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The Lost Peace: Leadership in a Time of Horror and Hope, 1945-1953 Hardcover – October 19, 2010


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; First Edition edition (October 19, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061628662
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061628665
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,489,788 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

After WWII, the most destructive war in history, everyone yearned for a better world. Veteran historian Dallek (Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power) delivers a shrewd analysis of why world leaders failed to deliver it. Reviewing postwar crises--Soviet occupation of eastern Europe, the creation of Israel, India's independence, France's occupation of Indochina, China's civil war, the Korean War--Dallek sadly concludes that the Allies misread history, eschewing anything that smacked of appeasement, treating opponents, mostly the U.S.S.R., as they should have treated Hitler. Without attempting to rehabilitate Stalin, Dallek asserts that Western leaders managed to push all his paranoid buttons. Notwithstanding their conviction that he aimed to conquer the world, Stalin was no apostle of world revolution but a conventional nationalist obsessed with protecting Russia's borders and maintaining his own power. Despite repeated painful experiences and immense expense, traditional, pugnacious power politics proved irresistible (except, ironically, to WWII's losers, Germany and Japan), Dallek concludes in this perceptive work. 16 pages of b&w photos. (Nov.) (c)
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From Booklist

Author of well-regarded presidential biographies, historian Dallek extends his interest in leadership to an interpretive essay on the origins of the cold war. Hence, the men steering world politics in mid-1945—Churchill (briefly), Truman, and Stalin—are critical in Dallek’s assessment of events. Accordingly, biographical sketches of them preface his account of their roles in the mounting tensions between the ostensible Allies after their victory over Germany. Events in 1945 and 1946 constitute the bulk of Dallek’s text, which has the Americans puzzling over Soviet actions in Poland, Germany, and Iran and Stalin’s historically significant speech of February 1946. Diplomat George Kennan’s explanation of Soviet behavior, in the similarly significant “Long Telegram,” galvanized Washington’s distrust and fear, helping congeal the cold war. Dallek’s explicit purpose in reflecting on this exhaustively researched history is finding leadership mistakes that worsened international tensions in the late 1940s. Conceding Stalin’s centrality as a cold war instigator, Dallek nevertheless disparages many of Truman’s decisions as irrational overreactions to the Soviet adversary. Bound to provoke debate, Dallek’s tome should engage the readership for world politics. --Gilbert Taylor

More About the Author

Robert Dallek is the author of Nixon and Kissinger, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, and An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963, among other books. His writing has appeared in the The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, and Vanity Fair. He is an elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the Society of American Historians, for which he served as president in 2004-2005. He lives in Washington, D.C.

Customer Reviews

Perhaps without the bomb, leaders would have renewed war, although it seems unlikely.
Harry Eagar
In particular, they have to be careful not to inject into their analysis of the past the sensibilities, values, standards, and hindsight of the present.
Nicholas Dujmovic
This is a very good book that is easy to read, and provides a wealth of information for any reader.
Matthew Smith

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Personne VINE VOICE on August 30, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The way you view the world may determine your reaction to Robert Dallek's substantial new volume. If you are an idealist, you will lament the many compromises that might have averted the Cold War, the disruptions throughout Asia, the post-colonial dictatorships of Africa. If you are a cynic, you will see the impenetrable mind of foe and ally, and base your policy purely on naked self-interest. If you are somewhere in the middle, you will see the glass as irretrievably clouded.

History is the sum of hundreds and thousands of individual decisions. Each decision has a specific goal, but over time the ripples of these decisions cross and intersect with results that can never be predicted. "The Lost Peace" serves as a post-mortem on decisions made at the end of the Second World War. The book opens in the last year of the war, with the uneasy alliance between Britain, the United States and the Soviet Union. Each leader--Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt--struggles to keep the alliance in place while at the same time seeking advantage in the post-war period. The book continues until the beginning of the Eisenhower administration, at which point the Cold War is solidly in place for the next generation.

In many ways, this history is a black comedy of misreadings. Stalin projects his own violent paranoia onto the intentions of other nations. Truman has difficulty in separating simple nationalist agendas (such as the rebels in China) from some monolithic global Communism. De Gaulle's desire to restore a broken French Empire leads to the deaths of hundreds of thousands in Vietnam. Each of these decisions is examined closely--some were bad decisions at the get-go, while others were the best that could be accomplished in light of available facts.
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32 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Konrad Baumeister VINE VOICE on October 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Robert Dallek's new book, The Lost Peace, intends to examine how the alliance victorious against Hitlerite Germany and militaristic Japan, so theoretically noble in pursuit of its mutual goal, fell apart and the world shortly faced not the relief of peace, but a Cold War lasting until the fall of the Soviet Union left the world with the United States as the sole surviving superpower. It specifically concentrates on the period 1945 to 1953, i.e. the end of the Korean war and the accession of Eisenhower to the presidency and Stalin's death.

Dallek is good when he discusses the paranoia on both sides of the future Cold War; serious mistrust began before WWII was over (as Hitler had predicted), and intensified steadily. Dallek's treatment of this problem, however, suggests that this (and many, many other conflicts and misunderstandings) could have been avoided through better or more contact, honest discussions and candid meetings. It is true that there was very incomplete and imperfect knowledge of the Russian thinking in the west. Further, this was complicated by the fact that the leaders of both the United States and Britain as late as the Yalta conference, were no longer making policy as of halfway through the Potsdam conference, whereas Stalin remained in place. But this need not have been; although Dallek does not mention it, perhaps because he doesn't believe it, Stalin had been working the same grand national strategy for almost twenty years by this time, making allowances for circumstances, and would continue to pursue it until he died. Concerns and even paranoia about the Soviets by those in the West are perfectly explicable when one looks at what the Soviets actually did and how they did it.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Nicholas Dujmovic VINE VOICE on March 8, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I had high hopes for this book because of the renown of the author and because I generally read a lot about this period in US history, the 8 years or so after World War II. Though the book has some merit in summarizing events, I believe it is flawed because of the author's decision to judge the leaders of the democracies during the early Cold War.

I am a minor historian myself, and I know that historians have to be careful in making judgments about the past. In particular, they have to be careful not to inject into their analysis of the past the sensibilities, values, standards, and hindsight of the present. To do so is to be guilty of "presentism" or "present-mindedness," which the dean of American history Gordon Wood rightly considers a grave professional sin.

Robert Dallek has decided that the leaders of the major powers during 1945-53--totalitarian tyrants, autocratic rulers, and democratically elected statesmen alike--"blundered" unforgivably in failing to secure global peace. As if global peace is the first virtue (some might consider the first priority for a US president might be American peace and sovereignty). As if the aims of leaders of democracies and those of dictators should realistically be congruent (there's a great deal of relativism herein). As if Robert Dallek, a famous historian but still a historian--has he run anything more than a faculty department?--is qualified to judge. So it's a frustrating book.

There's a curious sense of unreality when Dallek describes dictatorship, especially of the totalitarian kind. He professes amazement that "millions of people were drawn to mass murderers like Hitler, Stalin, and Japan's military chiefs." Drawn to mass murderers? Doesn't the question answer itself?
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