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The Cold War: A New History

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The “dean of Cold War historians” (The New York Times) now presents the definitive account of the global confrontation that dominated the last half of the twentieth century. Drawing on newly opened archives and the reminiscences of the major players, John Lewis Gaddis explains not just what happened but why—from the months in 1945 when the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. went from a The “dean of Cold War historians” (The New York Times) now presents the definitive account of the global confrontation that dominated the last half of the twentieth century. Drawing on newly opened archives and the reminiscences of the major players, John Lewis Gaddis explains not just what happened but why—from the months in 1945 when the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. went from alliance to antagonism to the barely averted holocaust of the Cuban Missile Crisis to the maneuvers of Nixon and Mao, Reagan and Gorbachev. Brilliant, accessible, almost Shakespearean in its drama, The Cold War stands as a triumphant summation of the era that, more than any other, shaped our own.


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The “dean of Cold War historians” (The New York Times) now presents the definitive account of the global confrontation that dominated the last half of the twentieth century. Drawing on newly opened archives and the reminiscences of the major players, John Lewis Gaddis explains not just what happened but why—from the months in 1945 when the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. went from a The “dean of Cold War historians” (The New York Times) now presents the definitive account of the global confrontation that dominated the last half of the twentieth century. Drawing on newly opened archives and the reminiscences of the major players, John Lewis Gaddis explains not just what happened but why—from the months in 1945 when the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. went from alliance to antagonism to the barely averted holocaust of the Cuban Missile Crisis to the maneuvers of Nixon and Mao, Reagan and Gorbachev. Brilliant, accessible, almost Shakespearean in its drama, The Cold War stands as a triumphant summation of the era that, more than any other, shaped our own.

30 review for The Cold War: A New History

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jan-Maat

    To say this book is bad would be a little unfair, though it does seem to rely on the reader being ignorant and gullible, however I did find it surprisingly ungood particularly considering his earlier book We now know which I assume was written by the same person (view spoiler)[ it was (hide spoiler)] . His basic message is that it was the free market what won it, and that it could have been far worse - meaning that more Americans might have died, even all of them perhaps (view spoiler)[ though tha To say this book is bad would be a little unfair, though it does seem to rely on the reader being ignorant and gullible, however I did find it surprisingly ungood particularly considering his earlier book We now know which I assume was written by the same person (view spoiler)[ it was (hide spoiler)] . His basic message is that it was the free market what won it, and that it could have been far worse - meaning that more Americans might have died, even all of them perhaps (view spoiler)[ though that seems to me to be far too optimistic about the capabilities of Soviet missiles (hide spoiler)] , that the lives of people in the countries where the Cold War was fought, even those who died in order that a red flag would never flutter above Nebraska or New Mexico, don't really count is a feature of this book. On the other hand, fans of Reagan and Thatcher and J-P II might be disappointed that, despite the page space they get, they aren't explicitly credited with winning the Cold War and creating universal happiness and boundless wealth. This is an account from a US perspective written by an American with I assume a US audience in mind, well fair enough, you get what you pay for with books, or in this case what you can find on other people's shelves, however delightfully bemused though I am at how important Gaddis finds the watergate crisis to the Cold War (view spoiler)[ but not the Kennedy assassination, though the failed attempts on the lives of Reagan and J-P. II are so important to the course of the Cold War that they have to be mentioned, but not the failed attempt on the life of Thatcher even though the terrorist Freedom Fighters involved in that were getting weapons, indirectly no doubt, from Warsaw Pact countries (hide spoiler)] , I find his complete lack of analysis of US strategic thinking historically negligent, we get no insight in to why or how Domino theory seized the US strategic imagination, or indeed why despite some US successes in shifting alliances, they felt that dominoes would only fall one way, I had the feeling that Gaddis avoided asking where the US was in 1968 or 1956 by chopping up the timeline of his narrative, here Nixon meets Mao (1972) before the Prague Spring (1968) and he deals with 1956 in three different well separated segments. Here Gaddis speaks the same language, has access to archives, could interview participants but has nothing of note to say about US thinking or strategy which is what I naively might hope from a US book. Although I did learn that the it was the Cold War that learnt the US government to be duplicitous and use secret agents, this, Gaddis thinks, never happened before. Also according to him all national liberation movement leaders were Wilsonian Democrats (view spoiler)[ doubtless all enjoying watching 'Birth of a Nation' and fantasising about the knights of the South in their free time too (hide spoiler)] , and if they didn't realise that and thought they were Marxists instead - well they just brought trouble on their own heads apparently (view spoiler)[ but as above if they died as a result they were non-Americans and so don't count (hide spoiler)] . Also in like fashion he is breezy and dismissive of popular Communist movements, being on the verge of electoral victory in post war Italy - all due to money from the Soviet Union apparently, the role of communist partisans and resistance movements during World War Two too unimportant to mention, and therefore justifying massive inflows of US cash to the Christian Democrats even more (view spoiler)[ or less depending on your point of view (hide spoiler)] dubious recipients not mentioned but since they were anti-communist that would have been fine. One gets the sense that other countries may go Communist or Islamic fundamentalist, but otherwise have no right to deviate from US Strategic objectives (even though these aren't explained) therefore de Gaulle is 'the ultimate free rider'(oh the ingratitude!), little countries abusing their geopolitical position to wag the dog is like judo, just plain unAmerican. Slightly disappointed as I recalled Gaddis' earlier book We now know as being mildly interesting on the role of unpatriotic US bears in almost triggering nuclear war (view spoiler)[ due to over enthusiastic rattling of security fencing at American airbases (view spoiler)[ the extent to which American Brown bears had been infiltrated by Marxist-Leninist thinking remains sadly under explored despite the evidence of Yogi Bear and his televised efforts to appropriate the picnic baskets of the bourgeoisie (hide spoiler)] (hide spoiler)] and of the banks of the Capitalist / Western world keeping Eastern European Communist countries afloat through loans (view spoiler)[ creating the prospect of an Autumn of the Patriarch style alternative ending to the Cold War when the bailiffs are sent in to take the whole country way . A book is a finite thing, so sometimes what you notice most is what the author chooses not to discuss. Here the interesting absence is espionage, for older readers I imagine the spy story is the archetypal cold war narrative, but here there are no bugs in hotel rooms, honey-traps, microfilms, exchanges of compromised agents before dawn on foggy bridges, instead Gaddis story is largely of technology, and waiting for decades for Reagan to come along and disarm Gorbachev with his Hollywood smile, maybe he's right...maybe this is so high level an account that it is impossible to imagine any connection between the tree and the forest. (hide spoiler)]

  2. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    If you asked the 10 best historians in the world to write a history of the Cold War in under 250 pages, you would get back 10 works that were overly broad, sweeping, slanted, and/or missing key facts. Gaddis hasn't avoided all these pitfalls, but it's an excellent effort, and most important for his target audience, the book is eminently readable. He creates a sense of urgency and page-turning suspense in a book that describes the history of a war that never actually got "hot." His political lean If you asked the 10 best historians in the world to write a history of the Cold War in under 250 pages, you would get back 10 works that were overly broad, sweeping, slanted, and/or missing key facts. Gaddis hasn't avoided all these pitfalls, but it's an excellent effort, and most important for his target audience, the book is eminently readable. He creates a sense of urgency and page-turning suspense in a book that describes the history of a war that never actually got "hot." His political leanings and his triumphalism aside, he does a fantastic job of capturing the key players, motives, and events of the Cold War for a generation that has been raised after the falling of the Berlin Wall-- scary, huh?

