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THE CULTURAL TURN IN COLD WAR STUDIES


Robert Griffith

Christian G. Appy, ed. Cold War Constructions: The Political Culture of United States Imperialism, 1945-1966. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2000. xii + 340 pp. Notes, contributors, and index. $60.00 (cloth); $18.95 (paper). John Fousek. To Lead the Free World: American Nationalism and the Cultural Roots of the Cold War. Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press, 2000. xvi + 253 pp. Notes, bibliography, and index. $49.95 (cloth); $18.95 (paper). A little over a decade ago, there were relatively few studies of Cold War culture;1 fewer still that sought to explain the Cold War as a cultural phenomenon.2 Today, all this has changed, prompted by the entry into the field of scholars trained in literature, American studies, sociology, anthropology, communication and media studies, as well as by a somewhat belated turn toward culture among Cold War historians themselves. The result has been an extraordinary outpouring of books and articles on virtually every aspect of American culture and how that culture shaped and was in turn shaped by the Cold War.3 Many of these studies introduce new issues (especially the role of linguistic and visual symbols); examine new evidence (including popular culture), explore the role of new actors (including artists, writers, tourists, filmmakers and many others), employ new methodologies (drawn mainly from sociology and literary criticism), and raise new questions (about nationalism and national identity, cultural transfer, the role of race, class and gender in the construction of relations among nations, and so on).4 Both of the volumes under review in this essay are part of this recent flowering of interest in Cold War culture. Both address public culture, what John Fousek describes as the arena in which social and political conflict is played out and in which consensus is forged, manufactured, and maintained or not (p. ix). Both books focus on language and, to a lesser extent, the visual symbols out of which culture is constructed. Both challenge the failure of diplomatic historians to realize, in Christian Appys words, that policymaking, intelligence-gathering, war-making, and mainstream politics might
Reviews in American History 29 (2001) 150157 2001 by The Johns Hopkins University Press

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be profoundly shaped by a social and cultural world beyond the conference table and the battlefield, reading documents too literally and assum[ing] the events they describe can be understood as unmediated, objective realities rather than dynamic historical constructions (p. 4). Both studies contribute new insights to the history of the Cold War, though both also overstate the originality of their contributions. Finally, both reveal the limitations of the new cultural history as it is sometimes practiced. The essays that comprise Cold War Constructions occupy a middle ground between the new cultural studies and traditional diplomatic history. Their authors are sensitive to both culture and politics; or, as Appy puts it, to both the idea that culture is inherently political (and that it is embedded in, and expresses, relations of power) and the idea that all political struggles are culturally constructed (embedded in systems of value and meaning) (p. 4). Thus, in the collections opening essay, Mark Bradley challenges the dominant political and economic explanations for how the United States became involved in Vietnam. [R]anging from the potential instability of Western Europe to the need for a liberal capitalist trading order in the Pacific, the vulnerability of Southeast Asia with the rise of Maos China, or the domestic political threat of McCarthyism at home, he writes, they share a common focus in asserting that realist geopolitical imperatives were the centerpiece of American policy. Instead, Bradley argues for the persistence and centrality of cultural forces in decision making. U.S. policy makers saw Vietnam through a lens heavily shaded by European orientalism as well as by the homegrown racialism that pervaded much of American culture. As former Soviet Ambassador William C. Bullitt told the State Departments Division of Philippine and Southeast Asian Affairs in 1947: The Annamese are attractive and even loveable but essentially childish. Such perceptions, Bradley concludes, framed the horizon of choices through which postwar American policy makers sought to meet the perceived challenges of the early Cold War period in Vietnam (pp. 12, 27).5 In an essay on the United States and India, Andrew Rotter explores how cultural perceptions (and misperceptions) influenced relations between the two nations; focusing, for example, on how the depiction in American culture of India as a beggar interacted with Indian concepts about how to express gratitude and the obligations of donors.6 John Foran examines how Time magazines coverage of the overthrow of Iranian leader Mohammad Musaddiq and the installation of Shah Muhammad Reza Pahlavi was shaped by both Orientalist and Cold War discourses, and how such coverage in turn served to further solidify such discourses.7 Essays by Penny Von Eschen and Kevin Gaines add to a growing literature on the complex relationships between the struggle for civil rights and the Cold War. Gainess study explores the radical critique of both colonialism and American racial practices

