor of modern history at Colby College, recently wrote on this in Hitler’s African Victims: The German Army Massacres of Black French Soldiers in 1940. This book presents an interesting account of these events, and provides a fair analysis of the causes and motivations of the perpetrators.In four detailed chapters, Scheck presents an overview of the massacres of black French Colonial Troops, the number of victims(1,500 to 3,000), as well as the military events that led to them. In order to  illuminate the motivations that led the German invaders randomly to murder so many black war prisoners, chapters 2 and 3 give an overall analysis of a problematic that seemed unanswerable in this particular case: why did this happen? Chapter 4 takes a look at the implications of such events, and it integrates those atrocities into the gradual barbarization process of the German Wehrmacht that took place between 1939 and 1945.

In 1940, the French army included more than 100,000 black French soldiers from France’s African colonies, mainly Senegal, Mauritania,and Niger. More than 75,000 of them served in France before and during the German invasion; the rest of them served guard duty in the various colonies. As the Wehrmacht panzer divisions swept across France in May-June 1940, some of those black French soldiers (about 40,000 of them), mainly organized in black regiments or mixed units, were engaged in fierce combat against German soldiers. About 10,000 black soldiers were killed, some wounded, and others taken prisoner during the French debacle. Scheck states that between 1,500 to 3,000 black French prisoners of war were massacred throughout the campaign, either during or after combat. Generally speaking, Tirailleurs Sénégalais were treated differently from other war prisoners by the victorious army. The existence of a well-implanted anti-black racism and stereotypes among the German soldiers frequently resulted in the black French troops being separated from other prisoners of war. Fear of coupes-coupes (a hand-to-hand weapon used by the Tirailleurs Sénégalais that German soldiers considered a treacherous weapon), latent desire for revenge because of German losses, or simple racism, resulted in random massacres of black French war prisoners by members of the Wehrmacht.

The author’s investigation of what caused the slaughters is also interesting. Scheck gives a precise account of those situational factors and links them well to ideological ones, stating that racist Nazi indoctrination and stereotypes must be fully integrated into the chaotic context of fighting in order to explain the massacres. He remarks that there were no clear governmental or military orders authorizing such criminal behavior toward specific groups of prisoners of war in 1940. In fact, many of those atrocities were committed by heavily indoctrinated elite Wehrmacht,or Nazi military units like the SS Totenkopf, or the Gross Deutschland. Those troops were already (or would be, along with others, later on) held responsible for racist behavior and excesses, as well as mass murders during May-June 1940. Scheck avoids overall generalization on what happened to those prisoners by discussing the random character and inconsistency of the massacres. Readers quickly understand that not all black French war prisoners were executed, and that some German or French officers even managed to prevent such events from occurring. In fact, the treatment of imprisoned black French soldiers actually improved after the May-June 1940 campaign, especially in prisoner of war camps.

By linking such events to the absence of guidelines issued by the German army on the treatment of black war prisoners, as well as with situational factors, the author brilliantly integrates the singularity of such atrocities in a concept of an informal "race war"waged by theWehrmachtduring that specific event. First observed in Poland after September 1939, and culminating with Barbarossa and the Holocaust later on, this "race war"was part of a gradual process of barbarization and nazification of the German army that took place throughout the conflict. By differentiating the two types of warfare conducted by the German army in the West and in the East, Scheck smoothly integrates the massacres of those prisoners into the larger context of Nazi crimes, thus giving us anything but a short-lived historical interpretation of the behavior of German soldiers during the May-June 1940 campaign. In fact, the author successfully integrates the concept of Nazi racist warfare in the German western campaign, an idea that typically has not been assessed by traditional military history. He thus proposes an interesting, and new interpretation of German warfare excesses during World War II.

Scheck's overall assessment of the construction of anti-black prejudices and stereotypes in Germany with linkage to the May-June 1940 massacres is precise and well contextualized; he understood exactly how to integrate this long-existing racism into the events'causes. Wanting to assess the evolution of racist behavior in Germany, the author goes back to the early 1900s, namely to the time of Wilhelmian German colonialism in West Africa, providing context for the development of racist behavior toward black Africans. According to Scheck, important German anti-black racial stereotypes were linked to the use of Tirailleurs Sénégalais in the French army during World War I, and of black French soldiers in the Rhineland in the 1920s. In his view, racism was wellintegrated in Germany before and during the Third Reich, and had been frequently employed by Nazi propaganda after the outbreak of the Second World War.Thus, it explains the May-June 1940 massacres.

