This massive distillation of the perceptions and policy prescriptions of the national security establishment of the Truman years can be seen as a scholar's elaboration of Dean Acheson's concept of "the Creation." It is policy history based on years of exhaustive research in government archives and private papers, but not diplomatic history because no non-American primary sources are used. Leffler's judgment on Truman's men and their work is favorable: they were sometimes very wise, nearly always prudent (as is the man who wears belt and suspenders), and foolish primarily in overvaluing the strategic importance of peripheral areas. Acheson would agree. The apt title is taken from a 1952 argument of Paul Nitze that "to seek less than preponderant power would be to opt for defeat." That was the real American meaning of the oft-proclaimed admiration for policies based on "balance of power" principles. The Soviet view was similar, though their capacity to achieve such a condition for themselves was feeble.
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