Wertheim, Stephen. Tomorrow, the World: The Birth of U.S. Global Supremacy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2020. 262 pages. Hardcover, $29.95..

AuthorMichelsen, Niall

Wertheim is a Research Scholar at Columbia University's Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies, and deputy director at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, and a frequent contributor to Foreign Affairs. This book examines in great detail some of the internal discussions among the U.S. political elites as they envisioned America's role in the pivotal years of the late 1930s through the end of World War II. The story of America's rise to prominence in the postwar era is widely known but Wertheim makes a valuable addition by delving into the thinking of American elites on the outside of government (such as Henry Luce and Walter Lippmann) as well as those working within the State Department and other Executive Branch agencies.

There are three major themes in the book. The first is that the well-known debate between internationalists and isolationists in the run-up to World War II was a false debate concocted by American elites who advocated intervening in the wars then underway. They used the term isolationist to refer to anyone who argued that the U.S. could provide for its security and prosperity without necessarily intervening in either Europe or Asia. The claim is very well supported by direct quotation from speeches and documents.

The second major theme is that attitudes toward the debate about intervention evolved as events unfolded in Europe (Asia was not a primary concern of American elites in this account). First the concern was how secure and prosperous could the U.S. be in a world ruled by Germany in Europe and Japan in Asia. Once it became apparent that Germany was stymied by the English Channel and then by the Russian winter, the Americans began contemplating a world in which Germany was not the pre-eminent power in Europe, and would be massively weaker than the U.S. Then, the solution seemed to come into an informal alliance with the U.K. to make use of its power and colonies to provide some order in the world. Before long the alliance of partners became one with the U.S. the leading power.

The third major theme is that for much of the war, American elites were not imagining what we know as the United Nations, but rather a condominium of cooperation between the two English-speaking allies. Wertheim argues that American planners eventually moved to the universal membership U.N. model to accommodate the Soviet Union (who would be understandably upset by being outside of the Anglo-American alliance). Moreover, he...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT