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The Tragedy of American Diplomacy (50th Anniversary Edition) Paperback – April 6, 2009
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About the Author
A former president of the Organization of American Historians, William Appleman Williams taught for many years at the University of Wisconsin and Oregon State University. His books include The Contours of American History, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, and Empire as a Way of Life.
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Unfortunately, the book was just as unbalanced as the mindset it critiqued. It was written in the grip of one (and only one) idea: that American foreign policy had been driven since the late 1800s by the goal of imposing an "Open Door" on the entire world in order to faciliate American economic expansion. That might have explained some U.S. policies in Latin America and China, but it was laughable as an exhaustive explanation of our diplomacy in World Wars I and II or the Cold War. The author, William Appleman Williams, oversimplified too much.
And if he did research in official archives, it barely shows in the book: footnotes and bibliography are non-existent; many episodes are recreated from speeches or magazine articles; and only evidence that supports his thesis is presented. Bizarrely, for a book that argues that economics determined foreign policy, there is almost no discussion of economics or analysis of trade negotiations! Instead, Williams repeatedly cites the political economy musings of American politicians and thinkers, as if these explained actual negotiations and diplomatic maneuvers.
Even sympathetic readers would admit that the opening of archives since 1959 has made "The Tragedy of American Diplomacy" seriously outdated. To its credit, the book was intellectually provocative and inspired a great deal of productive historical research. However, the field has moved on since Williams wrote. Not recommended.
Firstly author refutes orthodox view that accidental,inadvertent turn of events transformed America into a global power.Williams has argued market forces unleashed by private free enterprise economy dictated the growth of American power;it has also molded country's foreign policy and continues to do so.To comprehend this fully one has to understand the intricacies of Capitalism.
It goes without saying that Capitalism carries within it the seed of self destruction.Late 19th century American economy was convulsed by frequent bouts of economic depression which led to wide spread social unrest.Home markets saturated with goods which people find difficult to absorb as they had only limited purchasing power.'Frontier' had close down and country's leading intellectuals [William Jackson Turner,Brooke Adams,Alfred Thayer Mahan] frantically called for overseas expansion avert an impending economic doom
Thus economic considerations compelled successive American Presidents[Grover Clevland,William Mckinley,Thedore Roosevelt,Woodrow Wilson]to remake the world in America's image.Unfortunately this policy boomeranged because Afro,Asian,Latin American world refused to share American view
Iniquitous,unfair trade practised by US helped Washington to enrich in detriment to welfare of latter economies.This was closely followed by American tendency to externalise evil.It posits the view that other nations have a stake in America's continued,prosperous existence.This preposterous notion,according to the author, has been the starting point America's troubles.Actually problem lay in funamental nature of capitalist economy.Attempts to reverse this trend triggered counter revolutionary wars in Asia,Latin America.The above feature forms essence of this book;this idea continues to permeate the book.
Williams provide fresh interpretation on the onset of Cold WarHe holds Truman administration accountable for the coming of iron curtain in Eastern Europe.Firstly in immediate postwar years US taking advantage of its economic might tried to extend its 'open door'policy into Eastern Europe.Further exploiting atomic monopoly the President tried to reverse political order which emerged in areas under Soviet control.
We may pause here try to establish reasons behind America's post war hostility toward Soviet Union.Unlike Britain which during the days of the empire could invest and dominate worldwide, America upon the end of World War II inherited a divided world
Soviet economy wth its emphasis on industrial self sufficency apart from shutting the door US investment was in the process of curtailing imports substantially.With the success of Communist revolution 1/3rd of world's population had wrenched free from capitalist sphere influence.With so much production capacity lying idle,US by the end of World War II was haunted by a spectre of another depression.Challenge before America -challenges her still-wheather market will shrink.
Marshall plan leading to massive post war reconstruction Western Europe must be seen from this angle.Rebuilding war-ravaged economies stimulated economic growth in US.Thus in my opinion Marshall plan must not be construed as a manifestation of American altruism;it was motivated by economic self interest.
Author's stress upon market forces dictating the American destiny
broadly agrees with Marxian interpretation of History.Perhaps this was reason why Williams was dubbed Marxist,Stalinist by conservative,liberal elite of his country.This book deserves to be read by those whio believe current anti American sentiment sweeping the world stems from sheer envy for American prosperity.