The Cold War - A new History by John Lewis Gaddis


reviewed by Marc Schulman

John Gaddis relatively short New History of the Cold War takes a retrospective look at the period, He covers all the major turning points of the Cold War provide new insights into all. One of Gaddis major thesis is the importance of individuals in determining the both the origins and the end of the war. I found his observations on TrumanÕs attitude toward nuclear weapons to be particularly insightful. Truman Gaddis points out changed the history of warfare by viewing Nuclear weapons as not like any other in history. After using them twice to end WWII Truman made it clear that the military would not control their use but only he would. When the military need arose to use them in Korea he ruled out their usage, Truman thus established the basic rules of the Cold War- there was this very powerful weapon that both sides soon possessed, but if at all possible would never be used.


Gaddis also discusses the key role that the key figures of the 1980s had over ending the Cold war specifically President Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul, Both of them concluded that the maintaining the status quo was neither moral nor necessary and acted to transform the very nature of the international status quo. There action was a clear departure from the actions of other leaders at the time. Although Gaddis believes that the actions of key leaders was pivotal he does not ignore economic determinism. He posits that the communism was in fact a low hanging fruit just waiting to be picked by Reagan and others, It was low due to the failures to Communism to provide for its people, This combined with its failures to accurately predict what would happen to the capitalist west produced a system that was effectively bankrupt. Thus, when Reagan, the Pope and others called its bluff, it fell rapidly like the proverbial dominos that so dominated US policy in the 60Õs. Instead of SE Asian countries going communist, the communist nation one by one rejected their communist governments and as they fell, the whole system imploded on itself.

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