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18 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rethinking the Wartime Coalition
This book is on a subject that has attracted attention ever since World War II ended: the World War II alliance and the origins of the Cold War. The author does a marvelous job analyzing how culture and emotion (as well as ideology) shaped perceptions of opportunity and vulnerability, of power and fear. Costigliola's character portrayals are fascinating. He captures...
Published on January 21, 2012 by Mel Leffler

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19 of 34 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars really, really bad
We are the middle of a wave of books which attempt to rehabilitate Stalinism and the Soviet Union under Stalin. The general technique is to avoid the traditional narrative in favor of "humanizing" the relations between the two countries. Rather than dealing with relations in the abstract, the lives of specific individuals are used to build up to a different picture of...
Published on May 29, 2012 by Mark bennett


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18 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rethinking the Wartime Coalition, January 21, 2012
This review is from: Roosevelt's Lost Alliances: How Personal Politics Helped Start the Cold War (Hardcover)
This book is on a subject that has attracted attention ever since World War II ended: the World War II alliance and the origins of the Cold War. The author does a marvelous job analyzing how culture and emotion (as well as ideology) shaped perceptions of opportunity and vulnerability, of power and fear. Costigliola's character portrayals are fascinating. He captures detail in ways that are both evocative and provocative. His careful reading of letters, diary entries, and memoranda is not only illuminating, but sometimes riveting.

Roosevelt emerges as the central character of Costigliola's analysis. Roosevelt kept the coalition together, remained the center of Churchill's attention, and inspired Stalin's affection, and perhaps even trust (although that might overstate the case). FDR's death in April 1945 was a decisive blow to wartime relations because Truman simply did not have the knowledge, experience, or personal habits and disposition to sustain what Roosevelt had accomplished during the war.

In the middle chapters of the book, Costigliola also dissects the values, habits, ideas, and policies of key Soviet, British, and American advisers -- career diplomats, military officers, and personal aides to the three wartime leaders. He shows how tradition, culture, values, experience, and beliefs shaped their outlooks and policy preferences. American diplomats, for example, expected openness and loved their initial experiences in Moscow (in 1933 and 1934) when the U.S. embassy was filled with excitement, entertainment, and sexual promiscuity. Subsequently, they deeply resented their personal isolation. They demanded access and freedom, traits that were embedded in their culture and upbringing; they had little empathy for the military exigencies, wartime devastation, and political imperatives of Soviet leaders. Like the British, they hated some of the personal traits and hygienic practices of the Russians. Their ethnocentrism and sense of exceptionalism were always operative, and especially notable and influential once Roosevelt was gone.

Costigliola makes us reassess the diplomacy of World War II and the origins of the Cold War. He shows how we need to think about personalities, emotions, and cultural sensibilities as well as geopolitics, ideology, and economics. Whether readers agree or disagree with his conclusions, they will see wartime diplomacy in an entirely new way and gain a new appreciation of Franklin Roosevelt's great strengths and weaknesses. They will see how his death reshaped the personal dynamics among the leaders of the victorious coalition and set the framework for the origins of the Cold War.
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13 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant and challenging story, January 21, 2012
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Richard H. Immerman (Philadelphia, PA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Roosevelt's Lost Alliances: How Personal Politics Helped Start the Cold War (Hardcover)
In this superb book, Frank Costigliola addresses a fundamental yet underexamined dimension of both the World War II Grand Alliance and the origins of the Cold War: the personalities as well as the personal relations of the "Big Three" protagonists, Churchill, Stalin, and Roosevelt. Of course there have been countless studies of Big Three diplomacy. Historians, including popular historians and scholars, have at most peripherally assessed what he refers to as "personal politics" (and instinctive politicians such as Dwight Eisenhower labeled as the "personal equation") as a causal factor, or a chief causal factor. What adds to intellectual heft of this study, and its value, is the concomitant examination of the deterioration of the Grand Alliance once the linchpin, FDR (and his circle), has been removed and replaced by Truman (and his circle, such as it was--see below). Thus it provides a different lens through which to view the origins and in fact the evolution of the cold war.
By personal politics Costigliola goes beyond the conventional "personality and politics" framework associated with political psychology to incorporate emotions (affect), cultural influences, sympathies and empathies, ideological predispositions, and more. Put another way, he embeds the personal in the cultural. As a consequence, Costigliola provides a first and second image synthesis that historians will welcome enthusiastically. Further, the presentation is so attractive and intelligible that it will be enjoyed by a wide readership, including those not intimately familiar with the story. Because the research is so extensive, the notes may intimate some--and will the length. They should not be deterred, or deceived. The writing is fluid,, engaging, and even suspenseful--altogether a terrific and informative read.
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12 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Important and Compelling New Interpretation, January 20, 2012
This review is from: Roosevelt's Lost Alliances: How Personal Politics Helped Start the Cold War (Hardcover)
Frank Costigliola is one of the leading historians of U.S. foreign relations in the twentieth century, as well as a past president of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations. In this deeply researched and finely written new book, he makes a most persuasive case for the importance of personal politics for the onset of the Cold War. Readers will find new insights into Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Josef Stalin, George Kennan, and a host of other key figures in the transition from World War II to the Cold War. Costigliola takes us inside the minds and hearts of people we already thought we knew, and shows us a great deal that we did not know. This is exciting, first-rate history from a most distinguished historian.
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10 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Roosevelt's Found Friends: How Excellent Writing and New Research Helped Explain the Cold War, January 20, 2012
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This review is from: Roosevelt's Lost Alliances: How Personal Politics Helped Start the Cold War (Hardcover)
Historians, History Buffs and Lay Readers owe a considerable debt to Professor Frank Costigliola for this brilliant new interpretation of the Cold War and its origins. Here is what it contains: masterful, crisp, clear writing, so fluid in its style and flow that it sweeps the reader through the dangers of turgid Cold War polemics . . . and subtle new interpretations that shed light on how decisions were made.

