In This Review

A Question of Balance: How France and the United States Created Cold War Europe
A Question of Balance: How France and the United States Created Cold War Europe
By Michael Creswell
Harvard University Press, 2006, 256 pp

Creswell intelligently examines the negotiations that led to West Germany's rearmament after the French Parliament rejected the plan for a European Defense Community in August 1954. For a European reader, this book contains few surprises. For Americans convinced that a superpower such as the United States could easily have overridden objections by weaker allies, it may be a (mild) shock that a state as internally divided as postwar France could resist the pressure and threats of a senior ally determined to proceed swiftly on the rearmament of the recently defeated enemy -- ultimately persuading the senior ally that patience and compromise were necessary to achieve its most important objectives. Creswell minimizes somewhat the strength of France's resistance to the rearmament of Germany, but he is right to point out that the French, having launched the policy of Western European integration in 1950, were eager to pursue it. The final "balance" to which the book's title refers required skill and common sense rather than heroic feats of imagination, and the statesmen of the period demonstrated these gifts in abundance. If they look so good in retrospect, it is in part because they were able men, but also because their successors have fallen so short.