Cold War History
Vol. 8, No. 4, November 2008, pp. 547–567
The Cold War and after: capitalism, revolution and superpower politics, by Richard Saull,
London, Oxford University Press, 2007, 257 pp.
Richard Saull is one of a number of historians who have taken advantage of the passage
of time to re-conceptualize the Cold War. Perhaps the most prominent is John Lewis
Gaddis whose The Cold War (2005) has been widely discussed in the general as well as the
academic press. Saull’s book could not be more different in content or style. For one
thing, Saull is much tougher going on the reader. This is partly a matter of his rather
laboured writing style, though once you get used to his vocabulary, the parentheses, and
on occasions excessively long sentences, the meaning does generally come through.
More important, though not unrelated, is the conceptual frame Saull adopts, which is
about as far from Gaddis’ as one could imagine. Gaddis, always essentially the diplomatic
historian, eschews explicit theory even if he offers a clear line of interpretation. Gaddis
represents, for Saull, one important strand of ‘mainstream’ Cold War history, in
opposition to which Saull develops his own ‘theoretically informed historical survey’.
The chief fault of mainstream Cold War history, Saull writes, is the ‘neglect of the socio-
economic dimensions of the Cold War’. His own approach is broadly Marxist, or at least
‘Marxist-informed’. He sees the Cold War as essentially an ‘inter-systemic conﬂict’, but he
is concerned to distinguish himself from other leading advocates of this approach such as
Fred Halliday. Though managing to connect socio-economic factors to international
relations, Halliday still, so we are told, fails to integrate military power into his scheme.
What then precisely was the relationship between the socio-economic character of each
superpower and global geopolitical conﬂict? The answer, Saull writes, in one of those
sentences you wish could have been given more air, ‘lies in the way in which the socio-
economic constitution of each superpower was associated with or founded upon
institutions, structures and relations conditioned by coercive and military power, and the
degree to which such forms of power determined the international relations of each
superpower, and the international expansion of the socio-economic system of which
each superpower was a part’ (p. 8).
What does his approach yield? Saull offers two challenges, besides the theoretical one
referred to above, to current understandings of the Cold War. Firstly, he argues that the
Cold War must be understood as ‘the short twentieth century’, 1917–91. Cold war
existed, Saull tells us, from the Bolshevik Revolution onwards in the form of diplomatic
hostility between the USSR and the capitalist powers, in crisis and social revolution in
Europe and beyond provoked by clashes between anti-capitalist forces and various
ISSN 1468-2745 print/ISSN 1743-7962 online
548 Book reviews
capitalist powers, and also in the continuity in the character of the Soviet Union and its
relations with the outside world. All that changed after 1945 was the form of the
conﬂict. A sceptic might say that the ‘form of the conﬂict’ is close to being everything.
Saull’s approach, which is a new version of an old argument (see D. F. Fleming and
others), may be a useful reminder that communist–capitalist conﬂict was a factor in
international relations from 1917 but is less useful in explaining why it came close to
being the factor after 1945. For that, the despised notion of ‘realism’, with its focus on
nation-states and the global distribution of power, is a necessary tool.
A second and potentially valuable focus of Saull’s account is the global spread of the
Cold War to what at the time was called the Third World. Saull’s approach takes us well
beyond the superpower focus of much writing on the Cold War – Gaddis included.
One wishes, though, that Saull was able to command the clarity of exposition which is
manifest in Odd Arne Westad’s recent book The Global Cold War. As it is, on this topic
as on the question of the end of the Cold War, Saull’s interpretation moves in and out
of focus. It is doubtful whether this book will change minds, not because it lacks the
ambition to do so but because its conclusions are insufﬁciently realised.
University of East Anglia
q 2008, Richard Crockatt
The Cuban Missile Crisis: a concise history, by Don Munton and David A. Welch, Oxford and
New York, Oxford University of Press, 2007, xv þ119 pp.
