ON THE BRINK by Jay Winik


The Dramatic Saga of How the Reagan Administration Changed the Course of History and Won the Cold War
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 From the subtitle on, Winik (School of Public Affairs/Univ. of Maryland) minces no words about where he stands in this polemical account of the collapse of Communism in Europe. As Winik tells it, the Cold War was ``won'' by no fewer than four functionaries of the Reagan administration who, like Reagan himself, were all former Democrats: UN ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick, diplomat and lawyer Max Kampelman, arms control specialist Richard Perle, and Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams. The author depicts liberal and centrist Democrats, media pundits, and establishment Republicans who opposed these and other intrepid figures of Reagan's ``counterestablishment'' as the hapless also-rans of history. Winik recounts how the ``Reaganauts'' crafted an American geopolitics of confrontation at odds with the accommodationist policies of the Nixon-Ford-Carter eras, how they took the US ``to the brink'' of an uncontrolled arms race and possible nuclear war with the Soviet Union, how they opposed Soviet policy in the Middle East and Central America, how they pioneered an American defensive strategy against nuclear attack, and how they ``held the line'' against dissenters and doubters until the Soviet Union was compelled to yield on arms issues. In the end, Winik at least oversimplifies by arguing that the Reagan administration won the Cold War: He brushes aside the effects of 44 years of consistently anti-Communist American foreign policy, does not discuss the impact of cultural and technological factors on the decline of Communism, and takes little note of significant internal developments in the Soviet bloc. However, Winik tells a good story, and those who read on after noting the author's subtitle will get, for better or worse, what they should expect.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-684-80982-6
Page count: 672pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1996


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