In This Review

Act of Creation: The Founding of the United Nations
Act of Creation: The Founding of the United Nations
By Stephen Schlesinger
Westview Press, 2003, 352 pp

A fascinating history of the diplomatic dramas and political intrigues behind the launch of the United Nations, especially the pivotal months in the spring of 1945, when the new President Truman struggled to keep his predecessor's vision of a postwar international peace organization alive. Schlesinger shows American officials maneuvering around an array of obstacles -- Soviet intransigence, small-country aspirations, bureaucratic infighting, isolationist skeptics, and the ghost of Woodrow Wilson. From his first days as president, Truman struggled to reconcile his desire to get the Soviets to accept the UN with his determination to challenge their increasingly provocative intrusions in Poland and Eastern Europe. A deeper struggle, meanwhile, churned between idealist ambitions and the realities of power politics. At every turn, Roosevelt and Truman were determined to avoid Wilson's mistakes, and Senate ratification was the ultimate arbiter of their success. What Schlesinger makes clear is how thoroughly American the UN was from the very beginning, imbued with the country's values and political goals. Beyond this insight, however, the book remains silent on the lessons that this vivid narrative holds for today's UN controversies.