Rodman swerves from objective scholarship to partisan cheerleading in this chronicle of the struggle between the US and the Soviet Union for control in the Third World. Rodman served on the National Security Council and in the State Department under presidents Nixon, Reagan, and Bush; he is now an editor of the National Review and a fellow in international studies at Johns Hopkins University. He brings a scholar's eye to the years 1917-68, describing in dispassionate detail the trends in American and Soviet foreign policy that eventually brought the two superpowers to the battlefields of the Cold War. Rodman describes the tendency of each side to overestimate the abilities and desires of the other. He offers fascinating descriptions of the Soviet struggle to reconcile its support for revolutionary movements in the Third World with classic Marxist-Leninist theory, and of America's ""most profound task"": ""to find the way to reconcile its moral convictions and its strategic responsibilities."" In describing the years from 1968 on, Rodman is no longer the scholar but the player, and the book becomes a passionate argument for the Kissinger- and Reagan-era policies that Rodman helped formulate. In what became known as the Reagan Doctrine, the US pursued dual tracks of diplomacy and force, negotiating with the Soviets with one hand while fomenting anti-Soviet guerrilla wars with the other. This approach, Rodman insists, turned the tide against communism in the Third World and contributed to the collapse of the Soviet Union. To make his case, the author offers richly detailed case studies of Third World confrontation points -- Afghanistan, Cambodia, Angola, Nicaragua -- but his biases are obvious. Rodman's arguments are immensely persuasive, but his contempt for critics of the Reagan Doctrine keeps him from adequately addressing the question suggested by the book's title: What is more precious than peace? The answer would have been of interest to the hundreds of thousands who died on the Cold War's proxy battlefields.