Thomas R. Maddux, Melvyn P. New York: Hill and Wang. The New Cold War History. Cold War specialists had a very good year in with the publication of a number of fine books, including Melvyn P.
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In this accessible and remarkably balanced synthesis, Melvyn Leffler , one of the most distinguished and prominent historians of American foreign relations, offers a refreshing interpretation of Cold War policymaking from the vantage points of both Washington and Moscow. Rejecting the oft-repeated assertion that U. Leffler argues that, while the decisions of policymakers were clearly shaped by perceptions of both threat and opportunity, the constraints of the international system within which they operated also severely circumscribed their freedom of action.
Image via Wikimedia Commons. Although emphasizing contingency as a major factor in the arc of history, Leffler argues that Cold War leaders were trapped within ideological prisons of their own making, suggesting perhaps that the trajectory of the Cold War was more predetermined than he allows for. And viewing the time periods he has chosen for analysis here as moments of missed opportunity, he proceeds to prove that American and Soviet policymakers were so limited in their options that they had little choice other than to behave as they did.
If that is in fact the case, the reader is left wondering whether there truly were opportunities for peace during these critical junctures. These criticisms should not, however, obscure the fact that Leffler has written one of the most eloquent, balanced, and extensively researched books on the Cold War. Although not definitive and what monograph on such a huge topic possibly could be? To help us prevent spam submissions, please type the text in the image below:.
For the Soul of Mankind: The United States, the Soviet Union, and the Cold War
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This is a masterful account of the Cold War by a distinguished historian in full stride. Leffler focuses on critical turning points when crises, leadership changes, and shifting diplomatic landscapes provided opportunities for reducing hostilities. In each episode, he draws vivid portraits of U. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev, Jimmy Carter and Leonid Brezhnev, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev -- as they defined threats and opportunities, navigated politics on the home front, and made strategic choices. Drawing on recently released Soviet documents and a long career as a scholar, Leffler moves beyond the old revisionist and traditionalist debates by offering a more synthetic interpretation that stresses both the imperatives of power politics and the legacies of ideas and history. In explaining the origins of the Cold War, he stresses the overriding importance of Germany; in explaining its persistence, he stresses competition in the developing world.