The Best Laid Plans: The Origins of American Multilateralism and the Dawn of the Cold War

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The Best Laid Plans: The Origins of American Multilateralism and the Dawn of the Cold War
By Stewart Patrick
Rowman & Littlefield, 2008
412 pp. $44.95

In this beautifully written account of the genesis of the post-1945 world order, Patrick traces the celebrated efforts of the Roosevelt and Truman administrations to turn victory in World War II into an open and stable international system. He emphasizes the interplay among ideals, interests, and power. The United States' postwar preeminence created an extraordinary opportunity to forge a global system according to its liberal ideals and traditions. But the weakness of Europe and the emerging struggle with the Soviet Union forced compromises that ultimately brought forth a Washington-led hegemonic system that coexisted with the Cold War's bipolarity. Patrick follows the American architects as they seek to construct a system of collective security, promote the free flow of money and goods, and protect political self-determination. Most interesting is the book's tracing of the compromises they pursued as the prospects for cooperation with Stalin faded. All along, Patrick makes clear that the United States' embrace of multilateralism was driven by both ideals and the practical demands of geopolitics and that the Cold War heightened these impulses toward multilateralism. The result is an eloquent reminder that a great deal of what the United States did in fighting the Cold War was done in the West, among allies.

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