  3. 5 out of 5

    Dеnnis

    History is written by the winners. This book is no way an exception to this adage. True, I was born in the vanquished state, yet I was in a tender age, when the collapse occurred hence unlike adults I lost little in the process. Or I was lucky enough to have parents and family to shield me from the embittering and devastating effects of the chaos that ensued. Anyway I approached the book with as open mind as possible, given the situation. Previously I was smitten with revelations of how the Cold History is written by the winners. This book is no way an exception to this adage. True, I was born in the vanquished state, yet I was in a tender age, when the collapse occurred hence unlike adults I lost little in the process. Or I was lucky enough to have parents and family to shield me from the embittering and devastating effects of the chaos that ensued. Anyway I approached the book with as open mind as possible, given the situation. Previously I was smitten with revelations of how the Cold War unfolded in Europe, following my reading of the wonderful Tony Judt’s “Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945”. There the whole misery of European countries beyond the Iron Curtain dawned on me (not that it was only hopeless drudgery instead of life over there. There were bright spots for sure). We are not that much educated upon what was happening in USSR-influenced territories. Prevailing opinion here is that they just sucked of vital resources, which were more than necessary home, since people in USSR we constantly confronted with shortages of this and that. And when those countries eagerly rushed into embraces of the archenemy – well, they were branded ungrateful renegades, who defected even when we afforded them better living conditions than we had ourselves. Now the book. I did count on objective narrative of this most cynical standoff that dominated world politics for nearly 50 years. And it appears that the author did try to make a book precisely like that. But to me it appears that it just proved the rule, quoted in the beginning. Time and again I tried to check my frustrations saying “it’s just because you’re from the USSR and it’s your natural defensiveness”. Thus maybe you should also doubt my impressions, but I tried to be unbiased. First of all I believe such histories should be written by the least biased nationals as possible, either by neutrals or…Swedes :) Because time and again I felt that Communist block’s actions were thoroughly thrashed and vilified while similar misgivings and CRIMES by the US were giving a superficial disapproval, without exposing their full horrible consequences. True, the author perfunctory coverage of the Vietnam War is compensated with equally tangential description of Afghan War (where no US participation is acknowledged, no matter how direct). Yet while the USSR is being lambasted for its role in suppression of Hungarian and Czech uprisings, American actions in other countries are presented in far less dramatic cadences. What actually pricked my ears first early in the book was author’s statement that since the Americans preferred a state of aloofness they didn’t pestered foreign nations. He does acknowledge that the US had procured a colony for itself in Philippines. Not so fast, I read S. Kinzer’s wonderful book “Overthrow: America’s century of regime change from Hawaii to Iraq”. You don’t fool me. USA finished independent kingdom of Hawaii on a whim, USA invaded Cuba on a trumped up pretext, and there were several other blatant cases beyond the acknowledged interventions in Guatemala, Iran, Vietnam and Chile. Should I be surprised that the US invaded Grenada as late as mid 80-es to forestall recently elected leftist government there (just in case – it’s our underbelly after all) and the author prefers not to mention it, overawed by the unfolding disintegration of corrupted Eastern Bloc in Europe? Yet by and large all these my pickings are just historical footnotes and may as well be subjective. What counts is now. And looking at the winner and the world it created I cannot say that the best scenario had won the global dominance. US (with defeated Russia not far away) is world’s leader for prison inmates. Itself and its citizens are carrying the largest debt, and has the military strength mightier than several followers combined with bases and secret prisons everywhere. It has a huge number of homeless people and there’s no safety net, enjoyed by the oppressed citizens of the Eastern block. If now all those unlucky millions who eat dust in the wake of the rat race towards the American dream are asked “How would you look at guaranteed lifetime employment with salary and generous paid vacations, decent free medicine and free college education (and higher) and a pension enough not only to survive, but to still have a human dignity (things all people in Soviet block had), but have little say in matters of politics, don’t have a tremendous choice of goods, and opportunities to travel beyond a dozen of states, but where country leaders are not fat cats, and where you can let your 7-year old child travel the public transport to go to the free Olympic swimming pool for practice half a city size of Moscow away (myself) without any threat of him being molested, kidnapped or shot”? I am not sure everyone would have chosen an abstract ‘freedom’, being sold now. Be sure I’m not an apologist of the USSR, but as I said above, if it was Sweden or any other Nordic European country that had won the Cold War and established its system’s supremacy and model all over the world, I would have had no qualms. But here in this book I encounter a narrative that offers no explanation for the imploration of the Eastern block beyond the statement that ‘times they a’ changing’ and new leaders of the West had hugely benefited from their stints as actors to cut new figures on the political scene (Reagan and John Paul II). Yet all the way being very pleased that the ‘bad guys’ lost. My Goodreads friend Caroline has recently reviewed a book on the apparent shortcomings of ‘free capitalism’ - "23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism". It appears that taken at face value and with blind faith the ‘free market’ system as viable and human being friendly as theoretical communism. Quite the opposite that is. This is the only reason I didn’t like the book, which instills a thought that the best ever option won, and currently as it controls the world, we are living in the best reality possible. When in fact it’s not. It does sound self-congratulatory indeed. P.S. For a great objective review of a conflict, we all think we know everything about, try “Carthage Must Be Destroyed: The Rise and Fall of an Ancient Civilization “. Here the author tries to see real Carthage under the layers of interpretations and clichés heaped upon it by centuries of Roman commentators and the later admirers. The picture appearing does not flatter the Romans…

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jill

    The Cold War: A New History provides an excellent example of the ideological biases of a historian creating a skewed misrepresentation of the facts about an era in order to conform with biased perceptions. This so-called “new history” is full of sweeping generalizations, unwarranted conclusions, and dubious assertions that scream out bias at every turn. In conclusion, beware of books claiming to be history books! This one doesn’t meet the most basic criteria of objective reporting of the facts.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jon

