Book Review: Harry and Arthur

Harry and Arthur by Lawrence J. Haas is a well-written, timely and thoroughly researched book. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt passed away in 1945, leaving the crafting of a post-World War II order to his vice president, Harry Truman. Truman, a neophyte on foreign policy, worked closely with the Republican Party's leading voice on global issues -- Sen. Arthur Vandenberg from Michigan -- and set the U.S. and its allies on an ambitious course. This historic process included four key elements: the creation of the United Nations (UN), the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Truman and Vandenberg had a unique relationship, a special bond that was based upon mutual respect. To be clear, what transpired after World War II was not a foregone conclusion -- far from it. The U.S. had turned inward before and there was no guarantee it would not do so again. Yet, with Europe in ruins and communism on the ascendant, proponents of freedom and democracy needed someone to assume the mantle of global leadership. The U.S. was uniquely positioned to play that role.

Harry and Arthur will be of interest to history enthusiasts and a broader audience. Haas's lively prose makes an eminently readable book that much more entertaining.

There are lessons to be learned from this book: about the importance of crafting a bipartisan foreign and national security policy; about the role that personalities and interpersonal dynamics play at the highest levels of public life; about how much is possible when strategy, humanitarian resolve and vision are not undercut by short-sighted exigencies.

The U.S. is currently facing a range of challenges abroad and heighted partisanship at home. Now is an opportune time to reflect upon the chaotic and uncertain years after World War II and fully appreciate how, in spite of daunting obstacles, America responded so effectively.

*Disclosure: I have known Mr. Haas for several years and consider him both a mentor and a friend.