Publication Date

September 1, 2013

Perspectives Section

Letters to the Editor

Perspectives on History welcomes letters to the editor on issues discussed in its pages or which are relevant to the profession. Letters should follow our guidelines. Letters selected for publication may be edited for style, length, and content. Publication of letters does not signify endorsement by the AHA of the views expressed by the authors, who alone are responsible for ensuring accuracy of the letters’ contents. Institutional affiliations are provided only for identification purposes.

On “Emancipation, the Cold War, and Hidden Themes of History”

To the Editor:

I would like to challenge Michael Dobbs's claim, cited in Perspectives on History (March 2013), that President Truman attempted to follow the policies of FDR until his experience with Stalin led him to a harder line.

While rejecting communist ideology, FDR had accepted the legitimacy of the Soviet Union and envisioned a cooperative postwar world with economic assistance to the devastated Soviet Union and an end to colonialism. In contrast, Truman had a long history of intense hostility to the Soviet Union that he never abandoned. He began his presidency expressing a determination to “stand up to” and “get tough with the Russians” and adopted a variety of policies FDR had opposed, including an alliance with Britain and France against the Soviets and an endorsement of colonialism, including the restoration of Indo-China to France, which, inadvertently, set the stage for the tragedy of Vietnam.Truman pursued his openly anti-Soviet policies until he realized the crucial importance of the Soviet pledge to enter the war against Japan. A period of cooperation then ensued on into the Potsdam Conference, where it lasted until news of the successful test of the A-bomb encouraged Truman and Churchill to totally exclude Stalin as they pursued their own program, culminating at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There is little, if anything, in FDR’s history to suggest he would have approved such a course.

Northern Illinois University (emeritus), 
University of Florida

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