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Few would deny that the United States and the Soviet Union have been involved in a competition of global significance since the Russian Revolution of 1917--a competition whose accompanying rhetoric has presented the steady threat of world war over the last two decades. Larson, a former State Department expert on the USSR, takes this rivalry for granted, so instead of trying to explain it, he feels justified in pursuing a score-card approach; like a referee, he assigns points to see who's ahead--only there is no finish line. Dividing his study into chapters on economic, political, ideological, military, and diplomatic competition, Larson surveys the situation in each area and gives the relative standings: the U.S. has an economic and military lead, the others are too close to call. Partly because of this format, interesting possibilities are not pursued. Larson notes, for example, that U.S. global interests are economic, while Soviet global interests are political, but his layered approach makes it impossible to assess the importance of this distinction. Given the enormous scope of the book, the chapters are necessarily superficial, which prevents a serious analytical discussion of single topics, and invites the sort of facile forecasting which marks the concluding chapter--Larson predictably predicts Soviet advances across the board, but continued U.S. dominance of the industrialized world. Most importantly, by beginning with the assumption of inherent rivalry, Larson never considers the possibility of cooperation between the two governments in order to further common interests; indeed, the notion of common interests is alien to Larson's approach (by contrast with Richard Barnet's recent The Giants), except for the apparently obvious case of arms limitations. Larson's unreflective presuppositions and back-breaking efforts at ""objectivity"" have produced a book without a thesis or a core.

Pub Date: June 26th, 1978
ISBN: 0393951456
Publisher: Norton