Leebaert ends his book with a rant about the way in which US foreign policy has developed since 1960, and has nasty remarks to make about George Kennan and Henry Kissinger (he lays about the latter in other quarters as well). He notes the sheer bloatedness of the American machine, particularly the National Security Council, which grew absurdly, and gets going on the half successes and three-quarters failures of US foreign policy since the Korean War. This does not, maybe, belong in the book, but certainly the way in which the Americans have managed their imperial affairs does contrast with the British approach. The World after the War is one of the most thoughtful books on the Cold War period that has come my way.
However, Derek Leebaert’s fascinating book is far from just another story of the British empire’s recessional. Instead, the author, a professor at Georgetown University in Washington DC and a management consultant on the side, challenges the conventional view. The story as usually told is that in 1945 an exhausted Britain, under the leadership of a new Labour government committed to decolonisation and focused on pressing economic and social needs at home, was ready to pass the torch of global leadership across the Atlantic.