    The Cold War: A New History is among the latest entries by John Lewis Gaddis on the history and politics of the Cold War. Though it reviews a time still within the living memory of many, Gaddis frets that younger generations have grown up without an understanding or an appreciation for the important lessons of the Cold War. This he thinks a shame, perhaps even a danger. So to provide a remedy and cure the ailment of historical ignorance, Gaddis proposes to write a history—a new history—that will The Cold War: A New History is among the latest entries by John Lewis Gaddis on the history and politics of the Cold War. Though it reviews a time still within the living memory of many, Gaddis frets that younger generations have grown up without an understanding or an appreciation for the important lessons of the Cold War. This he thinks a shame, perhaps even a danger. So to provide a remedy and cure the ailment of historical ignorance, Gaddis proposes to write a history—a new history—that will supply his readers an account in short form of the essentials of the Cold War. This anyway is the original intent of the book. But Gaddis does not develop his history in the way the typical history might. Gaddis does not retell the course of the Cold War year by year. He does not explain why this thing or why that. Gaddis engages the matter differently. He recounts the Cold War by its themes, rather than by its chronology. His chapters do not proceed in a linear course from the beginning of the Cold War to the end. Rather each chapter fixates on a particular theme that figures large in the Cold War, and then elaborates on the most signal events. One theme for each chapter: the first on the origins of the Cold War; the second on the perils of nuclear confrontation; the third on the failure of Soviet ideology and economy; the fourth on the burdens of superpower status; the fifth on the backlash to immoral foreign policies; the sixth on rise of Cold War iconoclasts; and the seventh on the marvel of bloodless revolution that ended the Cold War. These themes form the very essence of Gaddis's book. Although it may be history, it is history in the thematic sense. Therefore what Gaddis's book ultimately supplies is not a description of the Cold War. It could not even be generously characterized as an explanation. Rather what Gaddis gives is an interpretation—and a moral one at that. The whole of the book abounds with moral overtones. The sense of right and wrong is everywhere. Historical figures are drawn as either black or white. Ideologies are contrasted as moral opposites. Outcomes in the Cold War are delivered with the authority of a judge’s verdict. The whole of the history is perceived as the completion of an inevitable, inescapable arch. The book therefore oozes with moral sentiments. If this understanding of Gaddis's New History is right, what then are the larger morals and lessons that he intends to impress on his readers? Though Gaddis offers half-dozen smaller morals, surprisingly there is no single overarching takeaway. Gaddis tries to repair this omission in the epilogue of his book. There he tries to elaborate what are the implications of the period for post Cold War. But this efforts comes up far short; his improvised conclusions have all the texture and flavor of stale bread. He refers to the obsolescence of war, the discrediting of dictatorship, and the rise of democracy and globalization. But these sound more like the ejections of scholarly reflex rather than well-considered, deliberate conclusions. And the disjunct between it and the chapters that precede it are so great, the epilogue might as well be discarded. Gaddis's real lessons of the Cold War are found instead in the seven main chapters themselves. Each serves as a little historical allegory onto itself. There is a unity in that they all are associated with the Cold War. But as explained above, they do not combine to form one single overarching moral. It is fitting then to gives brief mention of the chapter lessons each. The book begins with consideration of the origins of the Cold War. For Gaddis, the critical point is that the mistrust that nurtured the Cold War’s origins had taken root before the defeat of Nazi Germany. These suspicions were deep-set and mutually shared. They beget intrigue and recrimination. The peace settlements at the end of the Second World War served to exacerbate the mistrust, rather than alleviate it. So for Gaddis the emergence of Cold War politics was more fact than failure. The rise of Cold War politics was not a blunder of statesmanship, but a necessary and unavoidable evil. The second chapter considers the influence of nuclear weapons on Cold War politics. Gaddis lauds President Truman's decision to resist using atomic weapons in Korea. It was, he says, one of the most important decisions of inaction of all the 20th century. But it was not at first appreciated. Like in the game of Poker, enthusiasts usually celebrate great bates or great bluffs. But who boasts about a really great fold? For this reason Truman’s insight had to be relearned. It required the perilous experience of the Eisenhower and Khrushchev years to appreciate the wisdom of Truman’s nuclear moratorium. The third chapter draws out the ideological dimension of the Cold War. Under Gaddis’s understanding, the Cold War was less a time of tense, distrustful relations—it was less about relaxing the enmity of the early Cold War years—and more a contest between two revolutionary regimes, idealized by Lenin on the side and Wilson on the other. So by this theory, the failing economy and bankruptcy of the Soviet economy was not so much about the vicissitudes of international economics, but much more a confirmation of the triumph of American ideology. The fourth chapter portrays the Soviets and the Americans as prisoner to their own superpower status. For all their power and influence, the superpowers were hostage to the failures and shortfalls of their allies and protectorates. The leaders of client states like Taiwan, the Koreas, the Germanys, the Vietnams, and Afghanistan, were able to frighten their superpower patrons into commitments out of proportion with their interests. Rather than the US and the Soviets uniting over their strength, they divided because of the weakness of their allies. Perhaps most embarrassing, allies like France and China learned to manipulate Cold War politics so to seize all the benefits of alliance while resisting the costs. Woe onto the superpowers. The fifth chapter discusses the backlash in America to the experience of Cold War politics. Allegations of foreign intrigues, coups, assassinations, secret bombings, and war levied on false pretenses—these all had generated a deep well of resentment in the American public. By the height of the Vietnam War, the American public was bristling with anger. Revelation of Nixon’s complicity in the Watergate scandal brought this anger to a head. Dramatic political action followed. Congress terminated funds for Vietnam and Angola; it sabotaged Kissinger’s trade treaty with the Soviets; it set new limits on President’s powers of war and surveillance; the CIA was forced to disclose its notorious episodes of its clandestine activities. A new zeitgeist was had taken hold in US foreign policy. Leaders who adopted principled foreign policies were encouraged. Immoral, and amoral, foreign policies had fallen into disrepute. The sixth chapter was example that even the powerful inertia of Cold War politics can be reversed. Though the Cold War world had become established as the political status quo, the emergence of new leaders like John Paul II, Thatcher, Walesa, Xiaoping, Reagan, and especially Gorbachev, combined to create a new political atmosphere. These leaders were not prisoner to the old politics and the legacies of their predecessors. They intended to be agents for change – and they succeeded. In spite of powerful countervailing forces, by 1989 enough incremental steps had been taken the politics of the Cold War was ripe for dramatic change. The seventh chapter is a panegyric to what Gaddis calls the first bloodless revolution in history. It was he says what the Bolshevik revolution had wanted to be: spontaneous and truly popular. With the fall of the communist regimes in Eastern Europe, and then the dissolution of the Soviet Union, an enormous political change was brought about. But it was achieved without war, and with a surprisingly little bloodshed. The ending of the Cold War exploded the myth that great revolutions are inevitably attended by great suffering. The peaceful retirement of the Soviet empire was proof of the possibility. These anyway are the larger lessons that Gaddis is really intent upon. Much of his book is history. But both above and beneath that history are these larger morals that he perceives. Of course these different points can be debated; one could accuse Gaddis of partiality, of oversimplification, of exaggeration, of presumption, and similar criticisms. But these are weaknesses inherent to any book that gives a moral history. It is not surprising that a distinguished historian, on a subject of his expertise, and in the twilight of his career, might descant on the greater moral lessons of the Cold War. This is well within the traditions of historical writing. And so far as these criticisms would try and quibble with his history or unmake his morals conclusions, they would miss the mark. That said, the book does suffer from serious deficiencies. Gaddis claims to be writing history. But his book is more a compilation of historical essays than history itself. Nevertheless Gaddis insists on having it both ways; he wants both the history and the space to expound upon it. Although this may not be a flawed strategy in principle, in practice Gaddis has failed to achieve this balance in his book. This divided purpose, between explanation and interpretation, tends to create confusion within his chapters. His main point is often lost in a blizzard of anecdotes and historical citations. The books moral arguments often do not persuade, and perhaps worse, they rarely inspire. Some of his arguments suffer because he takes his moralizing too far, such as his comparison of Lenin and Wilson, with a severe condemnation of the former and a drooling endorsement of the latter. But more often his arguments do not impress since Gaddis prefers to assert rather than consider. Unlike other famous writers on history, Gaddis does not spare much space for deliberation. He resembles more a sea bird that is only willing to skim the surface and then quickly return to flight, rather than show a willingness to dive in and delve deep. This gives his whole history a light, glancing, insubstantial feeling. Although this may suffice if Gaddis was writing history in the conventional manner, it will not do for his moral history. The book then is somewhat of a disappointment. But the disappointment must be double for Gaddis himself. After much study and labor on a subject for so many years, one would think Gaddis would meditate more seriously on the lessons of the Cold War and its meaning for history; the kind of serious reflections that often form the crown of an illustrious academic career. A New History does not rise to the challenge. For Gaddis, it is an opportunity missed.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Peter Tillman

