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

4.0 out of 5 stars 47 customer reviews

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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

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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 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,581,413 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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This is a very fine book by a first-rate historian that covers the critical period in which the Cold War began. It is easily one of the best works available on the topic, but it does have some weaknesses in terms of Dallek's tendency on some occasions to fall back on mythology rather than draw the proper conclusions from his facts. For example, he provides one example after the next of Harry Truman's fierce anti-Soviet bias and his dubious decisions in dealing with Stalin and other world leaders, yet he buys into the myth of Truman as the common-man-turned-President who did a solid job despite his lack of education or preparation for leading the nation. Likewise, Dallek is much harder on Stalin than the Soviet dictator deserves. Stalin was a cruel and ruthless man who certainly was far more of a villain than a hero, but he also managed to get his country through World War Two at a time when none of his allies were offering much help. FDR had promised to open a "second front" by invading France in 1942, but did not get around to keeping that promise for two additional years while the Russians bore the brunt of the fight against Hitler -- something FDR readily admitted and was embarrassed by. Dallek keeps scolding Stalin for being so unwilling to trust the U.S. and England but does not make it clear to the reader that that mistrust had a long and justified history. In general, Stalin tended to break all the rules within his own country, but was careful to keep his word on the international scene, which was why FDR was confident he could deal with him in the postwar period. Truman, with his simplistic frame of mind, could not understand that and, as a result, was probably even more responsible than Stalin for bringing about the Cold War.Read more ›
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