In This Review

Butter and Guns: America's Cold War Economic Diplomacy
Butter and Guns: America's Cold War Economic Diplomacy
By Diane B. Kunz
416 pp, Free Press, 1997

An incisive account, by a historian at Yale, of U.S. and allied economic diplomacy over the past half-century, featuring expert synopses and evaluations of the attitudes, policies, and negotiating stances of Western governments. The question that runs throughout the narrative is whether "we can have it all," and the author's conclusion is that by and large we did. She gives lavish credit to military spending for sparking the postwar growth in the American economy and faults Eisenhower (most unpersuasively) for misunderstanding in his Farewell Address that "it was precisely the American defense spending he condemned that brought unheard of prosperity to the United States." In warning of the "military-industrial complex," Eisenhower was affirming republican values that transcended the question of economic growth, but even on the smaller economic question Ike was right: the diversion of American capital and expertise into weapons production made an important contribution to the later loss of competitiveness and "crumbling infrastructure" Kunz deplores. And authors really ought to stop quoting Lord Palmerston's dictum that "we have no eternal allies," only our eternally selfish interests. The economic diplomacy Kunz recounts would have been far less successful had Western statesmen not affirmed the permanence of the community within which differences of interest and perspective unfolded -- had, in short, they talked like Palmerston instead of Churchill.