In one of the most extraordinary accounts of contemporary diplomatic history, Zelikow and Rice, both on the National Security Council staff during the events they describe, use normally inaccessible records and interviews with many of the players to describe the unification of Germany, itself one of the most remarkable events of the postwar world. As the authors note, ""The German question was resolved so smoothly and amiably that it is easy to impute a kind of inevitability to the outcome."" But in fact, as late as April 1989, nearly half of all West Germans thought that their country should not even want to unify the two Germanies. This account of reunification shows how easily matters could have turned out differently. It shows a Soviet side, in Margaret Thatcher's scornful words, working ""from one day to the next, armed only with slogans."" On one occasion, a concession made by Gorbachev to relax Soviet opposition to a unified Germany's inclusion in NATO left Soviet advisors ""almost physically distancing themselves from their leader's words."" On another occasion, even more dramatic, the East German government, in a series of misjudgments, ""opened the Berlin Wall by mistake."" The most remarkable figures in this story are German chancellor Helmut Kohl, with bis ""extraordinary feel for the pulse of the German people""; George Bush, who steadfastly supported the goal of unification over the objections of some of his advisors; and Gorbachev himself, who, though the result bore no relationship to his purposes, enabled unification to come about peacefully. The authors are justified in calling the outcome ""a testimony to statecraft."" Diplomatic history is not light bedtime reading, and the authors, not unnaturally, are more free in their discussion of the infighting on the Soviet side than of that on the American, but in its scope, insight, and suspense, this account sets a standard for the genre.