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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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