Winning the peace after WWII
In The Conquerors, presidential historian Michael Beschloss delivers a fascinating exploration of how the Allies decided to deal with the threat posed by Germany after World War II. As he shows in the book, Franklin Delano Roosevelt fervently believed that it would not be enough to defeat the Nazis militarily. It was also imperative that the Allies lay the foundation for democracy in postwar Germany. Without that, history indicated it was likely that Germany would initiate another war in the decades ahead. Despite sharp policy difference with Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin, not to mention division within his own cabinet, FDR's broad vision prevailed. This piece of wartime statecraft, says Beschloss, was "one of America's great 20th century international achievements." In exploring the complexity of FDR's leadership and demonstrating that the politician who wanted to keep his options open, who was flexible and duplicitous, was also able to win the acceptance of such positions as Germany's unconditional surrender, Beschloss drawing on previously unseen documents from the FBI, Russia and private archives tells an absorbing story, one that's carefully researched and compellingly written. Among FDR's major flaws was his refusal to publicly condemn what we know as the Holocaust until 1944, although he had learned of it much earlier. Also, in what Beschloss describes as "one of the great mistakes of modern diplomacy," neither FDR nor his negotiators raised the issue of U.S. or British access to Berlin because it might make the Russians "suspicious."In 1945, General Dwight Eisenhower said the success of the Allied occupation of Germany could only be judged in 50 years. "If the Germans at that time have a stable, prosperous democracy, then we shall have succeeded." This important book is a cogent reminder from the relatively recent past that it is often not enough to achieve military victory. Winning the peace is also crucially important. Roger Bishop is a Nashville bookseller and regular contributor to BookPage.