The dramatic shift of American public opinion set off by the Iranian dilemma recalls the comparably dramatic shift set off 35 years ago, when the Yalta euphoria gave way to the Polish dilemma. Robert Dallek’s magisterial book is a recreation and cautious defense of FDR’s road to and from Yalta. Dallek has mined the English language sources to argue that Roosevelt was not the seat-of-the-pants improviser of so many accounts. Rather, while conceding Roosevelt’s errors of remaining “neutral” in the Spanish Civil War, in the internment of the Japanese Americans, and in the misuse of the FBI, Dallek presents FDR as a diplomatist of vision and skill.
The thrust of Dallek’s dense narrative is to describe how Roosevelt had a consistently surer grasp of foreign policy than his opponents. While America’s isolationists were misreading European events in a vain attempt to retroactively prevent the outbreak of World War I, FDR was trying to detail...
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