Top positive review
The pros and cons of Harry Truman's presidency
Reviewed in the United States on February 24, 2019
This short book is a good summary of Harry Truman’s presidency. Dallek is especially strong at showing the tensions and problems Truman faced as president as well as those he caused. The book does not pull punches on Truman’s weaknesses. But most of the problems Truman faced were not his fault – adjusting the U.S. economy after the war, the anti-Communist furor at the time, the situation in post-war Europe, how to deal with what was happening in China and Korea, and many others. For those who did not live through those times, the book is an excellent record of just how incredibly dangerous the late 40’s and early 50’s were. Paranoid Joseph Stalin, the rise of Mao Tse-tung in China, how to deal with the atom and hydrogen bombs, divided Berlin and the Berlin airlift, spying, McCarthy – it seems at times overwhelming. But, as Dallek shows, though Truman was his own worst enemy at times and his lack of experience really showed, he managed as president to keep the national and international chaos from turning into a nuclear war. At a time when almost no one understood what such a war would be like, its occurrence was a real possibility and one of the better things about Harry Truman was that he understood that possibility better than most. It may have been because he had more information about the results of his own decision to drop the bomb on Japan but, whatever the reason, he (mostly) kept his wits about him. This is a readable and engaging book. No matter how one feels about Harry Truman, it chronicles a critical time in American history and is a strong addition to the American Presidents Series.