    My 2009 booklog says "A+, masterful." OK, let's see what else I have: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/15/boo... "...require[s] a scholar of extraordinary gifts to tell why nine cold-war presidents deployed our national treasure against an empire that broke apart so clumsily in the end. John Lewis Gaddis is that scholar, and "The Cold War: A New History" is the book they should read. A professor of history at Yale, Gaddis is the author of six renowned volumes on the cold war -- especially the strate My 2009 booklog says "A+, masterful." OK, let's see what else I have: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/15/boo... "...require[s] a scholar of extraordinary gifts to tell why nine cold-war presidents deployed our national treasure against an empire that broke apart so clumsily in the end. John Lewis Gaddis is that scholar, and "The Cold War: A New History" is the book they should read. A professor of history at Yale, Gaddis is the author of six renowned volumes on the cold war -- especially the strategies of both sides -- that were written during or shortly after the struggle." [2006 NYT review] It's interesting, and saddening, how hopeful we were about the "New World Order" back then. Mostly back to the "Same Old Shit" now.... Discounting my 2009 rating accordingly, to 4 stars.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Moriartyandherbooks

    This was beyond amazing! Very clear and concise! If you want a run down of the Cold War I would recommend this book! Seriously, this will forever be my go-to on the topic. I especially loved how this book took no sides, but simply laid out all the horrors and absurdities, and finally the amazements of the outcome.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey

    The target audience of this book is the generation younger than me that has the Cold War as a historical event rather than part of their lives. As that, it is fairly well written, targeted well, and concise. Perhaps a bit too concise. The whole premise of the book comes off feeling as if decades passed without anything happening, then Ronald Reagan, the great professional actor comes and saves the day. The author clearly admires that particular president, and his usually restrained prose waxes e The target audience of this book is the generation younger than me that has the Cold War as a historical event rather than part of their lives. As that, it is fairly well written, targeted well, and concise. Perhaps a bit too concise. The whole premise of the book comes off feeling as if decades passed without anything happening, then Ronald Reagan, the great professional actor comes and saves the day. The author clearly admires that particular president, and his usually restrained prose waxes ebullient when President Reagan reaches the stage. I don't have any strong dislike of him, but when the author uses a paragraph to say that the Pope and Reagan were both shot and it is a good thing the President didn't die, because we would still be in the Cold War, one begins to wonder if his enthusiasm hasn't taken himself a bit too far. If there were one other idea that he seems too fixated upon is this idea of Marxist infallibility. Somehow, that is supposedly the core idea that held the whole system together and when Stalin fell out of favor of the party, that was the beginning of the end.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Michael Kotsarinis

    I found this book very interesting and quite easy to read. It doesn't deal with exhaustive lists of facts, dates and persons or the minutiae of the Cold War but paints a broad picture of it. It certainly doesn't miss any of key events but it tries to put everything into perspective and show the underlying relations. I particularly liked the effort to explain the rationale behind the decisions of the key players and the predominant way of thinking.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Beaudoin

    Gaddis explains in his preface that he set out to write this book for his students, utilizing their feedback that the books they use in his classes have too many dates (among other things). He then wrote this book as a history of the Cold War, but focusing more on events and their impact upon subsequent events, rather than writing a chronological narrative. The result is a book that is engaging, interesting, and rarely feels like a "history book". Gaddis draws correlations between the actions of Gaddis explains in his preface that he set out to write this book for his students, utilizing their feedback that the books they use in his classes have too many dates (among other things). He then wrote this book as a history of the Cold War, but focusing more on events and their impact upon subsequent events, rather than writing a chronological narrative. The result is a book that is engaging, interesting, and rarely feels like a "history book". Gaddis draws correlations between the actions of leaders and events, shows the influence of some leaders upon others, and focuses on telling the story of the key Cold War events from a wide perspective, not just the usual America vs. USSR one upon which most books on this topic seem to focus. There were a few times when the small amount of dates frustrated me and I was often trying to place events chronologically in my mind. However, I think these are good signs, as I was constantly engaged enough in the reading to draw these connections, rather than losing the thread of the narrative through the time line, as so often happens. Overall, this is one of the most interesting and informative nonfiction books I have read.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Carol Bundy

