LOSING OUR SOULS by Edward Pessen


The American Experience in the Cold War
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 A severe reassessment of US responsibility for half a century of nuclear paranoia, by Pessen (History/Baruch College; The Log Cabin Myth, 1986, etc.--not reviewed). This is revisionist cold-war history in the vein of Frank Kofsky's Harry S. Truman and the War Scare of 1948 (p. 839). Pessen sees former Missouri machine politician Truman and his advisors as disowning FDR's policy of rapprochement, demonizing the Soviets with little reason or evidence, and using fear for domestic political ends. The author places the crucial period in US-Soviet policy between the death of FDR and the Truman Doctrine of 1947. The basis for Pessen's stance is his perception of Soviet intent, which he gleans from actions, documents, and comments of the period, most of them jarringly at odds with the notion that the postwar USSR ``was an imperialistic state dedicated to extending its power over the entire world.'' Pessen argues that Stalin was a pragmatic despot with severely limited resources, against whose country it was our policy to ``do what was necessary to bring about the collapse...of the Soviet order''--and that, to this end, the CIA was employed in a way that violated its carefully limited charter. George Kennan's influential ``long telegram'' of 1946, describing Russia's ``fanatical leaders...determined to wage a deadly struggle for the total destruction of their adversaries,'' is seen as pivotal, along with the advice of Clark Clifford, James Forrestal, and Dean Acheson. Pessen views the US victory in the cold war as a Pyrrhic one because it involved, he says, disruption of Latin American and other governments; assassinations; alliances with repugnant regimes (Marcos, the Shah, etc.); employment of Nazi war criminals; the Korean and Vietnam wars; a vast stockpiling of nuclear weapons; loss of US industrial competitiveness; and corruption of the press. Pessen's devil is in the details he offers--statistics, statements, dispatches, hidden agendas--persuasively and with cool logic.

Pub Date: Nov. 5th, 1993
ISBN: 1-56663-037-1
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Ivan Dee/Rowman & Littlefield
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1993