In this brief account of the missile crisis, Don Munton and David Welch provide lucid,
sensible coverage of the background to the crisis, the October 1962 confrontation
itself, and the aftermath of the crisis. The attention they pay to the origins of the crisis
is warranted in a historiographical sense, as during the course of the past two decades
scholars have explored this issue with the same rigour that they have brought to bear in
examining events in October 1962. Munton and Welch’s analysis of the motives behind
Nikita Khrushchev’s decision to deploy missiles in Cuba is commendably wide-
ranging. Their salient argument on the pre-crisis period, that both John F. Kennedy
and Khrushchev stumbled into a major confrontation over Cuba because they lacked
an empathetic understanding of the other’s concerns, provides the conceptual
framework that shapes the entire work. The ability of the two superpower leaders to
defuse the missile crisis, they argue, was due principally to their sudden acquisition of
the empathy towards the other that had been so lacking prior to the crisis. It is to the
good that in a work of this sort the authors seek to develop an analytical framework
rather than simply sustain a detailed narrative; and they do succeed in making their
argument on empathy in a cogent fashion.
Cold War History 549
This account could have been strengthened in a number of ways. Firstly, JFK’s anti-
Castro commitments in the 1960 presidential campaign are worth discussing as they
may in part explain the inimical policies carried out by Kennedy towards Cuba during
his presidency. Secondly, CIA attempts to assassinate Castro needed to be discussed
fully; Kennedy might well have connected them to his decision to authorize the Bay of
Pigs invasion. Thirdly, the importance attached by JFK to Operation Mongoose in the
autumn of 1962 prior to the crisis is underestimated. In an early October 1962 meeting
Robert Kennedy made clear to other administration ofﬁcials his brother’s
determination to intensify the operation. Fourthly, Adlai Stevenson’s views are
misrepresented: the position he came to adopt in the ﬁrst week of the missile crisis was
strong support for both a blockade around Cuba and the use of diplomacy, not just the
latter. Fifthly, on a point of fact, George Ball ﬁrst used the Pearl Harbor analogy on the
ﬁrst day of the crisis, 16 October, not two days later. Finally, the Cordier ploy, at least in
some form, originated prior to 27 October.
Overall, though, this is a sensible, able account of an event that continues to sustain
a vast scholarship. It is a useful addition to that literature.
Queen Mary, University of London
q 2008, Mark White
The peace of illusions: American grand strategy from 1940 to the present, by Christopher
Layne, Ithaca, NY, Cornell University Press, 2006, xi þ290 pp.
American Realists are bafﬂed by their nation’s foreign policy. According to Realism,
nations are programmed to value security above all else and should not (or, according
to some structural Realists, will not) pursue policies that make them less secure. The
United States is separated from potential adversaries by vast oceans and possesses an
advantage in military power over them that is unmatched in recorded history. Simply
by maintaining its present position the United States could enjoy a long season of
territorial security at little expense – a kind of Realist utopia. Yet American leaders,
especially during the last several years, have seemed almost perversely determined to
undermine this enviable situation. The United States has gone out of its way to
antagonize both traditional friends and potential rivals, persisted with policies that
foment, rather than suppress, Islamic radicalism, and ratcheted up military spending
to the point that it now spends almost $1 trillion a year on its armed forces, intelligence
operations, and foreign policy-making. Epitomizing all of this, of course, is the
colossal ﬁasco in Iraq.
A central preoccupation of many American Realists today is to explain how things
have gone so badly wrong, and a leading member of this school, Christopher Layne of
550 Book reviews
the Bush (elder) School at Texas A & M University, has turned to the historiography of
American foreign relations for an answer. It is his view that US foreign policy has long
been controlled by a power elite that seeks hegemony across the globe for the purposes
of American capitalist expansion. This claim will be familiar to historians of American
foreign policy; it is the central argument of the revisionist, or ‘new left’ school
associated with William Appleman Williams of the University of Wisconsin and many
of his students, including Walter LaFeber, Lloyd Gardner, and Thomas McCormick.
Revisionists argue that the dominating foreign policy of the United States, since at least
the last decade of the nineteenth century, has been the ‘open door’: the goal of
liberalising world trade, opening colonial and European markets up to American
interests, and, more recently, fostering a globalised world order along American lines.
While some revisionists have suggested that the open door came naturally, if not
inevitably, to the United States, Layne agrees with early revisionists like Williams and,
especially, his predecessor Charles Beard that pursuing an open door foreign policy
was a contingent, political decision that did not have to be made. The United States
could have maintained its tradition of staying away from global power politics and
looking after its own security in the safe western hemisphere; it could have ‘cultivated
its own garden’, as Beard once quoted Voltaire. Instead, Washington has been seized by
an elite – Eisenhower’s ‘military – industrial complex’ is an apt moniker – that has
taken over the making of US foreign policy in order to advance its economic interests.
