An instructive and briskly written account of the formation, under Franklin Roosevelt's tutelage, of the United Nations. A concluding chapter brings the story up to the present and argues for the heightened relevance of the U.N. system in addressing the manifold problems of the post-Cold War world. The authors, both distinguished historians, have turned over every scrap of evidence to understand the intentions of the Sphinx, making this book one of the best short introductions to the subject; but they are too charitable in treating the baffling contradictions and mistaken assumptions that FDR and his team bequeathed to their immediate successors. The indefensible subordination of political to military objectives in war; the public denunciation of spheres of influence (as Roosevelt was privately recognizing them); the profound inattention to the means by which the West might be given coherent organization after the war; the concomitant miseducation of the American public -- all this must yield, in this reviewer's judgment, a less favorable verdict: that FDR's realism was often unrealistic and that his idealism was often focused on the wrong ideals.
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