Costigliola achieves this remarkable feat by mining newly accessible archival materials and probing older interpretations. He takes the mark of the characters and relationships of the principals using new tools and keen critical eye. He not only explains how decisions were made, but suggests alternative explanations and attempts to show us what could have happened if that other road was taken.

He does this with grace and style . . . humor and wit . . . pulling the veil back on the relationships between the characters who shaped our post-war world. History should not be such a good read!
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6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating, deeply researched book., May 7, 2012
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This review is from: Roosevelt's Lost Alliances: How Personal Politics Helped Start the Cold War (Hardcover)
On May 31, 1967, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., among the most eminent American historians of his generation, author of quintessential American Cold War document, The Vital Center, advisor to presidents, convened an "off-the-record seminar" with two elderly grey eminences who had been "present at the creation" of the American national security state: John J. McCloy and W. Averell Harriman. Schlesinger asked Harriman: "When do you think Stalin became irrational?" Harriman did not answer directly, responding instead that Stalin "was the ablest man that I've ever known."

Taken aback, Schlesinger pressed: "Even abler than Churchill, even than Roosevelt?" "Yes. Very definitely." The questioner tried again: When did Stalin begin "to lose--to go around mad"? Harriman explained that although the dictator's mental stability had indeed failed, that slippage had occurred only a few years before his death in 1953 . . . Undaunted, Schlesinger a few months later published in Foreign Affairs a widely read essay blaming the Cold War principally on "the intransigence of Leninist ideology, the sinister dynamics of a totalitarian society, and the madness of Stalin" (Costigliola, p. 9).

The madness of foreign rulers has an ancient pedigree. It was a favorite trope of Suetonius, whose mad emperors entertain us to this day. Aside from Caligula and his fellows, the ancients associated madness with barbarism and were particularly pleased to join the two in the figure of the mad oriental monarch: Xerxes lashing the Hellespont and the like. The cruelty of orientals was proverbial and particularly potent--if that is the word--when associated with women or men who engaged in sexual activities associated with women. Madness, barbarism, cruelty, the violation of sex roles all being signs by which we recognize them. Schlesinger, knowing Harriman to have been crucial to the reversal of alliances that took place after the death of Franklin Roosevelt, assuming that when asked he would designate the ruthless, cruel, absolute Asiatic ruler as mad, was caught off guard when Harriman not only did not do so, but said he thought Stalin "the ablest man" he had ever known. Best to draw a veil over an old man's indiscretions.