To substantiate his argument, Layne offers in chapters 2 – 5 an episodic historical
account of American foreign policy over the past 70 years or so, especially with respect
to western Europe. Layne advances the bold claims that American participation in
both world wars was ultimately driven by open-door interests and that the decision to
contain Soviet power in Europe after the Second World War was also primarily due to
the American desire to control European markets. He argues that European nations
such as Britain and France regarded the projection of American power in Europe as a
threat to their sovereignty, rather than a welcome defence against Soviet predation,
and that the foreign policies of these two nations, at least for a time, were based deeply
on a desire to balance against American power and establish a third pole of
international politics in western Europe, an impulse that is re-emerging today.
In the second part of the book, Layne turns to contemporary foreign policy and
theoretical debates. He advocates a policy called ‘offshore balancing’. The United
States, he argues, should withdraw from Europe and Asia and instead deploy
substantial forces ‘on the horizon’, which would be used to project American power in
these regions if, and only if, a dangerous rival threatens to establish Eurasian
preponderance. By doing so, Layne maintains, the United States could avoid
entanglement in foreign conﬂicts, save trillions of dollars in military spending, arrest
the militarisation of American politics and society, and run less risk of antagonizing
states, like China and Russia, that are certain to emerge as rival great powers in the
foreseeable future. As a Realist, Layne posits that nations are certain to balance against
the United States sooner or later, so it is best to provide them with as little reason to be
hostile to the United States as possible.
Cold War History 551
In advancing offshore balancing Layne contends with alternative visions of
American foreign policy. He rejects forcefully the mainstream liberal view that the
United States must act as a ‘stabilizing hegemon’ responsible for regulating and
policing the world economy, arguing persuasively that world trade does not require
the heavy-handed supervision of one state. He also takes issue with what I would
regard as now the leading American Realist interpretation of international politics, the
Dartmouth School theory of power preponderance advanced by William Wohlforth
and Stephen Brooks. Wohlforth, Brooks, and other scholars argue that potential rivals
to the United States will not balance against American power, for good Realist reasons,
for a long time; Layne, on the other hand, regards the unipolar era simply as a
transitional period between one balance-of-power system and the next. Finally, he
spars repeatedly throughout the book with John Mearsheimer, whose offensive realist
theory claims that states seek domination of their own regions but not global
hegemony because of the stopping power of water. Layne points to the evidence that
the United States seems to be seeking precisely this domination, whatever offensive
Realists say. This can be explained, he states, by an alternative to offensive realism he
calls ‘extraregional hegemony theory’.
The Peace of Illusions provides a bold and clearly-argued case for American
retrenchment. Nevertheless, there are weaknesses in both its historical and theoretical
argumentation. One clear ﬂaw in Layne’s book is his equivocal rendering of the history
of American foreign policy, especially during the 1940s. Layne states regularly that
American entry into the Second World War and its policy of Cold War containment in
Europe were based upon open door economic interests, but on occasion he backs away
from these explosive claims and allows that the United States had reason to regard Nazi
Germany and the Soviet Union as serious security threats (esp. pp. 56, 199– 200).
America’s entrance into World War II and its instigation of the Cold War were,
unarguably, the most important foreign policy decisions it made during the twentieth
century. If Layne accepts that both of these decisions may have been driven by
insecurity rather than economic expansionism, then the salience of his argument
becomes highly questionable. Any theoretical claim can fail to account for minor
decisions or inactions, but if it does not explain world-changing events such as the
American decision to contend with Hitler and Stalin, if even the possibility is granted
that other factors may have been more important, then it becomes implausible to
maintain that the open door totally and always drove American foreign policy.
Historians, more comfortable with multi-causal explanations and change over time,
might argue that there have been periods during which the United States faced threats
to its security and others during which it did not. Layne seems at times to concur with
this, but returns nevertheless to his claim that American foreign policy has been
deﬁned by the open door throughout the twentieth century and to the present day.
Either the United States had reason to fear Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, or its
decisions to confront them were driven by elite economic interests, no different from
earlier or later episodes of American expansion. For Layne’s argument to stand up, he
cannot equivocate on this vital question.
