Posted: 12:07 pm PT
Kenneth Weisbrode is a historian at the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, European University Institute, Fiesole, Italy. He was formerly a defense analyst at the Atlantic Council of the U.S. and the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
His book, The Atlanticists is “the history of the American commitment to Europe in the twentieth century as seen through the eyes of the personalities who made it. Such commitment did not emerge serendipitously. It was carefully constructed and cemented by a network of diplomats and politicians that imagined, built, and sustained a new international system centered on the Atlantic. In their vision, America and Europe were essential parts of a single, cooperative community, not rivals or one another’s periodic savior. Mr. Weisbrode reveals–for the first time, warts and all–the insider’s story of the people who built this community.”
Given the current strain in the U.S.-European relationships, and the danger of the alliance coming apart, this is the book we’re currently reading. He writes:
Roosevelt was not the first president to serve as his own foreign minister but he took the practice to new lengths in sowing so much confusion, redundancy, rivalry and antipathy in the bureaucratic ranks that the young foreign service was very nearly nipped in the bud. The New Dealers he promoted in Washington were willing coconspirators in the emasculation of what many of them considered to be a heavily Republican State Department. What they did not erode from negligence they wounded by frontal attack.
Oh. So what’s going on right now … ‘All this has happened before, and will happen again’, like the Cylons’ mantra. Time to re-watch Galactica!
But hey, did you know about that young diplomat who was recalled from an overseas post because the then secretary of state was reportedly infatuated with the diplomat’s wife? That young diplomat was later given the task of remaking the State Department — not by the infatuated secretary of state — but by a successor named “sleepy Phil.” Pause here and imagine the nicknames they’re going to call you in the history books.
And get this, the first head of the EUR bureau was the son of a senator who apparently demanded it as a condition for supporting the legislation for the 1909 departmental reorganization.
This, this note though about the secretary of state: “treated as a clerk who receives orders which he has to obey at once and without question” is almost too funny to read now.
Or the then secretary of state after his resignation who wrote to his nephew John Foster Dulles, “The question asked is, ‘where is he to find a rubber stamp?'” Those diplomats, they never unintentionally throw an insult; and they know enough to put it in writing for historians to find.
Ken Weisbrode’s other books include:
- The Year of Indecision, 1946: A Tour Through the Crucible of Harry Truman’s America 2016
- Old Diplomacy Revisited: A Study in the Modern History of Diplomatic Transformations (Palgrave Pivot) 2013
- A Brief History of Americanism (Regions and Regionalisms in the Modern World) 2013
- The Atlantic Century: Four Generations of Extraordinary Diplomats who Forged America’s Vital Alliance with Europe 2009
Below is an excerpt courtesy of Kindle Preview: