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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Clear Vision of History,
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A NEW DEAL FOR THE WORLD is an excellent and timely book, incisive in analysis and gracefully written. It demonstrates how the imperatives of the New Deal and expanded outward into international affairs. Beginning with the Atlantic Charter (1941), Borgwardt captures the idealistic aspects of that document, while also indicating how American ideals and policy have worked in the postwar world - sometimes with good, sometimes with problematic aspects. Borgwardt stresses the importance of ideas, and she anchors her work in political and foreign policy history. She is learned on all counts. A must read for anyone interested in the issue of America and Human Rights.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Principles to Shape the Postwar World,
Elizabeth Borgwardt begins "A New Deal for the World" with a dramatic narrative describing a meeting between Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. In August 1941, the two Allied leaders shook hands for the first time on board an American warship in the Atlantic Ocean. There they drafted a public statement of Allied principles and war aims intended as a message to the nations of the world. Its rhetoric stood in stark contrast to the brutal nationalistic expansionist agendas of Germany, Japan, and Italy. The Atlantic Charter agreed upon by Roosevelt and Churchill sketched out a postwar world of free trade, national self-determination, and global peace maintained by an international organization. According to Borgwardt's analysis, the charter declared political and civil rights to be fundamental, implied that populations deserved some measure of economic justice, and suggested that individuals as well as nations had specific rights.
Many saw the charter as a ploy to win global support for the Allies through bold promises and noble rhetoric. Borgwardt suggests that even if this were the case, the charter was important because it created a new standard that the Allies would have to live up to or be labeled hypocrites. She argues that vision relayed by the Atlantic Charter inspired people fighting for freedom around the world. For instance, Nelson Mandela claimed that the charter "reaffirmed faith in the dignity of each human being" and served as an inspiration for his anti-colonial activities in South Africa (p. 29). Churchill disagreed with this broad interpretation of the document, framing its promise of national self-determination as covering only the European countries occupied by Nazi Germany, not third-world countries (particularly not colonies under British control). Roosevelt, on the other hand, explicitly stated that the Atlantic Charter applied to all the world's nations (p. 36).
The Atlantic Charter was not a legally binding international treaty; it was more of a statement of principles. When the press questioned Roosevelt about this fact, he emphasized that the document's legal unenforceability should not diminish its importance. He compared it other aspirational statements like the Declaration of Independence, the Magna Carta, and even the Ten Commandments (p. 43).
Borgwardt disagrees with historians who claim the ideological makeup of the Roosevelt Administration fundamentally changed as the nation shifted from depression to world war. She emphasizes the role true-believing New Dealers continued to play in the wartime government. In her view, "a new iteration of the New Deal was becoming nothing less than America's vision for the postwar world," as defined by the principles of the Atlantic Charter (p. 50). Borgwardt's research demonstrates that it was during World War II that the term "human rights" gained its modern meaning and shifted into popular use.
Borgwardt focuses on what she labels as the "multilateralist moment" in American political discourse at the war's end. Polls of the United States' population showed strong support for American membership in international organizations at this time. She notes that the American public did not voice this kind of globalist enthusiasm at the end of World War I. She concludes that one key reason for the increase in American trust of international agencies was people's experience with the New Deal of the 1930s. She argues that the programs of the Roosevelt Administration transformed the nation's perception of what governments and institutions could successfully accomplish. She also cites oral histories showing that overseas service during the war made enlisted men more cosmopolitan-minded and less isolationistic.
Borgwardt argues that the Bretton Woods Agreements, which created the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, were a product of this uniquely internationalistic period of time. She portrays these plans for the postwar global economy as an admirable attempt to avoid the type of trade wars that had been so damaging during the 1930s. There was some reluctance to accept these agreements among members of the United States Congress, and Borgwardt suggests that only the heavily multilateralistic zeitgeist of this period allowed the Bretton Woods Agreements to be politically viable.
The American people concluded that the creation of a United Nations organization was necessary to maintain global peace and security. Borgwardt notes that Democrats gained seats in the 1944 elections, and Republican isolationists fared badly. Some anti-internationalists who were still in office, such as Senator Arthur Vandenberg of Michigan, converted to the multilateralist cause. The United States Senate had defiantly rejected the League of Nations after the First World War, but in 1945 it voted overwhelmingly in favor of signing the UN Charter.
