DAMION L. THOMAS. Globetrotting: African American Athletes and Cold War Politics.by G. J. Kaliss

The American Historical Review

About

Year
2013
DOI
10.1093/ahr/118.5.1554a
Subject
Archaeology / History / Museology

Text

remains assailed by a military-industrial complex Eisenhower helped both to create and criticize.

MARGOT A. HENRIKSEN

University of Hawai‘i at Manoa

RICHARD D. WILLIAMSON. First Steps toward De´tente:

American Diplomacy in the Berlin Crisis, 1958–1963.

Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books. 2012. Pp. xxx, 237. $75.00.

We are not lacking studies on Cold War Berlin, the world’s most prominent trouble spot in the years between the famous 1948–1949 airlift into West Berlin and U.S. President John F. Kennedy’s much acclaimed visit to the city in 1963. Nor is America’s diplomatic attitude vis-a`-vis Berlin a scholarly terra incognita; quite to the contrary. Yet, readers might welcome a coherent account of U.S. Berlin diplomacy during some of the pivotal years of the Cold War era. Richard D.

Williamson’s book attempts to provide this story. The result is highly ambivalent, however.

In many regards, this is a peculiar book. Clearly, it has its strengths. Williamson writes well and avoids academic jargon. His narrative is well organized. Six tightly composed chapters follow the sequence of events—and the deliberations behind the scenes—in

America’s Berlin diplomacy from the late Eisenhower administration to the end of the Kennedy presidency.

This approach might be especially valuable for students who are interested in learning how to construe a story based on the chronology of archival findings—retrieved here mostly from the Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson presidential libraries—and of documents published in the Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series. Moreover, the author aims at articulating some broader arguments. In line with recent, more specialized studies, Williamson highlights that Dwight D.

Eisenhower and John F. Dulles demonstrated a remarkable interest in a consensual solution to the Berlin crisis. He interprets the Berlin diplomacy of both the

United States and the Soviet Union as catalytic, a series of experimental steps as the author puts it, in allowing de´tente between the superpowers. Williamson rightly emphasizes that Nikita Khrushchev embraced the Berlin question as a personal issue, although the Soviet leader failed with his idea of abandoning the city’s fourpower status. This book is on point, too, in emphasizing that no one on the American or Soviet side wanted to wage a war over Berlin—as much as this threat occupied the public and caused headaches for NATO and for U.S. officials trying to come up with coherent contingency plans in the event tensions escalated.

Williamson’s account might disappoint many readers who are looking for a more in-depth, multifaceted, and contextualized explanation of American Berlin diplomacy. This book falls behind recent attempts at internationalizing our understanding of foreign policy issues and putting them on a multi-archival footing, one that takes into account the dynamics of alliance politics, the weight of “smaller” alliance partners, and the impact of economic as well as cultural factors. The United States’ immense problem with the imbalance of payments, especially related to West Germany, is sidelined in this book, as are the complex interactions over Berlin that involved Great Britain, France, and both German states (and it is overdrawn to speak of the Franco-German treaty of January 1963 as forming an “entente,” as Williamson does on page 183). The author has missed an opportunity to include a whole array of relevant studies in these areas, such as those by John Gearson, Eric Mahan, and Hubert Zimmermann. One will not find the research of those historians who have investigated the multiple layers of the United States’ Berlin policy based on German, British, and Soviet sources, including Gerhard Wettig, Matthias Uhl, and Christof Mu¨nger. Reference to The Kennedy Tapes: Inside the White House during the Cuban Missile Crisis (1997), compiled by Ernest May and Philip Zelikow, as well as newly published personal recollections, would have helped readers understand that Berlin did play an important role during the Cuban missile crisis. By following so tightly the source materials, Williamson ironically loses sight even of the Berlin essentials that Kennedy defined on July 25, 1961. They marked the actual beginning of the president’s Berlin policy and made U.S. reaction to the Berlin Wall entirely rational and logical. Later, the conversations between Dean Rusk and Andrey Gromyko in the spring of 1962, which dealt with internationalizing the air space over Berlin and barring both German states from gaining access to nuclear weapons, led to roiling West German-American relations and even triggered the departure of the West German ambassador,

Wilhelm Grewe, from Washington.

Understandably, the Kennedy administration was interested in subordinating the Berlin issue under the superpowers’ interest in defusing crises not only in central

Europe but in the world at large. Williamson demonstrates this trend toward bilateral negotiations. Yet, disarmament talks with the Soviet Union were as much fueled as hampered by the ongoing Soviet pressure on access to West Berlin. Kennedy’s approach to Berlin diplomacy—and the framing of this diplomacy—was more complex than this book suggests. Not least, Kennedy decoupled the city’s fate from the issue of German unification.

ANDREAS W. DAUM

State University of New York at Buffalo

DAMION L. THOMAS. Globetrotting: African American

Athletes and Cold War Politics. (Sport and Society.) Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press. 2012. Pp. x, 209. $60.00.

In this diplomatic and cultural history, Damion L. Thomas probes the tangled relationship among sports, race, and U.S. international relations from 1945 through the late 1960s. Noteworthy for its topic, skillful contextualization of materials, and mining of diplomatic sources, this book offers a good introduction to the deployment of African American sports figures in the 1554 Reviews of Books

AMERICAN HISTORICAL REVIEW DECEMBER 2013