In this landmark, character-driven history, Greg Behrman tells the story of the Marshall Plan, the unprecedented and audacious policy through which America helped rebuild World War II-ravaged Western Europe. With nuanced, vivid prose, Behrman recreates the story of a unique American enterprise that was at once strategic, altruistic and stunningly effective, and of a time when America stood as a beacon of generosity and moral leadership.
When World War II ended in Europe, the continent lay in tatters. Tens of millions of people had been killed. Ancient cities had been demolished. The economic, financial and commercial foundations of Europe were in shambles. Western Europe's Communist parties -- feeding off people's want and despair -- were flourishing as, to the east, Stalin's Soviet Union emerged as the sole superpower on the continent.
The Marshall Plan was a four-year, $13 billion (more than $100 billion in today's dollars) plan to provide assistance for Europe's economic recovery. More than an aid program, it sought to modernize Western Europe's economies and launch them on a path to prosperity and integration; to restore Western Europe's faith in democracy and capitalism; to enmesh the region firmly in a Western economic association and eventually a military alliance. It was the linchpin of America's strategy to meet the Soviet threat. It helped to trigger the Cold War and, eventually, to win it.
Through detailed and exhaustive research, Behrman brings this vital and dramatic epoch to life and animates the personalities that shaped it. The narrative follows the six extraordinary American statesmen -- George Marshall, Will Clayton, Arthur Vandenberg, Richard Bissell, Paul Hoffman and W. Averell Harriman -- who devised and implemented the Plan, as well as some of the century's most important personalities -- Winston Churchill, Josef Stalin, Joseph McCarthy -- who are also central players in the drama told here.
More than a humanitarian endeavor, the Marshall Plan was one of the most effective foreign policies in all of American history, in large part because, as Behrman writes, it was born and executed in a time when American "foreign policy was defined by its national interests and the very best of ideals."
The plan conceived by Secretary of State George Marshall to aid the recovery of a ravaged post-WWII Europe was perhaps the most generous act in American history and the world's most successful program of international cooperation and visionary statesmanship. Behrman's comprehensive study of the Marshall Plan could not arrive at a better time, when issues of nation building, postwar reconstruction and American obligations to friend and foe are the stuff of public debate. Behrman (The Invisible People) provides clarity, color and one of the greatest casts of characters in America's history, including Harry Truman, Dean Acheson and Marshall. Readers will also learn of unjustly overlooked men such as Will Clayton, Paul Hoffman and Arthur Vandenberg on the American side and of the statesmanship of Ernest Bevin, Robert Schuman, Jean Monnet and Stafford Cripps on the European. While lasting a mere four years, the $13-billion Marshall Plan rescued Europe from economic catastrophe and possible Communist domination while setting the stage for the continent's integration today. Even if the work lacks a strong enough authorial voice and distinctive style, it's unlikely Behrman's narrative force could be surpassed or that the discovery of further archives would materially alter the author's gripping tale. 16 pages of photos.