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Warren F. Kimball is Robert Treat Professor of History at Rutgers University (Newark College)


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In The Juggler, Kimball bases his analysis of FDR's wartime statesmanship on an assessment of what the historical record reveals about FDR's assumptions. Where Arthur Link portrayed a "higher realism" in the policies of Woodrow Wilson, Warren Kimball portrays a "higher consistency" in Fanklin Roosevelt's foreign policy. As he notes in "The Persistent Evangel of Americanism," By trying to systematize Roosevelt's thinking [as Beard implicitly tried to do], we automatically distort, since he never articulated a cohesive philosophy. He avoided contradictions rather than trying to reconcile or confront them. Nevertheless, his actions - successful or not - show a conceptual consistency that reveals his assumptions." (p.187)

This project of identifying FDR's "basic assumptions" can encompass both the ideological proclivities engendered by the capitalist political economy (as seen in the Atlantic Charter and the Four Freedoms) and the practical considerations of power politics (as seen in his attempt to engineer a postwar order). Because of this elasticity, Kimball can go beyond the dichotomy between revisionism and internationalism identified by Cole in his overview. The strength of this collection results from its value as a synthesis.

One example of Kimball's approach to FDR's foreign policy, the addressed in "Roosevelt and the Postwar World" illustrates very well Kimball's discovery of Roosevelt's assumptions at work. Fearing an uncooperative Stalin would spoil his grand vision of a postwar world policed by the "Four Powers." FDR held Churchill at bay at Tehran and courted Stalin instead. Both Roosevelt (at Tehran) and Cordell Hull (at Moscow) refused to discuss specifics on Eastern Europe and Poland. These actions speak louder than words, revealing Roosevelt's assumption that "Woodrow Wilson had the right idea - stability and security (peace and prosperity?) for the United States can be achieved only on a worldwide scale. Peace is indivisible, or so the phrase goes. But Wilson erred in being too structured, too specific, too inflexible, too unwilling to be practical and accept the realities of great power relations" (p. 187.)

Though FDR never came out and said that he was attempting to implement a "Wilsonian vision" using practical means, his actions aimed at keeping Stalin within "The Family Circle" clearly indicate as much.
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mdobe | Jan 13, 2018 |

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