The Measure of Diplomacy

More than 40 years ago, Gordon Craig and Felix Gilbert edited a volume called The Diplomats: 1919-1939. In that still-valuable work, a group of historians and political scientists assessed the role diplomacy had played in the years between the two world wars. Those were years of gross diplomatic failure, years in which the great powers, having destroyed one international system in the First World War, failed to create a new one in time to avert the Second World War.

In this sequel, appropriately dedicated to the memory of Felix Gilbert, Craig and Francis Loewenheim assemble a (mostly) new team to assess the role of diplomacy in the 40 years after 1939. Diplomats II opens with a rapid glance at wartime diplomacy, less than one-twentieth of the book, and then devotes nearly 700 pages to the first 25 years of the Cold War. The latter were years of relative diplomatic success, years in which the great powers, despite bitter ideological differences, avoided a third world war and in which the democratic nations laid the foundation for their eventual victory.

The two volumes differ somewhat in coverage and approach. Diplomats I concentrated on Europe and the United States. Japan received only 1 of 21 chapters; China, India, the Middle East, Latin America, Canada, Australia and Africa, none at all. Diplomats II gives 6 of 23 chapters to Asia and the Middle East, though Latin America, Africa, Canada and Australia are still ignored.

Diplomats I was less interested in the political leaders who made foreign policy than in the diplomats who executed it, envoys in the field and officials in the chancelleries. The book contained chapters on Schulenberg and Dirksen rather than Hitler; on Rumbold, Henderson and Perth rather than Baldwin and Chamberlain; on Chicherin and Litvinov rather than Stalin; on Dodd, Bullitt and Kennedy rather than Roosevelt, not that these diplomats, especially the Americans and the Russians, were professionals in the traditional sense.

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