George Marshall’s Unfinished War, 1945-1947
By Daniel Kurtz-Phelan
Illustrated. 476 pp. W.W. Norton & Company. $28.95.

《中国任务——乔治·马歇尔未完成的战争,1945–1947》(THE CHINA MISSION: George Marshall’s Unfinished War, 1945-1947)。
丹尼尔·库尔茨-费伦(Daniel Kurtz-Phelan)著。
W·W·诺顿出版社(W.W. Norton & Company)出版。28.95美元。

George Catlett Marshall is rightly regarded as among the greatest soldier-statesmen in American history, comparable in his achievements to Dwight Eisenhower and, perhaps, to George Washington himself. Appointed chief of staff by Franklin Roosevelt in 1939, Marshall oversaw the transformation of the United States Army from a small, stagnant force into a mighty engine of war, then helped to direct its successful use in Europe and the Pacific. Praised by Harry Truman as “the greatest man of World War II” and by Winston Churchill as the true “architect of victory,” Marshall would go on to play an essential role in shaping the subsequent, uneasy peace. The enormous program of economic assistance that bore his name helped rebuild the shattered nations of Western Europe, securing their place in an alliance of liberal democracies that contained the Soviet Union and ultimately won the Cold War.

乔治·卡特利特·马歇尔(George Catlett Marshall)堪称美国历史上最伟大的军人政治家之一,他的成就可比德怀特·艾森豪威尔(Dwight Eisenhower),或许还堪与乔治·华盛顿(George Washington)本人相提并论。1939年,他被富兰克林·罗斯福(Franklin Roosevelt)任命为参谋长,负责将美国陆军从一支弱小、萎靡的部队,转变为一座强大的战争机器,然后在他参与指挥下,成功地在欧洲和太平洋战场上加以运用。他被哈里·杜鲁门(Harry Truman)誉为“二战中最伟大的人物”,被温斯顿·丘吉尔(Winston Churchill)誉为真正的“胜利建筑师”,在塑造战后不稳定的和平之中,他也发挥了重要作用。以他的名字命名的大型经济援助计划帮助满目疮痍的西欧国家进行重建,巩固了它们在自由民主国家联盟中的地位,遏制了苏联,并最终赢得了冷战。

Marshall’s many successes bracketed one notable failure. Within days of retiring from the Army and returning to his home in Leesburg, Va., for a well-deserved rest, he received a telephone call summoning him back to government service. Two weeks later, after a series of hasty meetings with Truman and his top advisers, Marshall boarded a plane for the long trip to China. He would spend the next two years there, trying in vain to head off a renewed civil war between forces under the command of the Communist Party chairman Mao Zedong and their Nationalist rivals led by the Washington-backed ally Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek.


Daniel Kurtz-Phelan’s book, “The China Mission,” tells the story of Marshall’s unsuccessful mission to China. Thoroughly researched and compellingly written, it is at once a revealing study of character and leadership, a vivid reconstruction of a critical episode in the history of the early Cold War and an insightful meditation on the limits of American power even at its peak.


Marshall was renowned for his skills as a strategist and an organizer, but also for personal characteristics. His rectitude and dedication to duty were legendary, prompting Churchill to label him “the noblest Roman of them all.” He could be severe, even forbidding (at one point telling his deputy Dean Acheson, “I have no feelings except those reserved for Mrs. Marshall”), and seems to have evoked a mixture of fear, awe and devotion from his subordinates. But Marshall also had a sense of proportion and humility, and an aversion to self-aggrandizement and self-promotion that set him apart from contemporaries like Douglas MacArthur.

马歇尔的名声得自他作为战略家和组织者的才能,同时也是因为他的个性。他的正直和尽责是众所周知的,丘吉尔称他为“最高贵的罗马人”。他可能会很严厉,甚至令人生畏(有一次,他对自己的副手迪恩·艾奇逊[Dean Acheson]说:“我没有感情,仅有的一点是留给马歇尔夫人的”),下属对他似乎既敬畏又忠诚。但是马歇尔也很谦逊、有分寸,厌恶自我膨胀和自吹自擂,这和道格拉斯·麦克阿瑟(Douglas MacArthur)等同时代人不一样。

