What can one make of United States policies toward Argentina during World War II? The punitive actions of the United States seem to have far transcended those taken toward other “neutrals,” who were in many ways less committed to serving Allied logistic needs. Further, the zigzag of these policies is perplexing.

Toward explanation, the author applies a “bureaucratic politics” approach similar to that proposed by Graham Allison. Woods sees United States policies as a product of competition between various individuals within the Department of State and between State and other agencies, especially Treasury. Within the Department of State, Woods designates the competing actors as, on the one hand, the “Latin Americanists” (that is, those committed to hemisphere solidarity) led by Sumner Welles, with support from Philip Bonsai and Larry Duggan; and, on the other hand, the “internationalists” (those with a War-generated world view), headed by Cordell Hull.

In developing his argument, the author starts with the differences between Hull and Welles over the latter’s accommodation to Argentine insistence on a “recommendatory” rather than mandatory diplomatic rupture resolution at Rio in January 1942. While both men favored policies of pressure to force Argentina toward a diplomatic break, Welles, who had his way during 1942, pursued a softer, indirect approach, such as the withholding of newsprint from the neutralist press and selective economic intervention. After the failure of Welles’s tactics, Hull took policy control during 1943, asserting the hard line of open confrontation, including an unsuccessful plan to cut Argentine telecommunications with Germany, a propaganda barrage culminating in the blistering public reply to Foreign Minister Storni’s request for arms, a limited trade embargo, and, finally, in early 1944, the withdrawal of recognition. Supported by Treasury, Hull sought to go further, putting forward a full-scale trade-embargo plan that was sensibly quashed by Roosevelt after vigorous opposition by the British as well as by our military establishment. Treasury is depicted in a fairly consistent position of favoring the freezing of Argentine assets in the United States—a proposal opposed aggressively by Welles and, for the most part, by Hull, both singularly allied in opposition to Treasury’s perceived usurpation of State’s foreign-policy-making prerogatives. During the first half of 1945, largely under the leadership of Nelson Rockefeller, there was a reversal of policy; the United States supported reintegration of Argentina into the Inter-American system as well as Argentina’s bid for a seat in the United Nations, and, finally, resumed diplomatic relations.

The author’s approach is especially interesting because it allows us to assess the usefulness of “bureaucratic politics’’ analysis within a historical context. Leaving aside the obvious criticism that such a framework is distortedly unilateral (exacerbated here by the author’s viewing the Argentine positions largely through North American eyes), it becomes clear that the intradepartment differences between Hull and Welles were more of degree than of kind, and probably were based as much on emotion as on substance. Indeed, Hull’s hard-line approach toward a very distant nation, at the farthest perimeter of the warring world, can plausibly be explained by his having himself been caught up in “Good Neighbor’’ and Western Hemisphere idea rhetoric: he may have been, more than Welles, an unreasoning “Latin Americanist.”

Woods duly describes differences between policy proposals of Treasury and State, but the disagreements are not well analyzed within larger departmental objectives and responsibilities. Woods’s case is thin for the idea that the basis of Treasury’s position was largely eccentric (Morgenthau’s perception that anti-Semitism was rampant in Argentina) or hegemonic.

A serious weakness of the volume—one that also necessarily makes incomplete our examination of the usefulness for the historian of “bureaucratic politics analysis in this case—is the lack of due attention to the positions of War and Navy. While our military establishment is pictured by Woods as consistently opposing political and economic pressures on Argentina, the posture is not explained. The recent research of John Child has pointed to Army’s wartime “Quarter-Sphere strategy in accord with which the Southern Cone was viewed as beyond the bounds of United States security interests. Why was this not taken into more account by Welles and Hull? Another weakness of the study is a neglect of serious attention to British input into United States policies, given the crucial importance of Argentine food to the British wartime effort and Argentina’s long situation as an informal colony.

On balance, Woods has made a very useful beginning contribution to our further understanding of United States foreign policy formation during World War II.