552 Book reviews
Furthermore, it is not clear why extra-regional hegemony theory is a theory at all,
rather than a historical generalization. By deﬁnition, international relations theories
are meant to explain the behaviour of any nation, or at least any great power, and to
predict their actions irrespective of foreign policy making. The dean of structural
realism, Kenneth Waltz, has called for the development of theories of foreign policy to
complement his theory of international politics, but it is extremely difﬁcult to see how
a theory of a particular nation’s foreign policy could derive from anything other than
that nation’s own experiences and capabilities – from the attributes, as Waltz would
say, of the unit itself. Layne’s theorising illustrates this problem. He clearly states that
the establishment of open door diplomacy was a contingent act attributable to
domestic American politics, and he does not show anywhere that extraregional
hegemony theory could apply to any nation other than the United States. To be sure,
he discusses structural factors such as geography and the composition of the
international system, but so have historians; Charles Beard, for one, put them at the
centre of his analysis in the late 1930s. To be sure, he uses his insights to contend with
contemporary theorists and offer predictions and policy recommendations, but
historians are able to do this as well. His book shows that when it comes to analyzing
the nature of a speciﬁc nation’s foreign policy, rather than the general nature of the
international system, theory and historiography become indistinguishable.
Finally, Layne provides an unclear prognosis for the future of international politics.
He predicts that a balance of power is certain to recur, but elements of his argument
give us good reason to doubt this. The United States has only grown more powerful
relative to its adversaries in the 17 years since the end of the Cold War, despite
predictions by many Realists (including Layne himself) that unipolarity could not last
long. Layne rejects the ‘unipolar optimism’ of the Dartmouth school, but does not
respond persuasively to its central observation that potential rivals to the United States
are not balancing against it, in the way Realists have traditionally deﬁned balancing,
despite the heedlessness and aggressiveness of US foreign policy that Layne himself
laments. If American foreign policy makers have the ability to reject balance-of-power
logic, a fact Layne acknowledges, then why do leaders of other states not have the same
On the other hand, and even more important in my view, Layne offers insights
about the nuclear revolution, i.e., the recognition by states that thermonuclear war is
self-defeating, that would seem to defeat balance-of-power Realism from the outset. In
highlighting the beneﬁts of offshore balancing (p. 182), Layne asserts that a Eurasian
hegemon could not really threaten the United States, as it would be deterred by the US
nuclear arsenal, and that the cost to the United States of preventing the rise of a
hegemon, namely the risk of starting a nuclear war, is now exceptionally high. But if
this is so, then what remains of balance-of-power politics? If balancing means building
up military power in order to be able to wage major war, which it has normally meant,
then why would potential rivals to the United States even bother? By identifying
the revolutionary effects of nuclear weapons upon contemporary international
politics, Layne provides an answer to the puzzle of unipolarity that does not require
Cold War History 553
endless redeﬁnitions of balancing or an analysis of the foreign policies of particular
nations – which is to say, a theoretical answer.
The Peace of Illusions is a critique of the economic bases of American foreign policy and
a call for a neo-isolationist foreign policy that recalls the pre-war continentalism of
progressives like Charles Beard and William Jennings Bryan. It is a brilliant work in this
vein and resonates with increasing volume as George W. Bush’s wars disintegrate into a
multi-trillion dollar disaster. But Layne provides us with neither a usable theory of
American foreign policy nor a coherent prediction as to its future orientation. Realism
demands that nations value their security above all else or suffer the consequences, but in
an age of imperial preponderance and nuclear stasis America is not listening.
University of Southampton
q 2008, Campbell Craig
Dealing with dictators: dilemmas of U.S. diplomacy and intelligence analysis, 1945– 1990,
edited by Ernest R. May and Philip D. Zelikow, London, MIT Press, 2007, 227 pp.
The contrasting images of Donald Rumsfeld shaking Saddam Hussein’s hand in 1983
and then Saddam’s statue being pulled down in Baghdad 20 years later illustrate the
complex shifts and turns in the United States’ relationship with foreign dictators.
Dealing with Dictators lays out the menu of options considered by Washington when
managing its relations with undemocratic states in the era of the Cold War – from
providing aid to regime change. Based on case studies used in Harvard University’s
executive programme for senior managers in the US intelligence community, the book
focuses on the relationship between intelligence analysis and policy choices.
