The Quiet Americans: Four CIA Spies at the Dawn of the Cold War

Shehryar Fazli in the Los Angeles Review of Books:

COUNTERFACTUALS TEND TO BE more intriguing when they bend sinister. They reassure us that our times aren’t as bad as they might have been, but warn us about where we could still end up. What if xenophobic Charles Lindbergh had been elected president in 1940, as in Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America, or if the Axis powers had prevailed in World War II, as in Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle? Would it be worth, however, indulging a less theatrical alternative history: what if Vice President Henry A. Wallace had been re-nominated as Franklin D. Roosevelt’s running mate in 1944 rather than being replaced by Harry Truman?

Party bosses thought the eccentric New Dealer too friendly with labor and soft on the Soviets, and ultimately exploited procedural quirks at the 1944 Democratic convention to replace Wallace on the ticket with the relatively obscure senator from Missouri. Some 80 days into his vice presidency, Truman ascended to the Oval Office, from where he would drop atomic bombs on Japan and build the US national security state as we know it.

Wallace would continue as Secretary of Commerce, until forced to resign in 1946 after a speech calling on Washington to respect the legitimacy of the Soviet sphere of influence. Had he become president after FDR’s death from an intracerebral hemorrhage, he would likely have pushed for negotiations with Moscow toward military disengagement from Europe, and not arrived at so sweeping a global vision to confront communism as Truman did.

More here.