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FROM THE ANTHOLOGY: The World at War

Introduction

The attack on Pearl Harbor. Reuters

Foreign Affairs and its parent organization, the Council on Foreign Relations, were founded in the early 1920s by veterans of the Woodrow Wilson administration’s diplomatic and military efforts. Shocked by the country’s turn to isolationism in the wake of the Great War, they followed with increasing dread the world’s march toward yet another conflict during the 1930s. The pages of the magazine tracked the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, the growing conquests of imperial Japan, the stirrings of military preparedness in Washington, and ultimately the most devastating conflagration the globe has ever seen.

Seventy-five years after the United States entered that war, we offer this collection to showcase all that remarkable coverage, giving today’s readers a taste of how things looked to knowledgeable observers watching events in real time. As I combed through our archives, I was struck by just how well informed close readers of the magazine would have been about what was going on, why, and what needed to be done about it. 

Who knew, for example, that Foreign Affairs was running articles about the state of eastern European Jewry in 1937? Or that we published a fascinating portrait of how the French public gradually turned against the Nazi occupation? Or that the basic contours of the war’s long, complex military operations were understood and predicted so early and accurately? From Herbert Rauschning, Reinhold Niebuhr, and George Kennan to Henry Stimson, Allen Dulles, and Bernard Brodie, from William Langer and Samuel Eliot Morison to Rick Atkinson and Barton Bernstein, the authors included here constitute a galaxy of talent, and the result is both insightful and gripping.

From the mid-1930s to the late 1940s, world history changed course dramatically. At the start of the period, a few unprepared democracies tripped over themselves as they tried to resist the rise of aggressive dictatorships around the world. By its end, the United States was leading those democracies in the establishment of a fundamentally new and liberal world order that would provide unprecedented peace, prosperity, and freedom for billions of people for generations to come. This book tells the story from start to finish, with all the drama and turbulence in between; we hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed putting it together.

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