In This Review

Another Such Victory: President Truman and the Cold War, 1945-1953
Another Such Victory: President Truman and the Cold War, 1945-1953
By Arnold A. Offner
Stanford University Press, 2002, 656 pp
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Offner argues that Truman's unsophisticated, confrontational approach to statecraft made the Cold War longer, meaner, and more expensive than necessary. His Truman is a sometimes bigoted, often ill informed, and always inflexible leader who contrasts sharply with the man in David McCullough's Rockwellian portrayal. Offner's research is formidable, but his assertions are unremarkable. Many before him, most notably Daniel Yergin, have also held that Truman's confrontational style precipitated a communication breakdown between the superpowers and meant that the hawks would always win in debates over U.S. policy. Offner also treads on familiar territory in taking the position that dropping the atomic bomb over Nagasaki was militarily unnecessary, intended primarily to quell Soviet ambitions in Europe and Asia. And his view that the Truman Doctrine was too general, too simplistic, and too militaristic was made clear decades ago by George Kennan, Walter LaFeber, and others. Surprisingly, Offner omits serious discussion of the most important driver of Truman's foreign policy, namely, domestic political pressures. He also only hints at the bloodiest consequence of Truman's decision-making -- the Vietnam War -- and does not mention that Truman closed the door once and for all to Ho Chi Minh. Although he discusses at length Truman's Blair House decisions regarding Korea, he barely refers to the fact that Truman placed U.S. prestige on the table in Indochina at the same time. Another Such Victory adds up to an authoritative sum of all doubts about Truman's foreign policy, Indochina excepted. Sadly, the calculus is not as original as it is comprehensive.