Closing Pandora’s Box

CLOSING PANDORA’S BOX is a comprehensive account of Western foreign policy during the twentieth century. Beginning in the years before World War I, Patrick Glynn contends that the fear of weapons, be it dreadnoughts, airplanes, or nuclear missiles, had unfortunate consequences on Western policymakers. In their quest for weapons control and disarmament, they made war more rather than less likely. The real causes of war are politicians, not their weapons.

Glynn is a member of the realist school of international relations, and he castigates Woodrow Wilson’s misguided idealism and its influence upon subsequent policymakers. He argues that, when Western statesmen advocated arms reductions and disarmament, too often German and Soviet leaders were merely encouraged to look upon the West as weak and thus to continue their aggressive actions. Instead of limiting weapons, the better policy was to overawe the dictators with Western military strength.

The hero of CLOSING PANDORA’S BOX is Winston Churchill. It was he who best understood the political/military dimensions of Hitler’s fascism and Stalin’s communism. The author is more critical of Democrats and liberals than Republicans and conservatives, but he points out that every presidential administration pursued the seductive myth that arms limitations would end the threat of war. Glynn claims that it was the Reagan Administration’s weapons buildup and refusal to negotiate one-sided arms agreements which put the final nail into the coffin of Soviet communism, but even his praise for Reagan is tempered by the latter’s intellectual and administrative limitations.

CLOSING PANDORA’S BOX is a persuasive history of the Cold War from the perspective of a political realist. In conclusion, Glynn warns that the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War should not prompt the United States to disarm and retreat into isolationism. The world is still a dangerous place.