Opposition Beyond the Water's Edge: Liberal Internationalists, Pacifists and Containment, 1945-1953.
The analysis in this book addresses the often-held assumption that the development of containment policy during the Truman administration met little opposition. E. Timothy Smith contradicts the supposition that the bipartisan support of containment reflected a unanimous public endorsement of the policy. This work provides a useful construct for understanding Truman's opponents, dividing them into two groups: liberal internationalists, who believed containment threatened the establishment of a powerful United Nations, and pacifists, who feared containment would provoke wars across the globe.
Smith's organization of opposition movements helps to sort through the plethora of groups dedicated to blocking, or at least amending, Truman's efforts to curb the postwar Soviet Union. Boundaries between these categories were not rigid; internationalists also wanted to avoid war and pacifists often supported a strong United Nations. However, by approaching Truman's opponents in this manner, Smith highlights the diversity of institutions that were brought to bear against containment.
This analysis examines several key transitional points in the development of containment, including the announcement of the Truman Doctrine, the ratification of the North Atlantic Treaty, and the outbreak of the Korean War. At each stage, Smith highlights the groups that led the attack on administration policies. This permits a rather detailed explanation of the primary issues of friction with containment policy.
What is missing in this analysis is a strong sense of contextualization. Smith notes that the American public was ambivalent toward containment during the first Truman term. He also argues that containment had become a political juggernaut by 1950. The question remains: why were liberal internationalists and pacifists unsuccessful in their early attempts to moderate Truman's call for an assertive military posture against postwar Soviet foreign policy? Moreover, it is not clear what happened to make the public and members of Congress so supportive of remilitarization after 1949. Containment was a radical policy departure for the United States government. Yet, in explaining why Claude Pepper reversed his position on containment, Smith merely notes that the senator was "shaken by the March 1948 coup in Czechoslovakia" (90). The reader is left to speculate exactly how the political crises of the early Cold War transformed political attitudes in the United States.
The discussion of elections is also surprisingly sparse. During these years, the United States experienced four national elections in which the Republican Party aggressively sought to wrest control of the federal government from the Democrats. These elections all had profoundly vitriolic moments, at both intraparty and interparty levels. Rather than weaving this tension into his analysis, Smith only provides brief discussions of Henry Wallace's split with Truman in 1947 and the impact of McCarthyism.
Smith has succeeded in describing the complex movement against containment at the end of World War II. He would have produced a more compelling analysis by thoroughly fixing the movement in the tumultuous politics of the period.
Karen A. J. Miller
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|Author:||Miller, Karen A. J.|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2001|
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