Diplomacy at the Brink: Eisenhower, Churchill, and Eden in the Cold War.

Author:Filipink, Richard M.
Position::Book review

Diplomacy at the Brink: Eisenhower, Churchill, and Eden in the Cold War. By David M. Watry. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2014. 228 pp.

Watry's Diplomacy at the Brink is a brief examination of the evolution (or, as Watry argues, devolution) of Anglo-American relations from the beginning of the Eisenhower administration through the resolution of the Suez Crisis. In eight chapters, Watry argues that the "special relationship" between Britain and the United States all but ended, due to the extremist conservative anti-Communist ideology of both President Dwight Eisenhower and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, as well as the inability of either man to get along with or respect British Foreign Minister, later Prime Minister, Anthony Eden.

Watry's opening two chapters lay the foundation for his central argument by asserting that Eisenhower was even more aggressively anti-Communist than Dulles and that this extremism manifested itself in Eisenhower's constant threats to use nuclear weapons. Watry makes it clear that he believes these threats were attempts to be deliberately ambiguous; he argues that Eisenhower legitimately considered using nuclear weapons throughout his presidency with little concern for consequences. Thus, the author states, "brinksmanship" was more than a strategy to bluff and intimidate the Soviets and the Chinese; it was a unilateral assertion of American power over both enemies and allies alike. Hence, the titles of the next five chapters all contain the word brinksmanship.

Those next five chapters start with case studies of, according to the author, aggressive American unilateralism in relations with China, Korea, Indochina, Formosa, Iran, and Guatemala. Watry argues that British Prime Minister Churchill resisted his American counterpart's proclivity for intervention, and for overt and covert action in dealings with China and Indochina, but succumbed to American desires to act in Guatemala and Iran. The author alternately praises Churchill for his ability to occasionally restrain the Americans, while at the same time demonstrating that the British leader was willing to concede to the Americans in order to maintain the special relationship. Eden, on the other hand, detested Dulles and grew increasingly angry and frustrated with Eisenhower's militarism and desire to confront the Soviets and the Chinese. This frustration, in part, contributed to Eden's mishandling of the Suez Crisis.

Watry sees Suez as a...

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