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by African-American expatriates in Ghana, while Von Eschen shows how U.S. efforts to counter criticism by promoting goodwill tours by prominent African-American musicians were sometimes subverted by the musicians themselves as well as by their African hosts.8 Two of the volumes essays examine how issues of gender and family relationships influenced popular perceptions of the Cold War. Christina Klein argues that metaphors of adoption in South Pacific, in the advertisements of the Christian Childrens Fund, and in the pages of the Saturday Review operated to create a sense of obligation toward Asian peoples that was analogous to the real and imagined bonds that connected white Americans to Europe and thus served to underpin the growing U.S. commitment in the region.9 Van Gosse examines the brief American flirtation with Fidel Castro in the late 1950s, a flirtation he attributes in part to a long tradition of fascination with foreign revolutionaries such as Lafayette, Bolivar, Kossuth, Garibaldi, Juarez and others. Castros popularity also derived, he argues, though less persuasively I believe, from popular perceptions of Castros whiteness, and from a particularly strong appeal to young white men for whom images of the dashing bearded revolutionary resonated with those of James Dean and Elvis Pressley.10 Editor Appys own contribution combines a playful discussion of a sketch Eisenhower drew during a cabinet discussion of the CIA-sponsored invasion of Guatemala in April 1954 and some acute observations on Eisenhowers highly competitive personality, with a mostly unoriginal account of the coup itself and how it was covered in the New York Times.11 James T. Fisher examines the liberal and old left anti-communists who organized the International Rescue Committee and the American Friends of Vietnam.12 Jonathan Nashel reads William Lederer and Eugene Burdicks The Ugly American (1958) as a text that embodies modernization theory.13 Wendy Walls essay describes the role played by Italian-language newspapers and radio stations, fraternal organizations, community leaders, and the Catholic Church, in organizing a massive letter-writing campaign in 1948 to inform their overseas kinsmen of the dangers of voting Communist and the virtues of the American way of life.14 John Fouseks To Lead the Free World reflects the revival of interest in the role of ideology in international relations. Thus, Americas Cold War was profoundly shaped by an ideology of American nationalist globalism, an ideology that was deeply rooted in historic notions of chosenness, destiny, and mission and that found expression in a postwar triad of powerful believes in national greatness, global responsibility, and anti-communism.15 To develop his argument, Fousek focuses on a series of Harry S. Trumans major nationally broadcast foreign policy speeches and the response to them by a handful of mass circulation magazines (Life, Saturday Evening Post,

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Colliers, Ladies Home Journal) and the New York Daily News (the periods one true mass-circulation newspaper and a proxy for the response of conservative nationalists); by a sample of Africa-Americans (represented by the Urban League, the NAACP, the Pittsburgh Courier, and Ebony); by leaders of two labor unions (the United Auto Workers and the United Electrical Workers); and by ordinary citizens writing to Truman in the wake of his public addresses. The story here is for the most part a familiar one: of the rapid conversion of wartime internationalism into the nationalist globalism of the Cold War and how [b]etween 1947 and 1950 the notion that the United States was the leader of the free world began to emerge as the dominant trope to explain Americas hegemonic role in a divided world (p.159). Fousek demonstrates how the thinking of both liberal and conservative internationalists was shaped by an emergent globalism, noting the many ideas and assumptions shared by Henry Luces American Century and Henry Wallaces Century of the Common Man. In a brief but highly suggestive visual essay, he shows how corporate advertising helped create an iconography of Americas new global supremacy (pp. 91-103). Like others who have examined the savage civil war that shattered the old New Deal left, Fousek traces the opposition to the new globalism by popular front liberals, left-wing labor leaders and prominent African-Americans, the repressive marginalization of these critics, and the triumph of the new vital center liberalism of the Cold War. In the mid-1940s, the CIO and the NAACP both stood for an antimilitarist, anti-colonial, multilaterialist foreign policy based upon international cooperation; by 1950 both organizations supported the main elements of the Truman administrations foreign policy, which was increasingly militaristic, hegemonic, and unilateralist (p. 161). To Lead The Free World and Cold War Constructions are valuable additions to a literature that until the past decade or so has been far too exclusively centered on the state and on the hard realms of diplomacy, politics, and economics. Both attempt to avoid the charges usually leveled at cultural studies: that they fail to appreciate the importance of political and economic power; or, as Terry Eagleton puts it, that they inflate the importance of what is constructed, coded, conventional about human life, as against what human beings have in common as natural material animals.16 Neither is entirely successful. Its a pretty long way, after all, from South Pacific to South Vietnam. Or, as John Nashel disarmingly confesses in the beginning of his essay on The Ugly American: At first glance it may seem a bit of a reach to include a detailed discussion of one middlebrow novel in charting the rise and fall of modernization theory (p. 134). Too many of the authors appear to implicitly endorse Alan Nadels contention that [h]istory is a cipher for omission, and the

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process of representation is never one of proportionality but of narrativity.17 Of all the contributors to Cold War Constructions, Mark Bradley does the best job in grounding his account of racial and oriental stereotypes in the day-today observations of State Department officials responsible for policy toward Indochina at the close of World War II. And hes correct in concluding that the Vietnam case suggests that the political and economic dimensions of American power only partially reveal the nature of U.S. perceptions and aims (p. 34). On the other hand, those political and economic dimensions still explain a great deal. To Lead the Free World also stumbles frequently at those critical junctures where culture intersects with economics and politics. Fousek writes, for example, that while the ideology of the Cold War grew out of widely shared beliefs in providential destiny and millennial mission, the new ideology was forged by the middle-aged, white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant men of the foreign-policy elite [who] functioned as a hegemonic bloc (p. 10). He may be right, but nothing in To Lead the Free World supports such an assertion. Indeed, the principal evidence he cites is Thomas Fergusons debatable claim that during the New Deal the Democratic Party was captured by a new power bloc composed of capital-intensive industries, investment banks, and internationally oriented commercial banks.18 Fouseks brief chronicle of the debates among UAW and UE leaders ignores much of the rich and growing literature on labor and the Cold War and as a result fails to adequately contextualize these debates. His discussion of the response of AfricanAmericans only skims the surface mapped by the many new studies on race and the Cold War. His assertions about the role of elites would have been greatly strengthened had he examined the networks of government agencies and private associations that played such important roles in developing and deploying the new ideology of global leadership. 19 In spite of such shortcomings, both To Lead the Free World and Cold War Constructions deepen and extend our knowledge of the Cold War. Indeed, future historians will ignore the role of culture explored in these and other recent works only at the price of a very incomplete understanding of the past fifty years in U.S. and world history. Robert Griffith teaches history at American University. The second edition of his reader, Major Problems in American History since 1945, co-edited with Paula Baker of the University of Pittsburgh, was published by Houghton Mifflin in December 2000.
1. Early overviews included Paul Boyers widely cited By the Bombs Early Light: American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age (1985); Larry May, ed., Recasting America: Culture and Politics in the Age of Cold War (1986); and Stephen J.

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Whitfields The Culture of the Cold War (1991). Les K. Adler and Thomas G. Patersons Red Fascism: The Merger of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia in the American Image of Totalitarianism, 1930s-1950s, American Historical Review (April 1970) remains a classic among early efforts to understand Cold War ideology. Christopher Laschs essay on the Congress for Cultural Freedom in The Agony of the American Left (1969) was among the first to map the Cold Wars cultural front. Serge Guilbaut was among the first to explore the relationship between Cold War politics and art in How New York Stole the Idea of Modern Art: Abstract Expressionism, Freedom, and the Cold War (1983). Nora Sayre examined Hollywoods Cold War in Running Time: Films of the Cold War (1982), as did Peter Biskind in Seeing is Believing: How Hollywood Taught Us To Stop Worrying and Love the Fifties (1983). See also Michael Rogin, Ronald Reagan, the Movie and Other Episodes in Political Demonology (1987), as well as the series of books by George Lipsitz that begins with Class and Culture in Cold War America (1982). 2. See especially Frank A. Ninkovich, The Diplomacy of Ideas: U.S. Foreign Policy and Cultural Relations, 1938-1950 (1981); Michael H. Hunt, Ideology and U.S. Foreign Policy (1987); and essays by Hunt and Akira Iriye in the JAH forum, Explaining the History of American Foreign Relations, Journal of American History 77 (June 1990): 93-180. Although its coverage ends in 1945, see also Emily S. Rosenberg, Spreading the American Dream: American Economic and Cultural Expansion, 1890-1945 (1982). 3. See, for example, Diplomatic Historys recent roundtables, Cultural Transfer or Cultural Imperialism? Americanization in the Cold War, 24 (Summer 2000: 465-535; and Culture, Religion, and International Relations, 24 (Fall 2000): 593-640. 4. A partial listing of recent works on Cold War culture includes: Nancy E. Bernhard, U.S. Television News and Cold War Propaganda, 1947-1960 (1999); Paul Boyer, Fallout: A Historian Reflects on Americas Half-century Encounter with Nuclear Weapons (1998); Noam Chomsky (ed.), The Cold War & the University: Toward an Intellectual History of the Postwar Years (1997); Michael Curtin, Redeeming the Wasteland: Television Documentary and Cold War Politics (1995); Paul N. Edwards, The Closed World: Computers and the Politics of Discourse in Cold War America (1996); Tom Englehardt, The End of Victory Culture (1995); Richard Fried, The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming: Pageantry and Patriotism in Cold War America (1998); Jessica Gienow-Hecht, Transmission Impossible: Journalism as Cultural Diplomacy in Postwar Germany, 1945-1955 (1999); Woody Haut, Pulp Culture: Hardboiled Fiction and the Cold War (1995); Margot A. Henriksen, Dr. Strangeloves America: Society and Culture in the Atomic Age (1997); Ellen Herman, The Romance of American Psychology: Political Culture in the Age of Experts (1995); Walter L. Hixon, Propaganda, Culture and the Cold War, 1945-1961 (1997); Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman, All You Need is Love: The Peace Corps and the Spirit of the 1960s (1998); Richard Kuisel, Seducing the French: The Dilemma of Americanization (1993); Rebecca S. Lowen, Creating the Cold War University: The Transformation of Stanford (1997); Elaine McClarnand and Steve Goodson (eds.), The Impact of the Cold War on American Popular Culture (1999); Alan Nadel, American Narratives, Postmodernism and the Atomic Age (1995); Michael Nelson, War of the Black Heavens: The Battles of Western Broadcasting in the Cold War (1997); Guy Oakes, The Imaginary War: Civil Defense and American Cold War Culture (1994); Richard Pells, Not Like Us: How Europeans Have Loved, Hated, and Transformed American Culture since World War II (1997); Uta G. Poiger, Jazz, Rock , and Rebels: Cold War Politics and American Culture in a Divided Germany (2000); Naima Prevots, Dance for Export: Cultural Diplomacy and the Cold War (1998); Lisle Rose, The Cold War Comes to Main Street (1999); Frances Stonor Saunders, The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters (2000); David Seed, American Science Fiction and the Cold War: Literature and Film(1999); Christopher Simpson, Science of Coercion: Communication Research & Psychological Warfare, 1945-1960 (1994); Christopher Simpson (ed), Universities and Empire: Money and Politics in the Social Sciences During the Cold War (1998); Reinhold Wagnleitner, Coco-Colonization: The Cultural Mission of the United States in Austria After the Second World War (1994); and Jessica Wang, American Science in an Age of Anxiety: Scientists, Anticommunism and the Cold War (1999). 5. Bradleys essay is drawn from his recently published book, Imagining Vietnam and America: The Making of Postcolonial Vietnam, 1919-1950 (2000).