How many years must pass before clashes of nations and ideologies have sufficiently cooled for historians to produce stories that depict their actors in an even-handed manner? More, no doubt, than the scant quarter century since the end of the Cold War during which we have had history in the Schlesinger vein, revisionism, post-revision, etc. Now comes Frank Costigliola's Roosevelt's Lost Alliances. The book operates on two levels. The more conventional is "revisionist" Cold War narrative, pivoting on the death of Franklin Roosevelt. Roosevelt is depicted, somewhat unconventionally, as a consistent strategist, working toward a world order in which the Big Three (or Four, Roosevelt presciently including China), operating through the United Nations, would keep the peace and prevent a third attempt at world domination by Germany. Stalin's Soviet Union is portrayed as essentially defensive, consumed with mingled fear and admiration of Germany, seeking safety in a barrier of "friendly" nations on its western border--a border, it insisted, that must be identical to that enjoyed by the Tsar in 1914. (Stalin once remarked to his mother that he was "something like the Tsar.") Churchill and the British Empire are described least sympathetically, Costigliola adopting Roosevelt's anti-colonialist attitudes.

Costigliola's view of these matters is interestingly similar to that of the British Washington Embassy as the Grand Alliance soured into the Cold War: "The late President Roosevelt dreamed of, and strove for the ideal of one world in which the Big Three partnership, forged during the war, would be merged in the United Nations Organisation . . . The present Administration lacks the inspired leadership which marked the regime of Mr. Roosevelt."* Costigliola's story of the Grand Alliance is a tale about Roosevelt's personalization of the relationship between the three allied nations, keeping a dynamic balance, like a juggler on a balance bar, and how everything fell apart under Truman, about whom Costigliola finds little to admire. Fair enough, if venturing out a bit far onto the thin ice of criticism of the now beatified man from Missouri and praise of Rooseveltian people and policies later to be characterized as "dupes" and "fellow-travelling," if not worse.

Costigliola has a fine ear for the unconscious language of diplomats and politicians. The association of the word "penetration" with fears of the Soviet Union catches and holds his attention and leads to what will be the more controversial level of his analysis. This story is one of young love and middle age bitterness, the longing for Soviet ballerinas and the intimacy of diplomatic intercourse, anger at not being allowed to see behind the boudoir curtain and fear of the barbarous, savage customs of the other. It goes like this: In 1934 the first American ambassador to the Soviet Union, William C. Bullitt, had assembled a brilliant staff of young, Russian-speaking diplomats: Charles Bohlen, George Kennan, Charles Thayer. They enjoyed good relations with members of the Soviet government, who attended parties at Spaso House, and they conducted love affairs, as young men will. The rose glow of the love affairs at first colored their views of the Soviet Union itself. Then, the story goes, Stalin, like an evil wizard, arrested the ballerinas and stopped the parties. It was these men, embittered by their unrequited passion for Russia (and some Russians), who, with Harriman and Churchill, were instrumental in assisting Truman at the beginning of the Cold War.

It is an interesting story. One so very rarely hears about the sexual aspect of diplomatic decision-making. Perhaps if there were more stories of this sort Costigliola's would not seem quite so overstated. He seems most on solid ground in relation to Bohlen and Thayer and, in a cooler way, in regard to that unusually complex personality, George Kennan (whose diaries he is editing). On the other hand, President Truman is not known to have had love affairs in pre-war Moscow, nor did Secretary of Defense Forrestal, and yet they were at least as anti-Soviet (and fearful of Communist penetration) as Bohlen, Bullitt and Kennan.

The reversal of alliances in 1945 was abrupt and, as far as is presently known, one-sided. Churchill was contemplating mobilizing the Wehrmacht divisions under allied control in the West for an offensive against the Red Army early in that year (if not before). Lend-Lease to the Soviet Union (as well as that to Britain) was cut off abruptly and without consultation. The use of the atomic bomb on Japan was planned as much as a warning to Moscow as a demonstration to Tokyo. British diplomats were devising an arrangement of subject and client states all along the Soviet Union's southern border against the renewal of the Great Game and American planners were compiling lists of targets within the Soviet Union suitable for atomic bombs. Roosevelt had imagined he could create a new world in which the Big Four would keep the peace. Truman had no such dreams.

The ideology of the Cold War, from Koestler's hysterical cries to a Berlin crowd appreciative of hysterical orators to Reagan's speeches about an "Evil Empire" was intended to create a certain reality. It was, for fifty years, highly successful. Even those who had helped create it were convinced--or particularly they. Stalin was a mad man, an evil emperor, ruling a population of slaves eager to penetrate the West. Perhaps this fascinating, deeply researched book will contribute to a historical narrative of the period between the death of Roosevelt and that of the Soviet Union without fables about evil wizards and barbarian hordes.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars people, we just mess stuff up, February 16, 2014
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A great view of the people, personalities, fears, ideology and prejudges that brought us the Cold War. Some fresh points of view
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19 of 34 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars really, really bad, May 29, 2012
This review is from: Roosevelt's Lost Alliances: How Personal Politics Helped Start the Cold War (Hardcover)
We are the middle of a wave of books which attempt to rehabilitate Stalinism and the Soviet Union under Stalin. The general technique is to avoid the traditional narrative in favor of "humanizing" the relations between the two countries. Rather than dealing with relations in the abstract, the lives of specific individuals are used to build up to a different picture of events. Generally, individuals under Stalinism are presented as autonomous actors with their own agendas. The Soviet Union is thus presented as a sort of frothy democratic entity rather than a top-down totalitarian government.

By this method, "Stalinism" can be rehabilitated even if Stalin personally cannot. One can admit that Stalin was responsible for such and such crimes, but Stalinism remains innocent. When something bad happens, it's because Stalin orders it. But anything else that happens is the result of the mix of agendas within soviet life.

Katerina Clark's "Moscow, the Fourth Rome" attempted the rehabilitation of cultural and academic Stalinism by this method. Being Soviet: Identity, Rumor and Everyday Life under Stalin by Timothy Johnston tries to reverse the totalitarian image of the soviet system.

The author of this particular book seeks to rehabilitate the post WWII image of the Soviet Union and shift blame for the cold war to others. Costigliola attempts to turn Stalin into a rational actor politically and internationally. If Stalin is a rational actor rather than a totalitarian madman, an alliance with his regime based on appeasement is seen to somehow make sense. I don't find any of that very convincing.

He then turns to Americans (including diplomats). Through cultural and psychological analysis done decades after the fact, he reduces complex people into sock puppets who stand for whatever ideas are useful in pushing his thesis. George Kennan is reduced to a bitter man full of irrational motives toward the Soviet Union. The danger in Costigliola's approach is that his sort of amature psychological analysis of dead people can return practically any result he wants. Thus Stalin and FDR are rational actors because they pursue policies the author supports while Kennan is clearly disturbed for not supporting those policies. Historical events are neither here nor there because only the personalities of individuals somehow matters.

He quotes fools like the legendary Joseph Davies. The man who believed that Stalin's purge trials were fair trails uncovering real conspiracies to bring down the Soviet Union. The man who looted soviet museums of their art treasures. The man responsible for the insane film "mission to Moscow". The author uses Davies in talking about the "crisis" after FDR's death. According to Davies, Truman lacked a "will to cooperate". He was likely to be "sentimental" about issues like the fate of Poland and run to "snap judgments" without understanding kind Mr. Stalin's viewpoint. To question the imposition of a soviet government on Poland is treated by the book as if it were an insult to the Soviets. To question what the book itself admits was a soviet provocation over Poland is treated as undermining the Yalta system.

An example of the author crossing the line on interpretation of his subjects can be found on p. 326. He takes a quote by Bohlen about enjoying translating Truman's firm sentences directed at the soviets and adds a "perhaps" that says that Bohlen is "avenging" what he and other diplomats lost in the 1934 soviet purges by saying such a thing. When Bohlen complements Truman standing up to the Soviet Union, the author translates that into an attack on FDR and his policies. Costigliola is effectively reading things into his subjects that are not supported by fact or evidence. As well, speculative words like "perhaps", "it appears" and "may indicate" do not deserve the sort of outsized place this supposed book of history gives them.

Generally, Costigliola presents a subjective one-sided historical argument in support of the idea that the cold war was avoidable through appeasement of the Soviet Union and personal diplomacy. His extensive interpretations of source material differ based on the attitude of the individual at a given point in time toward the soviet alliance. Those who speak in favor of the alliance are rational. Those who speak against it are the products of negative elements in culture, emotion and politics as well as various psychological issues.

The book is somewhat correct in stating the obvious: That the wartime alliance with the Soviet Union was based a personal understanding between Stalin, Churchill and FDR. But what the book fails to properly understand is that such personal diplomacy cannot be sustained over the long term in democracies. Churchill was voted out at the end of the war. FDR died. Stalin, in contrast as a dictator, was not going anywhere. The unwinding of personal alliance of this sort between a democracy and a dictatorship was not only natural but somewhat inevitable.

As well, there was a politician who would have been likely to carry forward FDR's soviet policy. He was Vice President (until 1944) Henry Wallace. The removal of Wallace and the politics surrounding it are an important (if not critical) part of the story. Even in 1944 at the peak of the war, FDR was not a dictator nor did he have the absolute power to choose his successor.

The book in no way manages to convince that FDR's system of appeasement would have resulted in international stability or that it could have survived for very long after the war. Agreements such as Yalta were possible in the middle of war and with wartime censorship putting a damper on dissent. But in peacetime and without censorship in a democracy, it would seem impossible to conduct policy on that basis.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A New Perspective on the Cold War, August 13, 2013
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Frank Costigliola is a true historian. Yet, it was not a dry and dull history book, but a very readable and fresh perspective on the beginning of the Cold War. I loved how he compared the background, personalities, style and relationships of Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin. I think it should be a must read for any one wondering how the Cold War evolved.
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3 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Skimmed it Only, So Bear that in mind, October 17, 2012
This review is from: Roosevelt's Lost Alliances: How Personal Politics Helped Start the Cold War (Hardcover)
I'm giving this book a 3 because that's the neutral position. I do so because I've skimmed this book only. I may read this book in full, but probably not. I fear I fall into the Kennan/Truman 'trap' of considering Stalin a paranoid thug, a psychopathic personality, a man frankly more evil than Hitler. Sorry, but I fail to understand how the wartime alliance could possibly have lasted after the war, even if Roosevelt had lived longer. The Show Trials, the purges, the Holodmor, the gulags, the Soviet-Nazi Anti-Aggression pact, the invasion of Finland--FINLAND!--the Katyn Forest Massacre and others, the NKVD, denunciations, accusations of treason against children, the executions of those captured by the Finns in the Winter War as being contaminated by the West, the deportations of the Chechens, sending to the gulags after the war those Soviet soldiers who had "allowed' themselves to be captured . . . no. No more. No excusing it on the grounds that 'freedom' and 'democracy' had a different meaning to the Soviets than to the West, no excuses for needing to 'catch up' to the West . . . Imperial Russia had been doing that before the Great War, so well that Imperial Germany feared unless checked Russia would surpass it. There were those who felt they could work with Hitler, Stalin was one of them. There were those who felt they could work with Stalin, Roosevelt was one of them. I'll allow that okay, maybe Roosevelt and Stalin could and did work well together, that the wartime alliance worked as well as it did because Roosevelt had a good handle on Stalin. All the same, so what? Lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas. American diplomacy post-war made the mistake of confusing anti-Communist with being one of the good guys; result, supporting Pinochet, Franco, Marcos, Salazar and others, ruining America's reputation abroad. Getting cozy with that lot didn't do America any favours; thinking Stalin could be handled wasn't likely to have borne any better results.
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16 of 32 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A mixture of anecdotes, January 19, 2012
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This review is from: Roosevelt's Lost Alliances: How Personal Politics Helped Start the Cold War (Hardcover)
The only thing I can say about this book is that it fails to deliver. The central thesis of it which claims that Roosevelt's death increased the Cold War magnitude is hardly supported by new evidence. In the best case, this book is a collection of very well known facts, a mishmash of facts in the style of cut-and-paste and nothing more. In addition, the book is peppered with phrases like: "might have", "could have" and other similar efforts to create counterfactual history. Historians cannot predict the future. They can very well analyze facts or past events.
Conjecture cannot be part of a serious historian's tools. As the author writes: "The Cold War was not inevitable. Nor did the conflict stem solely from political disputes and the ideological clash between capitalism and communism."
And then,the following:"If Roosevelt had lived a while longer-indeed, he was trying to manage his health in order to survive-he might have succeeded in bringing about the transition to a postwar world managed by the Big Three". Read the book at your own risk.
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Roosevelt's Lost Alliances: How Personal Politics Helped Start the Cold War
Roosevelt's Lost Alliances: How Personal Politics Helped Start the Cold War by Frank Costigliola (Hardcover - January 16, 2012)
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