In the introduction, May and Zelikow outline seven ‘precepts’ or core principles that
ought to govern intelligence analysis, including the necessity to distinguish between
what is known and what is assumed and the requirement to test our beliefs about what
is occurring according to different paradigms of state behaviour.
The bulk of the book consists of six case studies, on US policy toward China
1945 –48, the Congo 1960 – 63, Nicaragua 1977 – 79, Iran 1978– 79, the Philippines
1983 –86, and Iraq 1988 –90. These are strict narratives, which summarize the
intelligence data available at the time and the decisions of actors. Any retrospective
comment, analysis, or judgement has been deliberately stripped away to reveal the
strategic, moral, and domestic political dilemmas facing policy-makers. Readers are
prompted to think: ‘what would I have done given this information?’ Of course, it is
debatable whether anyone can produce ‘just the facts’ but, overall, the authors have
done a ﬁne job here. The case studies are crisply written, clear, and coherent.
The audience for the book, however, is not entirely clear. The cases will reveal little
that is new to the specialist. It is probably of most use as a teaching tool for students of
554 Book reviews
international politics and members of the intelligence community. The dilemmas
faced by George Marshall, Harry Truman, and their successors in managing US
relations with unsavoury regimes may well reoccur. The chapter on Iran, for example,
has obvious contemporary relevance.
We certainly get a sense from Dealing with Dictators about the value of the executive
programme at Harvard. But can this classroom experience be replicated with the materials
provided here? May and Zelikow suggest that the six case studies are ‘a laboratory for
trying out and testing’ the precepts (p. 13). While this is hypothetically true, the precepts
are not actually tested or systematically examined in the cases – indeed these precepts are
rarely referred to after the introduction. The authors themselves warn that the precepts
‘are less than fully meaningful absent the opportunity to discuss them along with the case
studies, which serve to explain them and amplify them’ (p. xii). Again, such a discussion
does not occur in the book, aside from a few comments in the conclusion. Therefore,
Dealing with Dictators provides for a fascinating course on US intelligence, policy-making,
and dictators – but only, I suspect, if either Ernest May or Philip Zelikow were present to
offer the requisite additional analysis.
q 2008, Dominic Tierney
Blind oracles: intellectuals and war from Kennan to Kissinger, by Bruce Kuklick, Princeton
and Oxford, Princeton University Press, 2006, 241 pp.
In a typically scintillating review in an article originally published on 9 October 1986
in The New York Review of Books, Conor Cruise O’Brien took aim at the American neo-
conservative guru, Norman Podhoretz. The latter had written a book entitled The
Bloody Crossroads: Where Literature and Politics Meet, and one underlying theme of the
work was that intellectuals matter. Take Henry Adams for example. Adams himself
thought that he was powerless as an individual thinker, but Podhoretz disagreed.
Despite the fact that Adams was ‘a malignant inﬂuence’, who encouraged ‘a bigoted
contempt for this country’ (America) and who subtly denigrated and devalued the life
of the mind, he had been ‘kept alive as an incitement to and justiﬁcation of the hunger
of the American intellectual class for power, and especially the political power that he
himself for all that he denigrated it, could never stop wanting and envying’.
Intellectuals, according to Podhoretz, are in fact more inﬂuential even than successful
politicians. His proof: today we remember Adams, but nobody remembers Rutherford
B. Hayes or Chester Arthur. Hmm . . .
Podhoretz, of course, was no neutral observer. He claimed, for example, that the
neo-conservatives, of whom he remains a leading member, although still a ‘minority
within the intellectual community’ in 1980, were seen by many as responsible for the
Cold War History 555
election of Ronald Reagan as President. O’Brien ﬁnds this claim to be rather
implausible: ‘could anyone outside the charmed circle of a few intellectual coteries and
counter-coteries ever have dreamed such a thing? How could a couple of magazines
and a couple of dozen individuals of whom most Americans, and most other people,
[had] never heard, possibly have exercised a determining inﬂuence over an American
national election?’ For O’Brien it was all ‘a mite fanciful’, since in his view the only
intellectual who had had any inﬂuence on the 1980 election had been ‘that eminent
paleoconservative scholar, Imam Khomeini’.
If intellectuals want power, according to O’Brien, they should put aside their
intellectual passions and follow the advice of Talleyrand: ‘Above all, no zeal.’ Burke
after all had spent most of his career in opposition and had only one brief period of
junior ofﬁce. Machiavelli ended a generally dismal political career by leading a
delegation to the Friars Minor at Capri and was glad to get that tiny job. Henry
Kissinger, one might add, ended up as Secretary of State, but like Talleyrand he had no
zeal for principles and left behind, like Talleyrand, a reputation that is often held to be
tainted by failure and criminality – an ambiguous success at the most.
Bruce Kuklick would most deﬁnitely side with O’Brien in his critique of Podhoretz.
His own book is a dismal testament to the ignorance, irrelevance, and naıvete of ‘defense
intellectuals’ and foreign policy thinkers: ‘Defense intellectuals were simplistic in their
assessment of Russian strength in Eastern Europe after the war’ (p. 14). A ‘lasting aspect
of the American approach’ was ‘the lack of complication in the imagination of men who
could make complex appraisals in other spheres’ (p. 14). These people overestimated
‘Soviet power around the world’ (p. 14) and the signiﬁcance of the Soviet arsenal.
Whether their thinking was ‘scientiﬁc’ (based on game theory or whatever) or
‘unscientiﬁc’ (based on history or historical analogy), Kuklick concludes with ‘the
perceived failure of both scientiﬁc and non-scientiﬁc visions in the persons of Robert
MacNamara and Henry Kissinger’ (p. 15). Even the Vietnam experience brought no
lessons, since ‘intellectuals found a new role for themselves conjuring up formulas of
expiation’ (p. 225). And Vietnam was ‘the test case’: ‘Politicians used ideas of various
sorts to legitimate activity engaged in on other grounds. These grounds were political,
whereas the legitimating ideas were justiﬁcatory – at a level above the partisan clash.
After the war, intellectuals continued to ﬁnd new ways of understanding Vietnam that,
if they did not lead people from the truth, at least obscured the involvement of the
authors’ (p. 225).
All in all, Kuklick is no enthusiast for intellectuals in politics: ‘It is difﬁcult to see that
ideas from the university, from centers of strategic thought, or from social science were
distinctive in any way. Using them, moreover, did not mean that policy was better’
(p. 226). Again: ‘Kennedy’s policies of 1963 represent (by my subjective standards) the
high point of American statesmanship in the period under study, even though they
produced the space in which Vietnam was to take place. The lack of a fully conscious
strategic concept in this period of achievement intimates that success may not
hinge on the imposition of articulated ideas on the world’ (p. 227). It would, in fact,
be rather tedious to list the faults of all the good and the great according to
556 Book reviews
Professor Kuklick – from Kennan, Nitze, RAND, Wohlstetter, Morgenthau, and
Neustadt to MacNamara and Kissinger – but Kuklick does systematically analyse their
failures. The book becomes depressing, and Kuklick himself calls it ‘bitter medicine’:
‘the defense intellectuals did not know very much. They frequently delivered obtuse
judgements when required to be matter of fact, or merely offered up self-justifying talk
for politicians . . . The strategists believed their know-how could turn the state system
in a better direction and their learning leverage interests into the empire of justice. But
politics was always the more powerful partner and dragged the erudite into the
dominion of partisanship, maneuver and advantage. Politicians outranked academy
and politics seduced scholarship’ (p. 230).
How then are we to react to Kuklick’s pessimism? His ﬁnal advice to defence
intellectuals is that they should cultivate modesty and humility. Yet he has just outlined
the systematic failure of truth to speak to power for half a century. His real message is
that intellectuals do not matter, are usually wrong (sometimes disastrously so) anyway,
and that professional politicians use them to justify their own false views of the world.
If he is anywhere near the mark, universities – or perhaps just IR departments –
should shut up shop immediately.
Of course another way to look at things would be to suggest that Professor Kuklick is
the one who is naıve and who has got practically everything wrong. His own views
might be taken as wrong-headed and irrelevant, if not downright dangerous. Contrary
to his beliefs, it might be argued that the West after 1945 or 1949 was indeed
challenged by totalitarian communist states that in time murdered 100 million people.
