COLD WAR, COLD PEACE: The United States and Russia Since 1945 by Bernard A. Weisberger

COLD WAR, COLD PEACE: The United States and Russia Since 1945

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The highlights of US-Soviet postwar relations, from the Marshall Plan and the Truman Doctrine to the Cuban Missile Crisis and the SALT talks, are clearly set forth in this popular history by popular historian Weisberger. It's not going to tell anyone who knows about these developments anything new; but it is a reasonably unobjectionable entree for readers with gaps to fill. The main objections come along with the genre: Weisberger writes about the year 1984 in the past tense (""Going into its thirty-ninth year, the Cold War was an old story""); he caricatures social and political trends, most egregiously in the case of the New Left and counterculture of the 1960s, a distinction missed by Weisberger (""Suddenly, on the campuses of liberal-arts colleges of long renown, the 'far out' was 'in' ""). The Students for a Democratic Society, whose founding document, ""The Port Huron Statement,"" espoused participatory democracy, is labeled here as ""more nihilistic than Bolshevik"" (characteristically, the entire trajectory of New Left politics, not only the history of SDS, is compressed into a couple of paragraphs). On the other hand, Weisberger is successful in getting across the idea that the national security policies instituted under Truman and Acheson marked a sharp break with the traditional diplomacy advocated by such figures as Charles Bohlen and George Kennan: whereas the traditionalist approach sought the advance of national interests through give-and-take, the new strategy combined military, political, and economic policies into a cohesive and aggressive package aimed against an opponent considered to be an undeclared and irredeemable enemy. The narrative is really an account of the unfolding of that approach, and its dangers. Weisberger keeps his depictions of events--the Hiss and Rosenberg cases, the hostage crisis in Teheran or the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan--short and crisp; and while his story is centered on individuals from Forrestal to Haig, he manages to keep the portraits within bounds. A good place to turn for a first look.

Pub Date: Oct. 17th, 1984
Publisher: American Heritage--dist. by Houghton Mifflin