Ronald Granieri. The Ambivalent Alliance: Konrad Adenauer, the CDU/CSU, and the West, 1949-1966. New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2003. 288 pp. $69.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-57181-272-8.
Reviewed by Paul Steege (Department of History, Villanova University)
Published on H-Diplo (March, 2004)
Hope and Fear: A Consummate Politician's Anxious Visions of the West
Hope and Fear: A Consummate Politician's Anxious Visions of the West
Since the 1980s, scholars of the Cold War have increasingly moved beyond simplistic notions of a bipolar world defined solely by superpower politics. Initially, these efforts emphasized the ways in which non-superpower state actors played vital roles in shaping the contours of the Cold War, but a growing number of social and cultural analyses have further expanded our understanding of the diverse agents engaged in the Cold War's production. Post-World War II Germany has, of course, always enjoyed a privileged place in formulations of the Cold War and while much of that work tended to reduce the former Reich to a prize or battleground for the wartime allies' emerging animosities, a number of recent works have complicated that location, moving back and forth across the iron curtain or even exploding the European geography of the German-German conflict altogether. On some level these new ventures into German Cold War agency have paralleled reunified Germany's awkward entry into post-Cold War self-assertiveness as this new/old state has sought to find its place in a world whose conflicts seemed to operate in more distant centers. While much of the renewed enthusiasm for Germany's Cold War past has depended on discoveries in newly accessible East German and, to a lesser degree, Soviet archives, the euphoric filling in of blank spots with new material has gradually come to enjoy a more contemplative counterpoint as historians move to reconsider even those things that they have presumed to know all along. Adopting a similar critical tone, this study of one historical attempt to find a place for (West) Germany in a postwar world fits quite well into these historiographical efforts to relocate Cold War Germany.
Ronald Granieri's thoughtful account of Konrad Adenauer's struggle to integrate into the West the newly founded Federal Republic of Germany offers his readers much more than the party political history that the subtitle might imply. Rather, by exploring the very ambiguous location of the West that Adenauer so desperately pursued, he suggests the need to reframe some of the essential categories with which historians endeavor to elaborate the Cold War past. Granieri challenges the simple deployment of a core Cold War category--the West--and uses the first West German chancellor, Konrad Adenauer, as the lens with which he brings this more complicated understanding into focus. Adenauer himself claimed allying "ourselves firmly with the free West" as his "most important decision in office" (p. 3), but the West he pursued proved much more elusive than this claim suggests. At times Adenauer sounded like an "Atlanticist"--firmly committed to a West anchored by a dominant U.S. presence in Europe; on other occasions like a "Gaullist," paralleling French leader Charles de Gaulle's advocacy of a European West without a strong "Anglo-Saxon" influence. Granieri endeavors to untangle the historical implications of these political and cultural tensions within the West, what he describes as the "hidden history of the Cold War" (p. 8). Challenging easy dichotomies that posit two diametrically opposed versions of the West (Atlanticism vs. Gaullism) or suggest that support for West German integration into the West (Westbindung) necessitated an opposition to German national unity, Granieri instead argues that Adenauer's flexible view of the West sought to balance competing claims within his own party but ultimately rested on his fundamental sense of West Germany's position of insecurity. The eventual decline in Adenauer's and his party's political fortunes derived not from a lack of success in promoting Westbindung but rather from the ambiguities inherent in this cultural and political symbol that they helped make the coin of the realm and upon which its success in fact depended.
The book proceeds chronologically from Adenauer's assumption of the chancellorship in fall 1949 through the Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU or simply Union) electoral triumphs of the 1950s to Konrad Adenauer's and the Union's gradual decline by 1966. Following an introduction that establishes the contours of the book's principal term of analysis (Westbindung), the first chapter explores Adenauer's efforts to lead West Germany out from the restrictions of allied occupation in an effort to achieve broader sovereignty. Chapter 2 begins with the Union's landslide victory in the 1953 Bundestag elections but concentrates on how this success and the even larger electoral achievements to follow did not translate into a more assertive effort to expand the reach of West German independent action. (Granieri entitles his conclusion to this chapter "Running in Place.") Adenauer's fear that the achievement of West German sovereignty could be reversed lay at the root of this hesitancy. As a result he tried to cover his bets and have his West in two flavors--a European and Atlantic world. The subsequent two chapters elaborate the consequences of this insecurity: as Westbindung came to be accepted as a basic principle of even the opposition Social Democratic Party (SPD), Adenauer and the Union struggled to cope with the bitter divides within its own ranks. Instead of unambiguously promoting the West, the Union found itself split between ideological proponents of a cultural West (the Abendland) and those espousing a pragmatic vision of future prosperity dependent on economic development in an American vein. Adenauer's somewhat ignominious retreat from power, detailed in chapter 5, bore out the extent to which his successful efforts to define a place in the West--and his willingness to leave that definition so open-ended--remained ultimately dependent on his ability to master the party political struggles within the Union.