The United States backed away from initial plans to summarily execute captured Nazi leaders, instead opting to conduct a war crimes trial in Nuremberg. The Americans organizing the hearing drafted the Nuremberg Charter, which for the first time established internal "crimes against humanity" to be in violation of international law. Borgwardt rightly notes that signs of American hypocrisy were already showing at this point, because on the same day the Allies signed on to the moralistic Nuremberg Charter in 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb upon the Japanese city of Nagasaki. Nevertheless, Borgwardt portrays the Nuremberg Charter as a notable codification of Atlantic Charter principles. She insists that the Nuremberg trials set an important precedent by successfully doling out "measured judicial retribution" to the violators of international law (p. 247).
Borgwardt notes that, although internationalism quickly fell into decline after the "multilateralist moment" came to an end, the institutions formed in the mid-1940s had "the staying power to outlast the Cold War" (p. 251). She argues that the United Nations, the most significant of the fruits of Roosevelt's New Deal for the world, promoted decolonization and "helped resolve international disputes in...the International Court of Justice" (p. 270).
Borgwardt notes that, over the past 60 years, U.S. foreign policy has too often failed to live up to the principles of the Atlantic Charter. Particularly in the past five years, the American government has been rejecting multilateralism entirely. Borgwardt characterizes this trend as a dangerous folly. She laments the American failure to capitalize on a "refreshed reservoir of goodwill" from foreign nations in the aftermath of the September 2001 terrorist attacks (p. 283). Critics of "A New Deal for the World" will likely question its relevance in an age where American cooperation with the rest of the international community seems extremely limited. However, the emergence of American unilateralism may make the book more important, because it serves to show just how much American governmental action and public opinion about the wider world has changed over the past 60 years.
Borgwardt's trenchant analysis is, of course, not the only possible interpretation of Allied motivations. However, even if the skeptics are correct in assuming the drafters of the Atlantic Charter never intended to pursue the principles contained within that document, Borgwardt convincingly establishes that its precepts still retain significance, because they provided a foundation for the postwar international human rights movement.
Borgwardt's elegantly-written work effectively integrates compelling narratives with conceptual analyses. It includes both vivid descriptions of historical events and intellectually stimulating discussions of international law. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in American history, international relations, or human rights activism.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wide ranging and intelligent,
Engaging, erudite, and thorough, "A New Deal" is an excellent read. At heart, it is a clever and deft history of the building of the post WWII world order and the founding moment of the modern human rights movement. Borgwardt views this momentous historical moment through the lens of Roosevelt's New Deal. She details in turn the founding of each of the three pillars of the post WWII world order (the Nuremberg trials, the Bretton Woods agreements, and the U.N. charter) and presents a compelling narrative in which the founding of these institutions was a natural extension of Roosevelt's New Deal philosophy. Borgwardt draws a parallel between the New Deal belief that (domestic) economic security is critical to (domestic) political stability with the post-war project of building international security through encouraging human rights worldwide.
However, Borgwardt's book should not be classified as a mere history. Meticulously researched, it sweeps a wide net, pulling from an impressive variety of sources. She adroitly and effortlessly weaves connections across a wide array of disciplines: philosophy, history, political theory, economics and sociology to name a few. The result is a thought provoking book that does tell a history, but in a manner that challenges the reader to understand these post-war institutions in many simultaneous contexts. Because of the complexity of some of the subject matter, readers will benefit from background knowledge in some of these fields, especially economics or political theory. Nonetheless, the book stands on its own as well.
In our current political context in which multi-lateralism has become a dirty word in Washington, this book is even more timely and valuable. A must read for anyone seeking to understand the post WWII world order, the history of human rights, or the history of America's role in world politics. A recommended read for anyone else.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Something Human Beneath It All,
This review is from: A New Deal for the World: America's Vision for Human Rights (Paperback)
We are perhaps just now beginning to become accustomed to understanding the Cold War as a "blip" in twentieth century history, a sort of interregnum between World War II and whatever we mean by "postmodernism." It is the signal achievement of Elizabeth Borgwardt's A New Deal for the World to trace a sort of hidden continuity named "human rights," a movement that began dimly with the Hague Conventions early in the twentieth century, took on political power in the confrontational thirties, and emerged as an ugly duckling from the strange crucible of Nuremberg -- only to be instantly driven underground by the "iron curtain" worldview so cherished by political leaders from Churchill to Reagan. Since 1989, Borgwardt seems to say, we are at last back in the mainstream, a progression once known to Americans as the "New Deal," although Americans (in particular) may be the last to acknowledge it. Borgwardt's account -- historical, legal, and economic by turns -- is richly documented with archival material from many countries (including Nazi Germany), and includes character studies that will not be forgotten, from the truly admirable but unjustly neglected American official Charles E. Merriam to the ghastly but "amiable" Hermann Goering. This is a historian's view of the grim mid twentieth century that should be assimilated and given its due as among the most coherent -- and optimistic, for lack of a more scholarly word -- accounts we have.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential! Winner of the Merle Curti Award by the Organization of American Historians,
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This review is from: A New Deal for the World: America's Vision for Human Rights (Paperback)
This book won the Merle Curti Award by the Organization of American Historians. This is a terrific history! It is an essential book on American foreign policy, the history of the 20th Century, World War Two, and the human rights movement. It is a benchmark book on President Franklin Roosevelt's post-WWII vision and, thus, an essential book on World War II history.
First read the monumental Atlantic Charter, which articulated the war aims of USA and Great Britain. Read FDR's Four Freedoms, the starting point of FDR's post-war plan.
Elizabeth Borgwardt states, "The Atlantic Charter with Churchill marked a bold attempt on the part of Roosevelt and his foreign policy planners to internationalize the New Deal. FDR hoped to apply the lessons of the Depression and inter-war era to the world's burgeoning international crisis and to sidestep the perceived mistakes of President Woodrow Wilson at the end of the First World War."
The Treaty of Versailles following the First World War was punitive, self-serving to the victors, and disastrous to Germany economically, which destabilized the global economy and made many people bitter about the millions slaughtered in World War I. Wilson failed to win an acceptable peace despite lofty ideals. Then the people of the United States retreated into isolationism, disgusted with WWI. The world descended into the economic calamity called the Great Depression, Hitler rose to power, appeasement and international weakness encouraged Hitler, and 65 million people died in the ensuing World War II.
To prevent this from happening again, Roosevelt sought a general international framework based on the New Deal and FDR's Four Freedoms that would prevent world war three, avoid economic insecurity, encourage freedom and self-determination, and restore international security and prosperity for decades. The world tore itself apart and then built itself anew following World War II in FDR's vision (but not completely). This book explains how FDR's blueprint was conceived and adopted, starting with the Four Freedoms, through the Atlantic Charter, to the UN Declaration of Human Rights, and to post-war multilateral entities for security and freedom. Read the Atlantic Charter and then compare it to the Treaty of Versailles.
The Atlantic Charter became a statement of human rights to Nelson Mandela and others under colonial rule, and colonialism would subsequently unravel. The UN's Declaration of Human Rights advanced that even further. At the start, FDR did not support, for domestic political purposes, the idea of the UN, but he proposed and set forth the UN to be created towards the end of the war. Additional plans put in motion that post-war vision, although there were disappointments later and obviously did not reach all areas of the world. She shows what went wrong.
I especially recommend reading the final two chapters titled "Forgotten Legacies of the Atlantic Charter" and "An Expanding Vision of the National Interest." She singles out the legacies of Bretton Woods, the United Nations, the Nuremberg Trials, an integrated vision of security, America's multilateralist policies, and values that served the national interest.
The vision can still be advanced today, even if the vision did not fully transpire. One need only look to the world before WWII to understand the need and the positive impact of Franklin Roosevelt's post-war vision. Critics will nitpick, but looking at the broad picture, the impact is clear. This book is an important reminder of that pivotal history. Read the Atlantic Charter, which is a monumental document like the Gettysburg Address, Declaration of Independence, and Magna Carta.
To necessarily understand the New Deal and related economic history for background, I also recommend the books The New Deal: A Modern History, the chapter titled "What the New Deal Did" in Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945, and Empire of Wealth: The Epic History of American Economic Power. Also, read the Atlantic Charter.
