The author examines the views of three very different men in different positions at different times -- hence one has essentially three disparate essays, each marked by the author's intelligent but excessive emphasis on the role of biographical factors in the evolution of policy. In places this leads to facile psychologizing and dubious analogies to novels. The author, an American historian, emphasizes F.D.R.'s "profoundly solipsistic nationalism and sense of American superiority" and Kennan's "melancholy disaffection" with the United States and his gradual despairing of Europe's prospects for retaining its identity, free from American tutelage. Acheson, at first convinced of a special relationship between Britain and the United States, came to believe that only a credible American commitment to Europe could prevent a terrible spiral of seeming American irresolution leading to European neutrality, which would inspire a new American isolationism. The style of each man is vividly evoked; the book is thus a somewhat fuzzy contribution to history and, unwittingly, to nostalgia. We had different public servants then, and even their flaws were the other side of greatness.