All of these qualities, but especially the combination of doggedness and strategic vision, emerge clearly from Kurtz-Phelan’s finely detailed account. Despite a realistic appraisal of the enormous difficulties involved, Marshall was relentless in his attempts to bring the Communists and Nationalists together, first negotiating a cease-fire and then working to merge their respective armies and to join the parties into some form of unity government. When talks faltered he shuttled back and forth between the two sides, meeting for hours at a time, first with Chiang, then with Mao’s deputy, Zhou Enlai, flying to Yenan to confer directly with Mao and traveling repeatedly by plane, boat, jeep and sedan chair when the generalissimo retreated to his summer home in the mountains outside Nanjing. Marshall “clings so tenaciously to a seemingly hopeless job,” one observer noted. “More meetings and more futility all the time,” another wrote in his diary. “I don’t see how the general stands it.”



Unlike some Western observers, Marshall had no illusions that the Communists were mere “agrarian reformers” with genuine democratic inclinations. Nor was he blind to the faults of the Nationalists. Although he respected Chiang, Marshall recognized that many of his lieutenants were corrupt and inclined to use brutal tactics to suppress their opponents, including the assassination of moderate, anti-Communist advocates of liberal political reforms.


American strategy was based on the hope that forcing the two sides to cooperate would eventually have a moderating influence on both. It was a long shot, but as far as Marshall was concerned, there really was no alternative. Cutting off all assistance to Chiang would only harden his worst inclinations while abandoning any hope of shaping his behavior. On the other hand, notwithstanding the Nationalists’ advantages in American-supplied weapons and logistics, Marshall was skeptical that they could finish off their enemies and establish control over all of China. As he correctly anticipated, trying to do so would plunge the nation back into all-out civil war and open the way for increased Soviet involvement and influence.


Looking back, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that a final duel to the death between Nationalist and Communist forces was inevitable, even if its outcome perhaps was not. As Kurtz-Phelan correctly notes, Marshall’s ability to exert influence over the Nationalists was limited from the start by Chiang’s belief (bolstered by back-channel communications with his friends in Washington) that, in the end, the United States would have no choice but to support him. (Here American policymakers were faced for the first time with what would become a recurrent problem of the postwar era: how to impose reform on a weak, corrupt and dependent client facing a ruthless and highly motivated opponent.) In retrospect it also seems obvious that, despite Marshall’s earnest efforts, both Chiang and Mao were simply playing for time, waiting for the most opportune moment to finish their two-decade struggle.


The eventual Communist victory triggered recriminations and an ugly, polarizing debate back in the United States. Congressional Republicans claimed that the Truman administration had “lost” China by not backing Chiang to the hilt. Some suggested that this failure was the work of a vast web of Communist spies and sympathizers operating at all levels of the government. Even Marshall, with his towering reputation, was not immune. Senator Joe McCarthy, an early practitioner of the dark art of spreading “fake news,” denounced him for “criminal folly” and put him at the heart of “a conspiracy so immense and an infamy so black as to dwarf any previous venture in the history of man.”

共产党的最终胜利在美国引发了相互指责以及丑陋的、两极化的辩论。国会的共和党人声称,杜鲁门政府未能全力支持蒋介石,因此“失去”了中国。有些人认为,这个失败是共产党在美国政府各个层级的间谍和同情者组成的庞大网络造成的。就连享有崇高声誉的马歇尔也未能幸免。参议员乔·麦卡锡(Joe McCarthy)是传播“假新闻”这门黑暗艺术的早期践行者,他谴责马歇尔做了“罪恶的蠢事”,认为他是“一桩阴谋和丑闻的中心,阴谋之庞大,丑闻之黑暗,令人类历史上所有的创举都相形见绌”。

Marshall’s reaction to such demagogy was nonchalant: “If I have to explain at this point that I am not a traitor to the United States I hardly think it’s worth it.” On the more serious question of whether an alternative approach could have prevented Mao’s victory and perhaps put China on a path toward liberal democracy, he does not appear to have harbored deep doubts. Even a commitment of several hundred thousand American troops would not have been sufficient to guarantee success, and it would have diverted scarce resources from “more vital regions,” like Western Europe, where the United States had “a reasonable opportunity of meeting or thwarting the Communist threat.”


The “loss” of China may have been unavoidable, at least at anything close to an acceptable cost to the United States, but it was still a tragedy. As China continues to gain in wealth and power, while its political system devolves into a one-man dictatorship, it would appear that the final chapters of this tragedy have yet to be written.