Three other excellent books on the impact of FDR's foreign policy are Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion Of Freedom, which the Economist called "a masterpiece," Alliance: The Inside Story of How Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill Won One War and Began Another, and Imperialism at Bay: The United States and the Decolonization of the British Empire, 1941-1945. Churchill was a futile defender of British colonialism and initially resisted the Atlantic Charter, but he needed America's help. Also read The Cold War: A New History to understand how human rights, articulated in the UN Declaration of Human Rights, would play an important role in the Cold War and the eventual fall of the Soviet empire.
This New Deal vision that came out of the trauma of the Great Depression and horrific WWII, unfortunately, has been forgotten by many in recent generations, partly because people today do not know the great trauma of the Great Depression because the framework for security created by FDR through the principles of the New Deal banished those traumas from happening again. I would argue that the legacies of Roosevelt's post-war vision are global economic prosperity and free trade, international security regarding both military aggression and economic stability, human rights, an active USA in foreign affairs (in contrast to the isolationism before FDR), collective security, and multilateralism. The contrast between the ideals that emerged from WWII and the world that preceded it are striking.
Keep in mind that FDR was an unusually effective speaker, with his silver voice. He created a bond with millions of Americans through his fireside chats. He is consistently rated internationally outside the world as one of the greatest leaders in world history. So when Franklin Roosevelt talked about his post-war vision the Atlantic Charter, it made an impact. He persuaded people. For example, Ronald Reagan wrote in his autobiography that he idolized FDR and was deeply impressed by FDR's communication style, which Reagan modeled his style after, he said. Historians have said that Reagan would pretend he was FDR speaking, swinging around a cigarette holder. So when FDR articulated his vision to a hungry world that experienced the trauma of the Great Depression and WWII, they listed to his reassuring voice. This book tells the story of his vision: a New Deal for the World. I highly recommend watching Biography -- FDR: The War Years to understand the power of FDR's communication style when he talked about this vision. (This DVD is also free as part of the FDR: Men of Secrets DVD package.) The world changed.
In his last inaugural address to the American people before he died, as WWII was ending, FDR said, "We have learned that we cannot live alone, at peace; that our own well-being is dependent on the well-being of other nations, far away... [The American people] have learned to be citizens of the world, members of the human community. We have learned the simple truth, as Emerson said, that, 'The only way to have a friend is to be one.'"
Here is the text of the ATLANTIC CHARTER:
"The President of the United States of America and the Prime Minister, Mr. Churchill, representing His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, being met together, deem it right to make known certain common principles in the national policies of their respective countries on which they base their hopes for a better future for the world.
"First, their countries seek no aggrandizement, territorial or other;
"Second, they desire to see no territorial changes that do not accord with the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned;
"Third, they respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live; and they wish to see sovereign rights and self government restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them;
"Fourth, they will endeavor, with due respect for their existing obligations, to further the enjoyment by all States, great or small, victor or vanquished, of access, on equal terms, to the trade and to the raw materials of the world which are needed for their economic prosperity;
"Fifth, they desire to bring about the fullest collaboration between all nations in the economic field with the object of securing, for all, improved labor standards, economic advancement and social security;
"Sixth, after the final destruction of the Nazi tyranny, they hope to see established a peace which will afford to all nations the means of dwelling in safety within their own boundaries, and which will afford assurance that all the men in all the lands may live out their lives in freedom from fear and want;
"Seventh, such a peace should enable all men to traverse the high seas and oceans without hindrance;
"Eighth, they believe that all of the nations of the world, for realistic as well as spiritual reasons must come to the abandonment of the use of force. Since no future peace can be maintained if land, sea or air armaments continue to be employed by nations which threaten, or may threaten, aggression outside of their frontiers, they believe, pending the establishment of a wider and permanent system of general security, that the disarmament of such nations is essential. They will likewise aid and encourage all other practicable measures which will lighten for peace-loving peoples the crushing burden of armaments.
"Signed by FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT and WINSTON S. CHURCHILL (in Roosevelt's handwriting)"
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A New Deal for the World: America's Vision for Human Rights by Elizabeth Borgwardt (Paperback - September 30, 2007)