Ronald Steel is Professor of International Relations at the University of Southern California, a recent fellow at the American Academy in Berlin, and the author of biographies of Walter Lippmann and Robert Kennedy.

All You Need Is Love

There is something eerily contemporary about William Jennings Bryan, the perennial Democratic presidential candidate of a century ago. Not his attacks on bankers who squeezed prairie farmers with high-interest loans. Not his diatribes about the evils of drink. And certainly not his aversion to militarism and imperialist wars—however admirable at …

James Chace (1931–2004)

James Chace, who died of a heart attack in Paris in October just a week shy of his seventy-third birthday, examined the foreign affairs of the nation with sharp insights and finely chiseled words. Newspaper obituaries referred to him as a “foreign policy thinker,” a description that sounds both vague …

Where It Began

Imagine that John McCain challenges George W. Bush in the primaries for the Republican presidential nomination—and on being defeated by the Old Guard bosses launches his own political party. On the campaign trail he electrifies his followers by declaring that the federal government is “the steward of public welfare” and—in …

George Kennan at 100

George Kennan, who recently celebrated his hundredth birthday, has been best known as the author of the containment doctrine—an ill-defined formula he proposed as a government official early in the cold war for confronting the Soviet Union with a vigorous American “counterforce.” This is a great pity, for it is …

The Missionary

During the past dozen years the image of Woodrow Wilson has undergone a remarkable transformation. The saintly idealist inspired by utopian visions of global brotherhood has been given a new identity as a crusading imperialist warrior. To the chagrin of his old liberal admirers and the applause of his new …

Big Daddy

Joseph Kennedy lived an ironic life. Were it not for the political celebrity of his sons, he would long ago have sunk into the tenebrous depths where other speculators and moguls of the 1920s and 1930s lie. But were it not for his money and insatiable ambition, they would have …

Mr. Fix-It

The most inspirational of American presidents, Woodrow Wilson is also in some ways the most representative. In his idealism, his moralizing, and his insatiable tinkering to make everything better for everyone’s own good, he is America’s inner self. That is why we can never escape him. Nor is there any …

Instead of NATO

To expand, or not to expand. That is the question for NATO. Or so it would seem from the argument now shaking policy circles over whether to admit new members to the hoary cold war alliance. But the membership question is—like a married couple’s squabbles over which route to take …

Shultz’s Revenge

George Shultz was something of an anomaly in the Reagan administration, and he liked to play it that way. He was a corporate mogul who had also been a university dean, a political moderate who could work with ideologues, a professional negotiator who believed passionately in the use of force, …

A Self-Made Man

If James Forrestal had not existed, he could not have been invented except by himself, and this is precisely what he did. Take a poor Irish boy from a small town, propel him by sheer determination into a prestigious university and a Wall Street firm, give him the drive to …

Casualty of the Cold War

To some men it is given to have mythic lives; to others mythic deaths. George Polk is one of the latter. In life he was a little-known American journalist who reported from a remote outpost of the cold war empire. Since the discovery of his murder in Greece in 1948 …

Guest of the Age

In the first volume of his Memoirs, published more than twenty years ago, George Kennan speaks of the “discomfort” he feels in the twentieth century, yet concludes that in playing the role of observer “it helps…to be the guest of one’s time and not a member of its household.” In …

A Gent of Dissent

“If I am remembered, I suppose it will be as a dissenter,” J. William Fulbright begins his graceful book, part memoir, part critical study of the politics of the republic he served with such distinction as legislator. One supposes that he is right, for during a period of about a …

The Strange Case of William Bullitt

American attitudes toward Soviet Russia since the Revolution have at times been subject to sudden and often puzzling changes. This is one of those times. Hardly more than two years ago the Soviet Union was perceived by President Reagan with the apparent approval of the American people as the focal …

Looking Backward

In late July 1979 Senator Richard Stone of Florida told President Carter of rumors that the Russians had combat troops in Cuba. If this was true, he said, it would violate agreements made after the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. Satellite photos confirmed that there were indeed Soviet units on …

The Ancient Mariner

The tenth anniversary of the fall of Saigon and the ignominious departure of the Americans has brought forth an abundance of post-mortems and reinterpretations. The passions released by the war have made it impossible for many, even at this distance, to approach the subject with equanimity. The rhetoric is charged …

Where Modern Politics Began

Although John Milton Cooper’s comparative biography of Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson recalls both men vividly, it is not easy today to look at them with equanimity, let alone uncritical admiration. They seem so out of proportion that they have become caricatures of themselves. Consider Theodore Roosevelt charging up a …

On the Brink of Dulles

He was the living symbol of the cold war: dour, grim, narrow lips perpetually turned down in a scowl, eyes bulging fishlike and impassive from behind wire-rimmed glasses. His life seemed to be spent getting in and out of airplanes, tirelessly circumnavigating the globe in pursuit of the international communist …

Two Cheers for Ike

Santayana’s dictum may be all right for statesmen, but for historians it should be rephrased: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to rewrite it. The recent flood of Eisenhower books—a half-dozen or so this season, with a good many others on the way—demonstrates that old soldiers don’t even …

Seduction and Betrayal

He misled me. —Walter Lippmann on LBJ, May 21, 1967 The affair of Lyndon Johnson and Walter Lippmann began, as most affairs do, with invitations and flattery, and it ended in recriminations and a feeling of betrayal. Lippmann knew that Johnson wanted to go down in history as the …

All in the Family

Somewhere in the clouds over the Merchandise Mart in Chicago, or wherever his soul resides, Joseph P. Kennedy must be smiling. Having labored to immortalize himself through the greater glory of his nine children—or at least his four sons, whose careers he orchestrated as surrogates of his own—he has now …

Perfectly Clear

To read this book is to be reminded how Richard Nixon has managed to be his own worst enemy. Here, as in the rest of his career, he has shown both his intelligence and his deviousness, his claim to statesmanship and his unerring instinct for the unscrupulous. Yet one can …

Rough Passage

There will always be 34 percent of the Senate on the blackguard side of every question. —Secretary of State John Hay, 1901 Recently, along with many others on the mailing lists for known “liberals,” I received a handsome brochure enumerating various “myths and facts” about the Panama Canal, and …