Since 9/11, politicians and analysts from across the political spectrum have called for a "new Marshall Plan" to help fight the extremism in the Middle East -- much in the way the original effort helped defeat communism in postwar Europe. Behrman's timely new history of the United States' unprecedented aid program helps elucidate where the analogy works and where it does not. As his title implies, Behrman shares Dean Acheson's view that the Marshall Plan was "one of the greatest and most honorable adventures in history." Whereas revisionist historians, such as Alan Milward, have argued that Europe in 1947 mainly had a balance-of-payments problem and would likely have recovered anyway, Behrman argues that generous U.S. support -- $13 billion over four years, or $100 billion in today's dollars -- was necessary to rebuild Europe's productive capacity, entice former adversaries to cooperate, and restore Europeans' confidence in capitalism. Behrman's florid narrative sometimes approaches hagiography, but the research is impressive, and it is hard to argue with his basic point: that the Marshall Plan was a model of enlightened self-interest.
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