Until now, Republican Senator Arthur Vandenberg of Michigan has been best known to students of U.S. foreign policy through former Secretary of State Dean Acheson’s elegant, if acerbic, portrait of him as an isolationist blowhard seduced into supporting international engagement after World War II by Acheson’s flattery. Meijer’s biography punctures this caricature. Vandenberg, who had his full share of both the vices and the virtues of Midwestern Republicanism in the middle of the twentieth century, will not be remembered as a great figure in U.S. history. But his evolution from a prewar isolationist to a committed Cold Warrior reflected the dramatic changes in American thought that enabled the United States to make the post–World War II era such a peaceful and progressive one. His powerful articulation of a bipartisan approach to foreign affairs, summed up in his 1947 injunction to his fellow senators to “stop partisan politics at the water’s edge,” sounds quaint today, but few doubt that a return to even a limited bipartisan foreign policy consensus would strengthen the United States’ voice in world affairs.
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