    I thought I was going to like this a lot more than I did. I was hoping to find a book that would treat the Cold War in a way comparable to McPherson's "Battle Cry of Freedom" for the Civil War. I didn't. Certainly it is a comprehensive but shortish history of the Cold War. It is well written. And I am sure that it serves its purpose but I was put off by it. First Gaddis' tone -- his authorial voice -- disturbed me. Second, there is a lot he leaves out. Third, I felt his viewpoint was heavily sla I thought I was going to like this a lot more than I did. I was hoping to find a book that would treat the Cold War in a way comparable to McPherson's "Battle Cry of Freedom" for the Civil War. I didn't. Certainly it is a comprehensive but shortish history of the Cold War. It is well written. And I am sure that it serves its purpose but I was put off by it. First Gaddis' tone -- his authorial voice -- disturbed me. Second, there is a lot he leaves out. Third, I felt his viewpoint was heavily slanted. So reading this book has given me a lot to think about. I found a review of this book in the NYRof Books by Tony Judt and was relieved to see that quite a few of my objections were articulated very well by Judt.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Petros Topouzis

    Στην εισαγωγή, ο Gaddis αναφέρει ότι στόχος του βιβλίου του είναι προσφέρει σε νέους ηλικιακά αναγνώστες μια συμπυκνωμένη περιγραφή της περιόδου του Ψυχρού Πολέμου. Το γεγονός αυτό το καθιστά το βιβλίο του Gaddis επικίνδυνο. Ο λόγος έγκειται στο γεγονός ότι είναι εμφανής η προσπάθεια του συγγραφέα να οδηγήσει τον αναγνώστη στην επικρότηση & τον ασπασμό μιας συγκεκριμένης οπτικής. Συγκεκριμένα, της οπτικής της πατριωτικής Αμερικάνικης Ρεπουμπλικανικής Δεξιάς. Για να το πετύχει αυτό, βασίζεται Στην εισαγωγή, ο Gaddis αναφέρει ότι στόχος του βιβλίου του είναι προσφέρει σε νέους ηλικιακά αναγνώστες μια συμπυκνωμένη περιγραφή της περιόδου του Ψυχρού Πολέμου. Το γεγονός αυτό το καθιστά το βιβλίο του Gaddis επικίνδυνο. Ο λόγος έγκειται στο γεγονός ότι είναι εμφανής η προσπάθεια του συγγραφέα να οδηγήσει τον αναγνώστη στην επικρότηση & τον ασπασμό μιας συγκεκριμένης οπτικής. Συγκεκριμένα, της οπτικής της πατριωτικής Αμερικάνικης Ρεπουμπλικανικής Δεξιάς. Για να το πετύχει αυτό, βασίζεται κυρίως στην επιφανειακή γνώση του αναγνώστη γύρω από θέμα (γεγονός που εξηγεί το γιατί επιλέγει το συγκεκριμένο target audience για το βιβλίο του) παρουσιάζοντας την συγκεκριμένη περίοδο όχι παραποιημένα, άλλα διαστρεβλωμένα, α) επιλέγοντας πολύ προσεκτικά τις πηγές και τα γεγονότα που θα στηρίξουν την ιστορία του και μη αναφέροντας γεγονότα και πηγές που θα την θέσουν εν αμφιβόλω, β) παίρνοντας εμφανώς θέση, αντί να αρκείται σε καταγραφή των γεγονότων αφήνοντας τον αναγνώστη να κρίνει, είτε με χαρακτηρισμούς που δεν συνάδουν με την ιδιότητα του Ιστορικού , είτε αξιολογώντας προσωπικά την βαρύτητα των γεγονότων που περιγράφει. Ενδεικτικά παραδείγματα: -Ο τρόπος περιγραφής όλων των Ρώσων Ηγετών και η εκ διαμέτρου αντίθετη προσέγγιση των Αμερικανών σε όλο το βιβλίο (με εξαίρεση τον Γκορμπατσοφ) -«Ο Ουίλσον μνημονεύεται σήμερα ως προφητικός ρεαλιστής , ενώ τα αγάλματα του Λένιν σαπίζουν στις χωματερές» -(Για το Watergate) «το έθνος θα έβλεπε σύντομα τον Νίξον να κατατρύχεται πάλι, αυτή τη φορά αμετάκλητα (..) από τις νομικές συνέπειες μιας ασήμαντης διάρρηξης που θα του στερούσε την Προεδρία» Λόγω λοιπόν του ότι τα α) & β) δεν παρουσιάζονται αποσπασματικά αλλά από την αρχή μέχρι και το τέλος του βιβλίου, το βιβλίο θα πρέπει να ειδωθεί περισσότερο ως ένα προπαγανδιστικό μυθιστόρημα παρά ως ένα αντικειμενικό βιβλίο ιστορίας.*Η μικρή έκταση του βιβλίου δεν αποτελεί δικαιολογία – ο Carr το κατάφερε αριστοτεχνικά στη «Μικρή ιστορία της Ρωσικής Eπανάστασης» σε 340 σελίδες.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Belhor

    A perfectly readable and pretty thorough history of cold war. Learned so much from it. The new evidence which were used for this book also sheds new light on some of the incidents during the cold war years which made the book even more interesting of a read. If you are under thirty and like me know very little about cold war, this book is for you.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mason