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6. Rotters essay is drawn from his book, Comrades at Odds: Culture and Indo-U.S. Relations, 1947-1964 (2000). Interestingly enough, Rotter is the only contributor to Cold War Constructions who examines the cultural perceptions of non-Americans. 7. Foran relies heavily on William A. Dorman and Mansour Farhang, The U.S. Press and Iran: Foreign Policy and the Journalism of Deference (1987); and on Mary Ann Heiss, The United States, Great Britain, and Iranian Oil, 1950-1954 (1997), which traces the influence of orientalist thinking on U.S. and British policy-makers. 8. Von Eschens article is drawn in part from her book, Race Against Empire: Black Americans and Anticolonialism, 1937-1957 (1997). For an earlier version of Gaines essay, see The Cold War and the African American Expatriate Community in Nkrumahs Ghana, in Christopher Simpson (ed.), Universities and Empire: Money and Politics in the Social Sciences During the Cold War (1998), 135-158. Among recent studies of the intersection of racial politics and the Cold War, see especially Thomas Borstelmann, Apartheids Reluctant Uncle: The United States and Southern Africa in the Early Cold War (1993); Mary L. Dudziak, Josephine Baker, Racial Protest, and the Cold War, Journal of American History 80 (September 1994): 543-570; Kenneth Robert Janken, Rayford W. Logan and the Dilemma of the African American Intellectual (1993); and Brenda Gayle Plummer, Rising Wind: Black Americans and U.S. Foreign Affairs, 1935-1960 (1996). See also Borstelmanns recent article Hedging Our Bets and Buying Time: John Kennedy and Racial Revolutions in the American South and Southern Africa, Diplomatic History 24 (Summer 2000): 435-463. On radical AfricanAmerican politics and the Cold War, see especially the series of books by Gerald Horne, including Black and Red: W.E.B. Du Bois and the Afro-American Response to the Cold War, 19441963(1986); Communist Front: The Civil Rights Congress, 1946-1956 (1988); and Black Liberation/ Red Scare: Ben Davis and the Communist Party (1993). For a broad historical overview, see Robin D. G. Kelley But a Local Phase of a World Problem: Black Historys Global Vision, 1883-1950, Journal of American History 86 (December 1999): 1045-1077. 9. Klein is completing a book on Cold War Orientalism, which grows out of her Yale dissertation in American Studies. One of the earliest efforts to explore the role of gender and family in Cold War culture was Elaine Tyler May, Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War (1988). For more recent efforts to introduce issues of gender and sexuality into the analysis of Cold War foreign policy, see Emily Rosenberg, Foreign Affairs after World War II: Connecting Sexual and International Politics, Diplomatic History 18 (Winter 1994): 59-70; Frank Costigliola, Unceasing Pressure for Penetration: Gender, Pathology, and Emotion in George Kennans Formation of the Cold War, Journal of American History 83 (March 1997): 1309-1339; K.A. Cuordileone, Politics in an Age of Anxiety, Cold War Political Culture and the Crisis in American Masculinity, 1949-1960, Journal of American History 87 (September 2000); 515-545; Robert D. Dean, Masculinity as Ideology: John F. Kennedy and the Domestic Politics of Foreign Policy, Diplomatic History 22 (Winter 1998): 29-62; Michelle Mart, Tough Guys and American Cold War Policy: Images of Israel, 19481960, Diplomatic History 20 (Summer 1996): 357-380; and Andrew J. Rotter, Gender Relations, Foreign Relations: The United States and South Asia, 1947-1964, Journal of American History 81 (September 1994): 518-542. See also, Suzanne Clark, Cold Warriors: Manliness on Trial in the Rhetoric of the West (2000); and Robert J. Corber, Homosexuality in Cold War America: Resistance and the Crisis of Masculinity (1997). On the post-Vietnam era, see especially Susan Jeffords, The Remasculinization of America: Gender and the Vietnam War (1989). 10. See also Gosses Where the Boys Are: Cuba, Cold War America and the Making of a New Left (1993), from which this essay is drawn. 11. Appy is the author of Working-Class War: American Combat Soldiers and Vietnam (1993), and editor of a University of Massachusetts Press book series on Culture, Politics and the Cold War. 12. Fisher is the author of Dr. America: The Lives of Thomas A. Dooley, 1927-1961 (1997). On the Vietnam Lobby, see also Eric Thomas Chester, Covert Network: Progressives, The International Rescue Committee and the CIA (1995); and especially Joseph G. Morgan, The Vietnam Lobby: The American Friends of Vietnam, 1955-1975 (1997).