Even though the author cites some important sources for assessing the German behavior that led to such atrocities, the analysis of the motivations and psychology of the Wehrmacht and SS perpetrators could have gone deeper. Despite a contextualization of a "Kelman and Hamilton"model (p. 6), which suggests psychological patterns of authorization-routinization-dehumanization leading to massacres, this particular approach still presents some methodological limits, especially on questions of whether authorization and dehumanization allowed such atrocities in the World War II context. The methodologies used to assess the sociology and psychology of perpetrators could have been broadened to include specialized literature on the behavior of Nazis orWehrmacht members. This  would have offered an even better analysis of the situation. As well, more emphasis could have been put on the memory of those slaughters. Although it would have been difficult research to accomplish, the memory of survivors would have been an interesting theme to investigate.

Despite this criticism, Raffael Scheck offers us a valuable piece of historiography. This book is, and will remain, an impressive investigation into French and German archival records. In fact, it is difficult to criticize such a well-written example of proficient historical work. Scheck's book stands as a major reference for the historian interested in the events related to those massacres, as well as an interesting exploration of the ideology and mentality of the German Wehrmachtduring the French campaign of May-June 1940. The integration, and comparative analysis of those atrocities in the broader context of Nazi warfare methods is remarkable, and should be read by any scholar of Nazi war crimes or of World War II. In fact, this new evaluation of theWehrmachtand Nazi behavior is also a valuable contribution to  the history of blacks and Nazi Germany.

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Citation: Yannick Cormier. Review of Scheck, Raffael, Hitler's African Victims: The German Army Massacres of Black French Soldiers in 1940. H-War, H-Net Reviews. April, 2009. URL: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=24173

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Author: Julia Von Dannenberg
Reviewer: Bernd Schaefer

Julia Von Dannenberg. The Foundations of Ostpolitik: The Making of the Moscow Treaty between West Germany and the USSR. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. xvi + 301 pp. $110.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-19-922819-5.

Reviewed by Bernd Schaefer (Woodrow Wilson International Center) Published on H-Diplo (April, 2009) Commissioned by Christopher L. Ball

A West German Account of Ostpolitik

This book is narrower in scope than its general title suggests. It strictly adheres to its subtitle and focuses on the West German background of Ostpolitik between 1966 and the negotiations for the Moscow Treaty of August 12, 1970. Certainly it can be argued whether this treaty, in spite of its eminent importance, constitutes in fact the “foundation” of Ostpolitik, in particular when the latter is exclusively viewed from a West German perspective without including views from the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. All that said, this limited focus is applied extremely well and based on exhaustive research in West German archives. The book’s argument is made with concise points and is based on convincing evidence.

The first chapter “Setting the Stage” ploughs the ground of diplomatic contacts between the Soviet Union and West Germany from the 1950s all the way to the eve of the 1970 treaty. More new ground is broken, however, in the most interesting second part of the book where the author discusses, in an excellently researched chapter “New Ostpolitik--Whose Legacy?” the differences between the Ostpolitik of Willy Brandt and Kurt Georg Kiesinger. Brandt’s predecessor in the Bonn Chancellery between 1966 and 1969 was the head of a Grand Coalition between Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) and Social Democrats (SPD) and has been credited by many for his own “Ostpolitik.” For some, he even appears to be on equal footing in terms of innovative West German approaches toward Eastern Europe. While giving the CDU/CSU and Kiesinger credit where it is due, Julia von Dannenberg’s account makes unmistakably clear that Brandt’s approach in power from October 1969 represented clear change and a break with the past. The Grand Coalition under Kiesinger would never have been able to conclude a treaty with Moscow and subsequent bilateral and multilateral agreements in Eastern Europe. Any CDU/CSU chancellor was to be blocked by conservatives in his powerful parliamentary caucus. Only the complete sidelining of this caucus, as it happened for the first time in West German history in October 1969 after the formation of a social-democratic/liberal coalition, could pave the way for the bold and polarizing steps Brandt was to undertake in his policy toward the East. 

In a long, and somewhat oddly organized, final third part with four subchapters, von Dannenberg first addresses Bonn’s decision-making process behind the Moscow Treaty in detail. She competently outlines the rivalry between Chancellery and Foreign Ministry. The former froze out the latter’s bureaucracy, almost a parallel to the relations between Henry Kissinger’s National Security Council and the State Department during Richard Nixon’s first administration (maybe that is one of the reasons why, despite their policy differences, Kissinger and Egon Bahr felt as kindred spirits and got along so well). Next the author addresses the CDU/CSU tactics toward the Brandt government, again well worked from German sources but omitting other published evidence from U.S. sources.[1] There follows a subchapter discussing whether interest-group pressures were a factor behind Ostpolitik, and finally there is a survey of reactions by the Western allies. Yet besides German records, only British sources were used here. Dannenberg ignores the rich U.S. archival documentation on West German Ostpolitik available since 2001, so the book defines American policy from German sources in a partially misleading way. Nixon and Kissinger did not share their actual misgivings about Ostpolitik with representatives of the Brandt government, so the latter walked away with wrong impressions of the United States being supportive.

The book nowhere claims to analyze the Soviet part in all this, so, on the one hand, it might be unseemly to flag this omission. On the other hand, this is a book about the Moscow Treaty. The author is correct to note that Russian archives remain almost completely closed on this historical period.[2] Still, there is scattered Soviet evidence available in several Eastern and Western archives, and it is simply a pity that Soviet “Westpolitik” is not further discussed. It was the corresponding equivalent to the success of Brandt’s Ostpolitik, with Moscow’s long-term economic and political objectives intersecting and an imminent perception of a Chinese threat looming large. The latter made the Soviet Union more conducive to détente in Europe, yet China does not even make it to the index of the book.

When the author somewhat overstates the Moscow Treaty as “multilaterally binding,” she also could have discussed that this West German perspective fed into Soviet hegemonic claims over Eastern Europe and delighted the USSR (p. 33). Undoubtedly, West German Ostpolitik had to start in Moscow and conclude an agreement with the USSR first. Yet the Soviet Union did not hold all the keys in Eastern Europe. It could veto or block its satellites, but it could not deliver them. The subsequent West German treaties with Poland (1970), the GDR (1972), and Czechoslovakia (1973) were complex bilateral agreements very much in their own right.

In general, however, von Dannenberg’s book represents a welcome addition to the English literature on West German Ostpolitik under Brandt. It underscores how daring, imaginative, and consequent by West German standards that policy was at least in its initial stages. Though the author is denying this, it ultimately helped the evolutionary reform of Soviet communism under Mikhail Gorbachev that, in turn, inadvertently opened the path to the historical changes of 1989 and 1990.

Notes

[1]. Bernd Schaefer, “‘Washington as a Place for the German Campaign’: The U.S. Government and the CDU/CSU Opposition, 1969-1972,” in American Détente and German Ostpolitik, 1969-1972, ed. David Geyer and Bernd Schaefer (Washington DC: German Historical Institute, 2004), 98-108.

[2]. For some recent openings, see Andrey Edemskiy, “Dealing with Bonn: Leonid Brezhnev and the Soviet Response to Ostpolitik,“ in Ostpolitik, 1969-1974: European and Global Responses, ed. Carole Fink and Bernd Schaefer (New York and London: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 15-38.

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Citation: Bernd Schaefer. Review of Von Dannenberg, Julia, The Foundations of Ostpolitik: The Making of the Moscow Treaty between West Germany and the USSR. H-Diplo, H-Net Reviews. April, 2009. URL: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=23693

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In: H-War
Author: Jo McCormack
Reviewer: Christophe Gracieux

Jo McCormack. Collective Memory: France and the Algerian War, 1954-1962. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2007. 236 pp. $65.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-7391-0921-2.

Reviewed by Christophe Gracieux (Institut d’études politiques de Paris) Published on H-War (March, 2009) Commissioned by Janet G. Valentine

An Impossible Memory?

Jo McCormack, a lecturer at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia, offers a worthy study on a complex issue: the transmission of the memory of the Algerian War (1954-62) in contemporary France. Since the fighting came to an end, the memory of the war has been passed over in silence. It was indeed a particularly traumatic period. Not only was the Algerian War a fierce conflict in which torture and terrorism were used, and in which the French government sent more than one million conscripts to fight against the National Liberation Front, it also tore apart French society. Until 1999, the French State refused to call it anything other than "peacekeeping operations." Yet, this war without a name has created deep rifts between the various groups involved. As a result, the transmission of the memory of the Algerian War has been a complicated and painful process.

In Collective Memory, McCormack aims to assess precisely the extent of transmission; has France succeeded in turning this dark page of its recent history? To examine this issue, the author has chosen to focus on three essential vectors, which, as Henry Rousso has shown in his influential book on the memory of the Vichy period in France, Le Syndrome de Vichy (1987), are at the core of the memorial transmission process: the education system, the family, and the media. Analyzing in depth each vector of memory, McCormack uses a wide range of sources, from interviews with teachers, pupils, and historians, to educational programs, textbooks, and newspaper articles. He also often refers to collective memory theories, including those of Maurice Halbwachs and Sigmund Freud respectively. Furthermore, his work incorporates the significant findings of French historiography on numerous aspects of the Algerian War since the late 1980s. He fails to mention, however, Raphaëlle Branche's excellent historiographical synthesis, La Guerre d'Algérie: une histoire apaisée? (2005). McCormack pays special tribute to Benjamin Stora's La Gangrène et l'oubli (1991), a pioneering study on the French collective memory of the Algerian War.

McCormack successively studies each of the three vectors of memory he has selected. He first focuses on education, which appears to be a key institution for understanding the transmission of memory of the Algerian War in France. Since the Third Republic, the French State has given schools a central role in teaching national history and in trying to build a collective national memory. Offering a broad overview of what he calls "the educational chain" (p. 46), from the history program conceived by the Department of Education to the classroom, he shows how the Algerian War is marginalized in French schools. The program for terminale (the final year in French high schools), actually gives very little space to the conflict. McCormack even comes to the conclusion that the war is taught less and less. It is, therefore, not surprising that French pupils have nothing but a superficial knowledge of the Algerian War. Teachers and pupils mostly attribute this lack of attention to the baccalauréat examination taken at the end of the year. But, according to McCormack, the Algerian War is not taught because its memory is too divisive, whereas French republican school aims at transmitting a cohesive memory.

In the same way as he emphasizes the global failure of the educative vector, the author sheds light on the lack of familial transmission of the memory of the Algerian War. While many French families have been involved in the conflict in one way or another--as settlers, conscripts, or muslim Algerians who migrated to France in the 1960s and 1970s--only a few have talked about their experience of the war. Silence prevails in these families. It is particularly the case for harkis' (Algerian soldiers who fought in the French army) and Algerian immigrants' families.

Lastly, McCormack highlights the recent role played by the media in the construction of the French collective memory of the Algerian War. Through an in-depth case study of articles regularly published in the daily newspaper Le Monde in 2000 and 2001, he shows how use of torture by the French army during the war has surfaced since the testimony of an Algerian woman who had been tortured was published. The media coverage of this issue greatly contributed to weakening what used to be a strong taboo. Nevertheless, like the two other vectors, the media do not fill in all the memorial gaps. In McCormack's opinion, not only has the coverage of torture by the media been limited, it has not paved the way for reconciliation because it has hurt many French veterans.

Throughout the book, McCormack convincingly demonstrates that the memory of the Algerian War has barely been transmitted in contemporary France, whereas there has been a huge investment in the transmission of the memory of the Second World War. If the Algerian conflict seems less and less taboo, "very little has yet been discussed or resolved" (p. 176). In fact, the transmission of the memory of the war through education, the family, and the media has been far from exhaustive. Not much taught at school, not very often discussed in families, and subjected to a partial presentation in the media, the memory of the Algerian War remains highly fragmented among the various groups. Moreover, McCormack argues that the lack of work on the memory of the Algerian War has noticeable effects on current French society by nurturing racism and exacerbating tensions, because Algerians are still the largest immigrant group in France. The author tends to overestimate the memory factor in the building of these tensions to the detriment of social and economical factors, such as unemployment and housing conditions in French suburbs. However, it is true that children of Algerian descent have to deal with identity issues which partly result from insufficient transmission of the memory of the war. This is why McCormack urges the state to take the lead in commemorating the Algerian War and to "assume its responsibility in the conduct" of the conflict, in the same way that it did with the Vichy regime (p. 181).

This work suffers from a few minor weaknesses, such as the small size of the sample of teachers and pupils interviewed; a larger sample would have made the study more representative, as the author himself admits. A more detailed analysis of the transmission of the memory of the conscripts who were sent to fight in Algeria would also have strengthened the book.

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Citation: Christophe Gracieux. Review of McCormack, Jo, Collective Memory: France and the Algerian War, 1954-1962. H-War, H-Net Reviews. March, 2009. URL: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=24437

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
In: H-War
Author: Janet M. Hartley
Reviewer: Erik Lund

Janet M. Hartley. Russia, 1762-1825: Military Power, the State, and the People. Westport: Praeger, 2008. viii + 318 pp. $120.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-275-97871-6.

Reviewed by Erik Lund Published on H-War (March, 2009) Commissioned by Brian G.H. Ditcham

Very Small Dents

We have here that inevitable shadow twin, the book that the reviewer wishes he had read, obtruding on the business of the review. In this case, though, it is a pretty substantive shadow, all of chapter 8--"The Expansion of the State: Conflict, Assimilation, and Identity." There is, therefore, little reason not to lead with it. It is, following the inevitable invocation and rejection of the Turner thesis, a theoretically engaged, research-based discussion of scholarship on the Russian military frontier as a Eurasian "Middle Ground," with examples drawn from such appropriately exotic locales as Kamchatka. Alive to the literature, provocative and stimulating, a reply and an engagement with Bruce White, it is surely not just the reviewer who will see something of value in this chapter. There is a monograph here, an important one that we will all need to read, when and if it appears. If this chapter is meant to establish Janet M. Hartley’s priority, it more than justifies the monograph itself.

This is rather harder to say of the rest, for here we have another of the Greenwood Publishing Group’s now daunting shelf of slim blue contributions to military history. Like most others in the series, it is closely reasoned and well researched. It will do well as a footnote to a paragraph such as this: "By comparative standards, tsarist Russia at the turn of the eighteenth century was not a particularly militarized state. The financial difficulties that would become critical at the end of the Napoleonic Wars were already manifest, but again this is hardly exceptional. What was different was that instead of leading to a revolution or a fiscal-military state, save in the very marginal area of iron production, this crisis provoked Alexander I’s brief utopian experiment, the military colony scheme, which should therefore be seen as not only a project of long-term social engineering, but also as a response to a very real problem."

"Militarization" is a somewhat slippery concept, however. Both the strongest and weakest prongs of the argument are the demonstration that Russia had a lower military participation ratio in the eighteenth century than other European states. This is interesting and instructive, but weak in the sense that these are hard numbers to pin down, especially when paramilitaries are included. Hartley’s elegant demolition of the notion that the rhetoric of the noble service class corresponds with the reality makes a stronger case. The Russian nobility did not live to wear the tsar's uniform. An evaluation of the role of conscription in peasant life shows its integration into daily life as a tool of social discipline, rather than as an external, disintegrating force. The industrial impact of militarization (an anachronistic and ideologically driven concern, anyway, one suspects) was minimal. Even the notion of the soldier as member of a separate social state, figuratively dead to the village of his birth, requires reevaluation. And everywhere that the military sphere overlaps with the everyday, the potential impact of Old Belief cries out for reconsideration, at least to the non-Russianist reader. While it might be argued that Hartley has not done full justice to recent work on the Russian iron industry, this is the kind of footnote, and work, that closes down old escapes to cliché and moves the literature forward.[1]

Or it would if this book were read and cited. Greenwood/Praeger’s industry is praiseworthy, but rapidly approaches the counterproductive with the sheer number of relatively short and highly specialized titles in the catalogue working against any individual one getting the attention of a busy academic. While the difference between a monograph of this nature and the massive studies authored by, say, Chris Wickham, is invisible on an academic C.V., its impact on the wider scholarship is very different.

None of this is meant to suggest that this book is a wasted effort. On the contrary, a call number search reveals Hartley in close proximity to Christopher Duffy’s inevitable contribution but not much else besides. If a library is wise enough to add Hartley to the shelf, we can hope for an undergraduate essay or even a survey monograph that moves discussion past the point where the great pioneer of our field has left it. That is no small thing, and for this reason the review will close with one final complaint about the title. To be useful to the browser, the spine has to command some attention, and Russia, 1762-1825 might have been composed to deflect it. There is magic in this book. I wish it had been in the title, too.

Note

[1]. Ian Blanchard, "Nineteenth Century Russia and ‘Western’ Ferrous Metallurgy: Complementary or Competitive Technologies," in The Industrial Revolution in Iron: The Impact of British Coal Technology in Nineteenth-Century Europe, ed. Chris Evans and Göran Rydén (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005), 129174.

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Citation: Erik Lund. Review of Hartley, Janet M., Russia, 1762-1825: Military Power, the State, and the People. H-War, H-Net Reviews. March, 2009. URL: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=15567

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

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