    Most contemporary university students – such as myself – were not born when the Cold War ended, the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union collapsed. As the author of “The Cold War: A New History”, John Lewis Gaddis, rather facetiously puts it: “…My students … [have] very little sense of how the Cold War started, what it was about, or why it ended the way it did. For them it’s history: not all that different from the Peloponnesian War.” While the Cold War should not be equated with the Peloponnes Most contemporary university students – such as myself – were not born when the Cold War ended, the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union collapsed. As the author of “The Cold War: A New History”, John Lewis Gaddis, rather facetiously puts it: “…My students … [have] very little sense of how the Cold War started, what it was about, or why it ended the way it did. For them it’s history: not all that different from the Peloponnesian War.” While the Cold War should not be equated with the Peloponnesian War because the consequences of the actions undertaken during the Cold War are still being felt – e.g. the American decision to arm Islamic Fundamentalists/radicals in Afghanistan – knowledge about the Cold War has been diminishing among the youth. My own experience within the British education system has given me first-hand experience of this knowledge deficit among the youth: we were simply never taught about one of the most important events within history that is having major consequences on the world we inhabit. In response to this historical ignorance, Gaddis has sought to put all his considerable knowledge into a concise and readable book for those who are just starting out in their study of the Cold War. Gaddis explains that his book does not provide any new sources or interpretations that depart from his prior books on the Cold War, it is just a summing up of all his previous scholarship. As someone who has studied most of his previous works and now has a good understanding of the Cold War, this meant that I found it to be a rather banal read. The only moments where I derived any enjoyment in this book was in his first three chapters: the origins of the conflict, the Korean war and the ideological battle between communism and capitalism. My reason for this is that Gaddis brings to life these chapters through the use of anecdotes and creative writing. For instance, Gaddis opens his chapter on the Korean war with a fictional account, which involves the use of nuclear weapons on multiple fronts and the obliteration of Europe, as to how the war could of generated into a direct conflict between the Soviet Union and the United States of America. While this will be a banal read for all of those who know a bit about the Cold War, should those who are starting out on their studies of the Cold War read this book? The quick answer is no. These people should read Walter LaFeber’s “America, Russia and the Cold War”, Richard Crockatt’s “The Fifty Years War” and, for an excellent orthodox version of the conflict, Henry Kissinger’s “Diplomacy”. Within these works one will find a good chronological interpretation of Cold War history and, in the case of Crockatt, one that attempts to remain as unbiased as possible. These works are in complete contrast to Gaddis’ book because “The Cold War: A New History” is not a chronological explanation as to what happened which, as is quite evident in some of the reviews for this book, can be quite jolting. In addition, I would recommend some of his previous works over this because they fully explain the events in question – equipping the reader with the necessary nuances they need in order to understand the Cold War.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    I listened to this one and I think I need to listen to it twice. I found it extremely engaging, but it's not your typical "narrative" history. He organizes his materials more or less chronologically, but focuses on idea and concepts and people more than chronology. Most fascinating was the chapter called "Actors" which he means both literally and figuratively, i.e., the world personalities involved whom he saw as capable actors on the world stage, with a clearly articulated and easily understand I listened to this one and I think I need to listen to it twice. I found it extremely engaging, but it's not your typical "narrative" history. He organizes his materials more or less chronologically, but focuses on idea and concepts and people more than chronology. Most fascinating was the chapter called "Actors" which he means both literally and figuratively, i.e., the world personalities involved whom he saw as capable actors on the world stage, with a clearly articulated and easily understandable message about the rivalry that dominated the last half of the 20th century. And of course he notes that there was a professional among them, (i.e., Reagan). This is a very conservative view of the world--not my usual fare, but a very interesting thesis nonetheless. The actors were Reagan, Thatcher, Deng Xiaoping, Lech Walęsa, Pope John Paul II ( whom he refers to as Karol Wojtyla throughout) Vąclav Havel, "even Boris Yeltsin" (whom Gaddis doesn't exactly like) who cut through policies and procedures and spoke directly to the people about change. But not Mikhail Gorbachev (my own hero) who did so much to change the USSR but had no vision of what would replace it. Interesting that those of us who hated Reagan and Thatcher focus on domestic affairs mostly. Both seemed to me way too simplistic in foreign affairs, but that's what Gaddis liked, that they HAD a vision and spoke it clearly so that everyone--the people--at home and abroad could hear it: as in."Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!". Still he had a fit tribute to Gorbie, "And so, in the end, he gave up an ideology, an empire and his own country, in preference to using force. He chose love over fear, violating Machiavelli's advice for princes and thereby ensuring that he ceased to be one. It made little sense in traditional geopolitical terms. But it did make him the most deserving recipient of the Novel Peace Prize." I suspect there's more cynicism in that statement which I tend to take seriously. You'll see from that quote, too, that Gaddis is an excellent writer and stylist. I give it 8/10. If I were more of a conservative, I think I'd give it a 10

  16. 5 out of 5

    Marci Miller

    Main points I got from this book: -The subject is an extremely political one, and I feel a lot of historians would be very biased when touching upon it. Clearly that's the case with Gaddis, which takes a very pro-US government view. -It is concise and touches on a lot of the events that took place in those years, so it proves to be a good reminder of the milestones of the conflict. The book is full of interpretations too, which of course, are subject to the reader's scrutiny. -Much of its focus is Main points I got from this book: -The subject is an extremely political one, and I feel a lot of historians would be very biased when touching upon it. Clearly that's the case with Gaddis, which takes a very pro-US government view. -It is concise and touches on a lot of the events that took place in those years, so it proves to be a good reminder of the milestones of the conflict. The book is full of interpretations too, which of course, are subject to the reader's scrutiny. -Much of its focus is on the grand strategy of the war, of trying to rationalise why each side took the decisions they did. It is a point of view of someone that has had-I understand-influence in the US Governments in recent years (Gaddis was advisor to Bush jr). So clearly worth making an effort to know about the explanations and rationalisations he provides. -Although I don't know much about the Cold War, I feel that for sure the books has many gaps in its exposition and I just cannot wait to read another book on the subject in order to get a broader view on it. -I couldn't wait to finish the book to go online and read reviews about it as I had the strong feeling that I was not being told the full story. Interestingly enough, I found this review by Professor Judt, which I thought it was a very pertinent one and pointing to many of the question marks I was having whilst reading it. I attach the link: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archi...

  17. 4 out of 5

    Elliot Ratzman

    The eminent Cold War historian John Lewis Gaddis was at my alma mater, Ohio University, before moving to Yale. His editor suggested he distill his vast knowledge into this accessible intro. This is old-school history: documents, big leaders and events--all sprinkled with an almost invisible coating of analysis, speculation and ideology. It seems that the Great Powers knew they’d never use their weapons, and made awkward attempts to maintain the status quo, like a Romantic Comedy where small bit The eminent Cold War historian John Lewis Gaddis was at my alma mater, Ohio University, before moving to Yale. His editor suggested he distill his vast knowledge into this accessible intro. This is old-school history: documents, big leaders and events--all sprinkled with an almost invisible coating of analysis, speculation and ideology. It seems that the Great Powers knew they’d never use their weapons, and made awkward attempts to maintain the status quo, like a Romantic Comedy where small bit players keep on screwing up the romance: gung-ho China, Third World dictators, embarrassing autocrats. There are a lot of tails wagging our two main dogs. I got a better picture of this period—I lived through half of it!—and the politics behind it, especially its confusing end. Though tens of millions died of man-made famines, the Cold War “could have been worse-much worse”; The motive for the botched Communist cause—the vast masses of the oppressed, hungry and overworked—gets overlooked again.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Andrew St.

    From the perspective of one who did not live during (or, as a child, was not aware of) these world events, this book represents, to me, a fascinating collection of usable facts and their corresponding dates. As opposed to many other works of history that I have read, Gaddis' book provides a clear look at each situation occurring to a certain point before moving along the timeline. In a sense, this book is like an organized forum of correspondents who are allowed to discuss what happened within t From the perspective of one who did not live during (or, as a child, was not aware of) these world events, this book represents, to me, a fascinating collection of usable facts and their corresponding dates. As opposed to many other works of history that I have read, Gaddis' book provides a clear look at each situation occurring to a certain point before moving along the timeline. In a sense, this book is like an organized forum of correspondents who are allowed to discuss what happened within the particular arena of their findings from this vital historical account. Many other historical accounts tell their stories chronologically, all the while dipping into occurrences, views and conversations that offer deeper (albeit inconsequential) probes into the surrounding circumstances at the time. As a person who finds more importance in the completion of a task itself, in comparison to how long it will take me to do it, I find Gaddis' book to be a practical look at the Cold War as an event, as well as an easily digested work from which I can recite dates and memorable quotes.

  19. 4 out of 5

    John Grinstead

    This is a really good analysis of the events that led up to the Cold War; an explanation of the pressures that built up during the 1950s and 60s; the brinkmanship; some of the political tensions that existed within the Communist sphere of influence - in particular the distrust/dislike that existed between China and the USSR - ;and, importantly, the events that led to the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. It explains, in layman's terms, the significance of the roles pla This is a really good analysis of the events that led up to the Cold War; an explanation of the pressures that built up during the 1950s and 60s; the brinkmanship; some of the political tensions that existed within the Communist sphere of influence - in particular the distrust/dislike that existed between China and the USSR - ;and, importantly, the events that led to the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. It explains, in layman's terms, the significance of the roles played by the Catholic church, the trade unions in Poland, the stagnation of the politburo, the influence of Gorbachev and the groundswell of grass routes opinion that led to what Gaddis suggests was the inevitable failure of Communism. The closing account of events on the Hungarian border and within the Warsaw Pact were, for me, a revelation. An easy read and a good introduction for further exploration into events and the people that made up a significant part of our modern history.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Caitlin

    This is in many ways a good short synthesis of a very broad topic. Its strength probsbly lies in its readability for a lay audience. It's major weakness, however, lies in it's Americentrisim, which I found often a bit hard to take and definitely colored my enjoyment of it. If read with other works it can be interesting to compare narratives of the same events. In such a light the limitations of the view adopted by Gaddis come to light. I would recommend it with that caution.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Aditya Pareek

    An objective account of the greatest era of geopolitical upheaval by the most respected scholar of the field. If there was one book you would need to understand the cold war, this is it.

  22. 4 out of 5

    David Schroeder

    This is the definitive narrative on The Cold War. I was surprised about how much I knew yet Gaddis' approach of proper context and good storytelling was what made this book great. The Pulitzer Prize was evident. What makes him most helpful as a writer is that he teaches students on a regular basis and you feel as though you are receiving the grand lecture. Well worth the read to understand how we got here. As a "Cold War kid," I have always been fascinated by the topic and I'll grateful for the This is the definitive narrative on The Cold War. I was surprised about how much I knew yet Gaddis' approach of proper context and good storytelling was what made this book great. The Pulitzer Prize was evident. What makes him most helpful as a writer is that he teaches students on a regular basis and you feel as though you are receiving the grand lecture. Well worth the read to understand how we got here. As a "Cold War kid," I have always been fascinated by the topic and I'll grateful for the book.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Blosser

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. As Gaddis notes, the students he now teaches at Yale were only five years old when the Berlin Wall came down. "Stalin and Truman, Reagan and Gorbachev, could as easily have been Napoleon or Caesar or Alexander the Great." I could relate in part as, being rather young myself, the significance of December 22, 1989 and other momentous events in that era failed to register. One of the best Cold-War memories I took from childhood was the incredible experience of watching a collective of high-schooler As Gaddis notes, the students he now teaches at Yale were only five years old when the Berlin Wall came down. "Stalin and Truman, Reagan and Gorbachev, could as easily have been Napoleon or Caesar or Alexander the Great." I could relate in part as, being rather young myself, the significance of December 22, 1989 and other momentous events in that era failed to register. One of the best Cold-War memories I took from childhood was the incredible experience of watching a collective of high-schoolers fend off the Russian invasion of America in Red Dawn (1984) (a nostalgic cinematic pleasure which, incidentally, should never have re-made). At any rate, it was with the intent of repairing my personal ignorance of those decades that I set out to acquire greater knowledge, and Gaddis being "the dean of Cold War historians" seemed a good place to start as any. Gaddis' work is populated with some great insights -- for example how the Russian's anticipation of victory upon signing the Helsinki Accords (resolving postward boundaries) turned into dismay with the recognition that their signatures also committed them (if on paper) to certain standards of human rights: Helsinki became, in short, a legal and moral trap. Having pressed the United States and its allies to commit themselves in writing to recognizing existing boundaries in Eastern Europe, Brezhnev could hardly repudiate what he had agreed to in the same document - also in writing - with respect to human rights. Without realizing the implications, he thereby handed his critics a standard, based on the universal principles of justice, rooted in international law, independent of Marxist-Leninist ideology, against which they could evaluate the behavior of his and other communist regimes. What this meant was that the people who lived under these systems -- at least the more courageous -- could claim official permission to say what they thought. Or of the seldom-recognized role Ronald Reagan played to ending the arms race: "[Reagan] was the only nuclear abolitionist ever to have been President of the United States. He made no secret of this, but the possibility that a right-wing Republican anti-communist pro-military chief executive could also be an anti-nuclear activist defies so many stereotypes that hardly anyone noticed Reagan's repeated promises, as he put it in the "evil empire" speech, "to keep America strong and free, while we negotiate real and verifiable reductions in the world's nuclear arsenals and one day, with God's help, their total elimination." Or how the collapse of the Berlin Wall was instigated in part by a botched press conference: After returning from Moscow [Egon] Krenze consulted his colleagues, and on November 9th they decided to try and relieve the mounting tension in East Germany by relaxing -- NOT eliminating -- the rules restricting travel to the West. The hastily drafted decree was handed to Gunger Schabowski, a Politburo member who had not been at the meeting but was about to brief the press. Schabowski glanced at it, also hastily , and then announced that citizens of the G.D.R. were free to leave "through any of the border crossings." The surprised reporters asked when the new ruling went into effect. Shuffling through his papers, Schabowski replied: "[A]ccording ot my new information, immediately." Were the rules valid for travel to West Berlin? Schabowski frowned, shrugged his shoulders, shuffled some more papers, and then replied: "Permanent exist can take place via all border crossings from the G.D.R. to [West Germany] and West Berlin, respectively. The next question was: "What is going to happen to the Berlin Wall now?" Schabowski mumbled an incoherent response, and closed the press conference. Within minutes, the word went out that the wall was open. The final chapter, with the implosion of the Communist Empire under the weight of its own rule, the grudging recognition of its leaders of the hypocrisy and futility of the socialist dream in the face of one citizen uprising after another, and the cascading surrender of governments with a helpless shrug of from the party's leadership (Ceasescu complaining to Gorbachev about 'grave danger not just to socialism . . . but also the very existence of communist parties everywhere." Gorbachev: "You seem concerned about this.") makes for a thrilling and fast-paced conclusion after the plodding detente of the Nixon and Ford administrations. Gaddis eschews a strictly chronological linear approach to history, highlighting the major events to bolster his personal reflections on why events unfolded. So it's helpful to come to the book with a preliminary knowledge of the timeline, and be attentive to Gaddis' jumping around. He also indulges in some unique creative license, which took me by surprise: beginning chapter 2 with a straightforward account of the nuking of Korea . . . revealing in subsequent pages his indulgence in speculation of what MIGHT have happened had MacArthur actually gone forward with the President's promise to "employ every weapon we have" [including the atomic bomb] at a 1950 Presidential press conference. Which is entertaining perhaps, but not what I expected from a historian. Still, with the voluminous amount of writing on the subject I wanted a concise, readable introduction to the subject which I could digest on my commute to work, and Gaddis delivers.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Josh Derrick

    I was a bit disappointed with this history. It followed the standard narrative of communism==bad, inefficient and oppressive and democracy==good and kind of glossed over a lot of the conflicts in Africa and the Americas that I was very interested in learning more about. Gaddis however, does build a compelling narrative around themes and people, rather than just around facts.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Graham

    Main takeaways: 1. Gorbachev was good. 2. Proxy wars never worked out. 3. Détente didn't work out.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    Exellent readible narrative that covers all the major themes of the Cold War.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Vince Guerra

    Feel free to skip the epilogue, which is unnecessary, and shows the author's political persuasions (which he commendably manages to avoid for the entire book). Other than that, this book was fantastic.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Grant S

    A decent general overview of the Cold War. I enjoyed the fact that it wasn't too indepth! This book would probably be a good starting point for someone younger who didn't live through some or part of the Cold War and wanted to start out learning about it. For me the last quarter of the book about the collapse of communism was the most enjoyable. It still felt exciting reading about it now.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ushan

    In November 1950 the United Nations coalition, consisting mostly of the United States Army and the South Korean army, had almost won the Korean war, occupying most of North Korea. However, since October hundreds of thousands of Chinese "volunteers" had been crossing the Yalu River, and in November they started attacking the United Nations positions and pushing the United Nations troops south. At a press conference on November 30, 1950, President Truman said that he did not rule out using the ato In November 1950 the United Nations coalition, consisting mostly of the United States Army and the South Korean army, had almost won the Korean war, occupying most of North Korea. However, since October hundreds of thousands of Chinese "volunteers" had been crossing the Yalu River, and in November they started attacking the United Nations positions and pushing the United Nations troops south. At a press conference on November 30, 1950, President Truman said that he did not rule out using the atomic bomb against Chinese troops. So on December the 2nd, five Hiroshima-sized bombs were dropped on Chinese troop formations. A United States veto prevented the United Nations Security Council from undoing the authorization of involvement in the Korean conflict. Pressured by their Chinese ally, the Soviet Union gave the United States an ultimatum: stop all military operations on the peninsula within 48 hours, or face the severest consequences. When the deadline passed, two bombers took off from Vladivostok and dropped atomic bombs on the port cities of Pusan and Inchon. On General MacArthur's orders, the next bombs fell on Vladivostok, Shenyang and Harbin; as Western European countries were withdrawing from NATO, mushroom clouds appeared over Hamburg and Frankfurt. Now, only the first half of this paragraph took place in our timeline, but the second part could very well have. During the missile era, a nuclear war could have started during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 and during the Able Archer exercise of 1983, which Richard Rhodes also wrote about. So whatever harm came out of the Cold War, things could've been much, much worse. This is an America-centric history of the Cold War that devotes several pages to Watergate, and only mentions Guatemala in passing because of the U.S. involvement in the coup that overthrew the country's leftist government in 1954, which supposedly radicalized Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. Nowhere does it say that the coup was followed by a 40-year civil war where 140 thousand to 250 thousand people were killed. El Salvador is not even in the index. In the Third World, the Cold War was quite hot, and I wouldn't be surprised if more people were killed in the Cold War-related hot wars that would've been in the nuclear exchange of December 1950 - but this book doesn't even ask this question. The basic narrative is familiar to all educated adults: the wartime coalition breaking up, the coup in Czechoslovakia, the formation of NATO and so on until the age of Gorbachev, Yeltsin and George H. W. Bush - but perhaps not to the Yale undergraduates the author teaches.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Craig Werner

    Gaddis is best known for his biography of George Keenan and that points to the problems I had with this one volume history of the Cold War from its ideological origins in the World War I era through the fall of the Soviet Union. It's a daunting task for a small book, and at the outset I had hopes that it would be a model of how to condense a massive amount of material into a book that I could recommend to undergrads and other non-specialists. By the time I finished, I reluctantly concluded that Gaddis is best known for his biography of George Keenan and that points to the problems I had with this one volume history of the Cold War from its ideological origins in the World War I era through the fall of the Soviet Union. It's a daunting task for a small book, and at the outset I had hopes that it would be a model of how to condense a massive amount of material into a book that I could recommend to undergrads and other non-specialists. By the time I finished, I reluctantly concluded that it would be a disservice to do so. The primary reason is that Gaddis chose an extremely judgmental voice, one grounded in an essentially Kissinger-ian perspective on what matters in politics and diplomacy. One one level, Gaddis presents politics as a pure power game matching great powers. He frames the Cold War as a kind of celebrity death cage match between Lenin and Woodrow Wilson, continued by Truman and Stalin, Khurshchev and Eisenhower, Reagan and Gorbachev. It's a Mannachean structure and Lewis isn't hesitant to present it as Good vs. Evil. Moreover, he allows himself an enormous amount of politicized psychologizing, presenting most of the Marxist leaders as impulsive children. Even if one agrees with his take--he's not wrong about most of the Communists' shortcomings, but usually overlooks their strengths, while giving the West passes on everything from economic inequalities to its tolerance and/or support of policies in Vietnam and Africa that make a mockery of Wilsonian idealism. In a short book, the words wasted on what's essentially propaganda make it impossible for Gaddis to present the facts or logic with which he might have supported his conclusions. As it is, the book is largely an exercise in spin. If you want that, turn on the TV.

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