Underscoring the dynamic connections between Adenauer's politics and the spaces in which it operated, Granieri's narrative moves within and across European and trans-Atlantic geography to mark the terrain its protagonists had to navigate. Each of the first four chapters begins and/or ends with an analysis of an international trip, and the book's argument hinges on the tension between Adenauer's 1953 visit to the United States and two very different trips a decade later: John F. Kennedy's trip to Germany and Adenauer's "farewell tour" to Bonn, Paris, and Rome. In 1953, Adenauer's "triumphant" U.S. visit marked the symbolic realization of his hopes to anchor West Germany to a postwar West. The carefully orchestrated "political theater" (p. 62) of Adenauer's ceremonial wreath-laying at the American tomb of the unknowns while a military band played the American and German national anthems rendered explicit the West German leader's connection to the ritual identity of the victorious West. Yet as the division of Germany hardened, and especially with the construction of the Berlin Wall, desire in some German political circles for aggressive advocacy of German unity seemed to demand a rejection of an American patron whose passivity simply accepted this new, concrete divide. Kennedy's 1963 visit and particularly his iconic speech in West Berlin reiterated West Germany's place in the West, but it also explicitly challenged a West for which de Gaulle's France served as an alternative touchstone. In contrast, Adenauer's final tour of the three European capitals seemed to leave his world "reduced again to the core of the Abendland" (p. 183).
Granieri's discussion of this core tension starts from Marc Trachtenberg's elaboration of a superpower settlement in 1962-63. While acknowledging the provocative power of a thesis that sees guaranteeing (West) German loyalty as a necessary prerequisite for d=tente, he posits the inherent limits to any analysis that accepts the reality of superpower compromise over European heads and fails to recognize the inherent contradictions within the West. For Granieri, the continuity of Adenauer's personal engagement in the political battles over West Germany's various expressions of political independence (most notably the 1952 Germany Treaty and the 1963 Elys=e Treaty) reiterated the degree to which battles over versions of the West did not translate into unambiguous lines of policy or political justification but could find contradictory embodiment even within a single individual. The slippage at times between his public and private declarations marked a critical mechanism of Adenauer's pursuit of "politics as the art of the possible" (p. 59). But a focus on Adenauer as a pragmatic Realpolitiker, who depended on his "political instincts" (p. 231), underestimates the productive tension between his actions and the network of multivocal symbols that were never mere political tools.
Adenauer was certainly not the only one who faced contradictory decisions about which "West was best." John F. Kennedy sought to deploy divided Berlin as a symbolic shorthand for a globalized Cold War, and the United States found itself intertwined in a West there that was only partially of its making. The conceptual path from West Berlin mayor Ernst Reuter (another politician quite concerned about ambiguous American commitments to Germany in the early 1950s) to his eventual successor Willy Brandt and the vital SPD role in producing in West Berlin a West for symbolic export suggests that the Union did not hold a monopoly on multifaceted assertions of identity. Here as well, it was precisely the interaction of party politics with the evolving demands of the wider world that most contributed to the production of a flexible and ambiguous version of the West. While political leaders on both sides of the Atlantic may have viewed this lack of clarity with consternation, it proved a real strength for the West's multifaceted efforts to navigate the demands of the Cold War. Granieri is right to warn against allowing these tensions to vanish in a retrospective celebration of Western victory, and his call to continue to wrestle with its historical and historiographical legacy is well-founded.
. Two of the most effective cultural histories of the Cold War that also provocatively challenge simple notions of political and cultural boundaries remain Reinhold Wagnleitner, Coca-Colonization and the Cold War: The Cultural Mission of the United States in Austria after the Second World War, trans. Diana M. Wolf (Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press, 1994); and Uta Poiger, Jazz, Rock, and Rebels: Cold War Politics and American Culture in a Divided Germany (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000).
. Timothy Garton Ash, In Europe's Name: Germany and the Divided Continent (New York: Random House, 1993); Marc Trachtenberg, A Constructed Peace: The Making of the European Settlement, 1945-1963 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999); M. E. Sarotte, Dealing with the Devil: East Germany, D=tente, and Ostpolitik, 1969-1973 (Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press, 2001); and William Glenn Gray, Germany's Cold War: The Global Campaign to Isolate East Germany, 1949-1969 (Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press, 2003).
. On the tension between presumed and actual "gaps" in (western) historians' knowledge of the Cold War (in this case particularly about the evolution of East Germany) prior to the collapse of the communist regimes in East-Central Europe and Russia, see Norman Naimark's introduction to Bernd Bonwetsch, Gennadii Bordiugov, and Norman Naimark, eds., SVAG: Upravlenie propagandy (informacii) i S. I. Tiul'panov 1945-1949: Sbornik dokumentov, Seriia 'Perviia Publikacii' (Moscow: Rossiia molodaia, 1994), p. 4. For an eloquent critique of the limitations of presumptive knowledge about the Cold War, see Melvyn P. Leffler, "The Cold War: What Do 'We Now Know?'" American Historical Review 104, no. 2 (April 1999): pp. 500-524.
Paul Steege. Review of Granieri, Ronald, The Ambivalent Alliance: Konrad Adenauer, the CDU/CSU, and the West, 1949-1966.
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