In This Review
The Diplomacy of the Crucial Decade: American Foreign Relations During the 1960s

The Diplomacy of the Crucial Decade: American Foreign Relations During the 1960s

Edited by Diane B. Kunz

Columbia University Press, 1994, 372 pp.

This outstanding collection of essays on American foreign policy during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations is somewhat marred by a misleading title. The coverage is from January 1961 to January 1969, not of the whole decade, and the use of the word "crucial" is at least questionable. But never mind. The essays themselves provide a comprehensive view of American policy toward the world in two administrations, based on the most up-to-date scholarship, written by some of our leading historians.

The most interesting essays are the overview by David Kaiser, the discussion of NATO policy by Thomas Schwartz, the analysis of relations with China by Arthur Waldron (in which he argues that it was the Chinese, not the Americans, who prevented a normalization of relations in the 1960s), and the capstone essay on the United States and Vietnam by Robert Schulzinger. Other subjects, all well-covered, are: Latin American policy, by William Walker; relations with Japan, by Michael Schaller; the Middle East, by Douglas Little; Africa, by Gerard Thomas; and economic policy, by Diane Kunz.

Valdislav Zubok's essay on U.S.-Soviet relations is worth special mention. A graduate of Moscow State University, he is the only non-American author. He has not had access to Soviet documents, but he brings to the essay the special skills and point of view of a Russian historian. While his conclusion is hardly startling -- the United States and the Soviet Union were prisoners of their own Cold War rhetoric, unable to change course -- his details on how policy consensus was achieved in the Soviet Union are fascinating.