This book, one in a series of volumes offering contrasting perspectives on important issues in American history, offers two solid essays on Franklin D. Roosevelt's foreign policy. That the contrast between Doenecke's more critical approach and Stoler's cautious endorsement is relatively muted suggests how much the heated controversies that once surrounded the United States' greatest twentieth-century president have cooled two generations after his death. The isolationism that once fired critics such as Charles Beard is largely dead; internationalists who once criticized Roosevelt's slow march toward war increasingly recognize that an isolationist public opinion gave him little room to maneuver. Allegations that an ailing Roosevelt "gave away the store" by giving Stalin a free hand in Eastern Europe at Yalta have faded as historians recognized that, short of war, there was little the United States could do to influence Stalin's behavior in a region the Red Army occupied. The new wave of criticism, visible in both of these essays, focuses on Roosevelt's racial and ethnic views; on such matters, Roosevelt was very much a man of his time and class. As these essays both make plain, Roosevelt was the most successful war leader in American history; it is equally clear that, like Ronald Reagan, he often governed by instinct and intuition.
Get the best of Foreign Affairs' book reviews delivered to you.