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13. See also, Michael E. Latham, Modernization as Ideology: American Social Science and Nation Building in the Kennedy Era (2000). 14. See also James Edward Miller, The United States and Italy, 1940-1950: The Politics and Diplomacy of Stabilization (1986); and Ronald L. Filippelli, American Labor and Postwar Italy, 1943-1953: A Study of Cold War Politics (1989). 15. Although Fousek draws on Benedict Andersons classic study of nationalism, Imagined Communities (1983) and on Anders Stephansons more recent essay on American expansionism, Manifest Destiny: American Expansion and the Empire of Right (1995), he fails to engage (or for that matter acknowledge) much of the recent literature on nationalism, mission and imperialism. For example, see the introduction to the revised edition of Imagined Communities (1991); as well as the more recent work on nationalism and national identity by philosophers, political theorists, journalists and historians; Tony Smiths triumphalist reading of American mission in Americas Mission: The United States and the Worldwide Struggle for Democracy in the Twentieth Century (1995); Seymour Martin Lipsets reprise of the case for American exceptionalism in American Exceptionalism: A Double-Edged Sword (1996); and the arguments about culture and imperialism in Amy Kaplan and Donald E. Pease, eds., Cultures of United States Imperialism (1993). 16. Eagleton, The Contradictions of Postmodernism, New Literary History 28 (1997): 1. 17. Nadel, Containment Culture, 8. 18. See Ferguson, Industrial Conflict and the Coming of the New Deal: The Triumph of Multinational Liberalism in America, in Steve Fraser and Gary Gerstle, eds., The Rise and Fall of the New Deal Order (1989), 3-31. For a trenchant critique of Fergusons argument, see Michael J. Webber and G. William Domhoff, Myth and Reality in Business Support for Democrats and Republicans in the 1936 Presidential Election, American Political Science Review 90 (December 1996): 824-833. 19. Note, for example, the cultural work of organizations such as the Council on Foreign Relations, the Advertising Council, and the Committee for Economic Development, as well as the many ad hoc committees such as the National Security Committee, the Committee for the Marshall Plan, and the Committee on the Present Danger. For a recent study that emphasizes the importance of such organizations, see Scott Lucas, Freedoms War: The American Crusade Against the Soviet Union (1999). See also Michael Wala, Selling the Marshall Plan at Home: The Committee for the Marshall Plan to Aid European Recovery, Diplomatic History 10 (Summer 1986); Robert Griffith, The Selling of America: The Advertising Council and American Politics, 1942-1960, Business History Review 57 (Autumn 1983): 388-412; and, on the Committee on the Present Danger, James G. Hershberg, James Conant: Harvard to Hiroshima and the Making of the Nuclear Age (1993), 491-553. On the militarys use of advertising and public relations to overcome resistance to the draft and growing militarization, see Mark R. Grandstaff, Making the Military American: Advertising, Reform, and the Demise of an Anti-standing Military Tradition, 1945-1955, The Journal of Military History 60 (April 1996): 299-323. For the most recent account of the cultural initiatives of the CIA, see Saunders, The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters.