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Winning the Peace: The Marshall Plan and America's Coming of Age as a Superpower Hardcover – January 1, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
—Patti C. McCall, AMRI, Albany, NY (Library Journal, February 15, 2008)
During the spring of 1947, Secretary of State George C. Marshall promulgated what would come to be known as the Marshall Plan: a proposal to spend up to $20 billion to restore the infrastructure and economies of Europe, then still foundering in recession and poverty after the ravages of WWII. As Mills, American studies professor at Sarah Lawrence, shows in this elegant study, the plan not only offered relief but brought about a degree of European unity by forcing countries to work in concert to mend their fractured continent. The U.S. mostly refrained from influencing specific solutions, an approach that Mills argues the present administration should think about adopting today. The plan worked to the advantage of the United States as much as it worked to the advantage of noncommunist Europe: much of the economic aid supplied was to be used to purchase American merchandise, and legislation required that this merchandise travel on U.S. merchant vessels. Six years after Marshall’s first proposal, the U.S. had invested some $13 billion, and virtually all of Western Europe stood restored. This overview covers a complex subject straightforwardly and well. (Feb.) (Publishers Weekly, November 26, 2007)
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Top Customer Reviews
Prior to dealing with the Plan itself, the author provides several chapters of background history which, though not unwelcome, eventually become tiresome by dint of unflagging repetition of a few basic ideas, as well as a pedantic tendency to spell out full names and titles, when, following their first appearance in the text, a surname, abbreviation, or acronym would have sufficed.
By the time we reach the Plan in action, we are three-quarters into the book; consequently the Plan's implementation and ramifications receive rather less attention than do its origins, rationale, and political gestation. One feels that, given the preponderance of background, the foreground would have been more imposing.
Although the author's prose reads quite rapidly, especially if one skims rapidly though the various bureaucratic nomenclature and suchlike, one soon becomes irritated at the recurrence of certain pet phrases such as "breeding ground for communism" (three times in one paragraph on p26) or "America's coming of age as a superpower" (also the book's sub-title). Indeed, the term "Marshall Plan" is itself repeated to the point of cliche, often in congested proximity to persons named Marshall. This lends the entire text a certain amateurish quality reminiscent of many a typical student paper unperturbed by such matters of style.Read more ›
Nicholas Mills has presented an excellent discussion of the Marshall Plan, its importance, value, origins, problems, successes and failures. Since with my review, there will be four reviews with four different ratings, I suggest the potential reader visit the library and check the book out. In my opinion, my money and time were both well spent in reading this work.
At the age of 66, my interest in history has deepened in the past five years. Few of the books I have read in that time period (there have been over 200 others following the death of my wife) have been as informative and educational as Mills' work. If you have an interest in what happened after WW II, why 67 years later we still have not had a repeat of the world-wide magnitude of WW I & II although there have been many smaller ones, why we really ought to have learned our lesson with the first two, and why we should literally pray to God that we have the sense to never do that again, you need to read this book. I make reference to prayer not irreverently but seriously, because the next time we might not have a George Marshall with the credibility and persuasiveness to convince America to implement a similar program.
I am a Vietnam veteran, a retired Baptist pastor, and deeply believe in peace, but if America is attacked (again, as in 1941 and 2001) I will volunteer to defend my nation with my life. I know the truth of the statement "War is Hell", but I never realized just how much truth is in that statement until I read what WW II did to Europe.Read more ›
Mills sticks to telling the story of how George Marshall pitched and sold the Marshall plan both in America and Europe; about two-thirds of the book describe events prior to the events from just prior to Marshall's 1947 Harvard commencement speech to the passage of the Economic Recovery Program in 1948. (The other third addresses the implementation of the ERP and its eventual folding into European rearmament programs.)
In that sense, this book is primarily an homage to Marshall, arguably one of America's least-heralded, but greatest, statesmen.
It does contain some glaring omissions.
For example, there are no plates -- not even a single decent photograph of Marshall -- which seems inexcusable.
Mills barely touches on the (admittedly few and feeble) programs in place to aid Europe immediately after the war, except for a sweeping condemnation of them as collectively ineffective (which is true enough, but an examination of why seems to be in order).
While Mills does keep the numbers to a minimum (and there's not a chart in sight anywhere), it doesn't help his case when he refutes some modern thinking on whether the Marshall plan was effective, or even needed. Context is called for here, but we get none.
Aside from these annoyances, Mills makes a very strong case that the Marshall plan was an unqualified success not in terms of its financial levels, but in re-establishing the ability of Europeans to trade with one another, and in getting past age-old animosities and making Western Europe more reliant upon one another, thus guaranteeing peace.
Overall, an excellent introduction to the Marshall plan and a reminder of how fortunate America was to have George Marshall, when he was needed most.