One of these states (the USSR) possessed nuclear weapons, while another (China) was
led by a monster who was quite willing to use nuclear weapons, had he possessed
them, to murder hundreds of millions more human beings. US defence intellectuals
may have made mistakes (most notably over Vietnam), but they were surely right to
treat the communist challenge with the utmost seriousness. In the end – perhaps due
to neo-conservative inﬂuence – the weakness of the 1970s gave way to renewed US
self-conﬁdence under Reagan, whose policies were designed to bring communism to
an end, an objective which was accomplished in Russia and Eastern Europe. Kuklick
ends his book, however, before ‘the second Cold War’ starts. What he would make of
the neo-cons and the ‘test case’ of Iraq, one shudders to think. No doubt a second
volume will bring us up to date sometime, if he does not either commit suicide or leave
the academy in disgust. More seriously, on the evidence of this volume, he certainly
cannot explain how or why the US ever won the Cold War or why, given such poor
political and intellectual leadership, it was not defeated. Perhaps the communist threat
in his mind was purely imaginary.
London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)
q 2008, Alan Sked
Cold War History 557
Calculating a natural world: scientists, engineers, and computers during the rise of U.S. Cold
War research, by Atsushi Akera, Cambridge, MA, and London, MIT Press, 2006, ix þ427 pp.
This book requires tenacity from any reader not well versed in the terminology of early
computing; thankfully, it rewards such tenacity too. Atsushi Akera has laboured hard to
make his work accessible to a broad audience. His argument develops through a series of
genuinely fascinating case studies. Yet he probably assumes a little too much about the
familiarity of those who come to his subject from ﬁelds other than the history of
computing, and habituated at best to the use of Windows PCs, with the technical language
of an era when mainframes were the only game in town: key terms like ‘stored program
concept’, ‘batch processing’, and ‘time-sharing systems’ are either not explained or
explained in a way that will likely leave some readers still staring blankly at the page.
There are riches here, nonetheless. Calculating a Natural World provides an extensively
researched study of the changing ‘ecologies of knowledge’ in which innovations in
computing occurred and were disseminated during the ﬁrst two decades of the Cold War.
Akera’s analysis adeptly connects the agency of individual actors – university
administrators and IBM ﬁeld representatives as well as scientists and engineers – to the
role of institutions: in the federal government, the National Bureau of Standards and the
three military services; in the corporate sector, IBM and its clients in the aviation industry
of southern California; and in higher education, Princeton, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and
MIT. He offers important correctives not just to histories of innovation that dwell upon
the heroic pioneer and which tend to regard the point at which innovations are
institutionalized as the moment where the interesting story ends, but also to accounts of
Cold War research that efface the complexity and mutability of America’s scientiﬁc and
technological infrastructure through simplistic references to a ‘military–industrial
complex’. Certainly, the interest of the military services in devices that could quickly
calculate ballistics trajectories or simulate the behaviour of aircraft for training purposes
resulted in much of the funding received by early computer science. But as important to
the outcomes of the research were the rivalries and tensions between and within
institutions, the willingness of some institutions also to suspend the pursuit of their
immediate self-interest in order to allow experiment and free exchange of knowledge, and
the ambiguous relationship of computer science to established professional and
disciplinary boundaries. The ﬂuidity of this environment was expressed in failures as well
as in successes. Indeed, the difﬁculty that some readers may experience with the
terminology of Akera’s book is itself probably a consequence of one of the developments
he describes: the realisation by universities in the late 1960s that centralised mainframe-
reliant time-sharing technology could not keep up with user demand and that it would be
more efﬁcient to procure smaller computers for each department or school.
University of Southampton
q 2008, Kendrick Oliver
558 Book reviews
Dean Acheson: a life in the Cold War, by Robert L. Beisner, New York, Oxford University Press,
2006, xiv þ800 pp.
Robert Beisner’s 800-page biography of Dean Acheson focuses primarily on his years
in the State Department – when, as Acheson later put it, he was ‘present at the
creation’ of America’s enduring Cold War strategy. That this weighty tome focuses on
the Truman years alone indicates that this is a serious book: conscientious in its
provision of narrative detail and scrupulous in surveying the historiography. It is thus
pleasing to discover that Beisner is a graceful and ﬂuent writer. The book rarely drags,
and the author’s keen eye for illuminating anecdotes keeps the pages turning. In 1967,
a self-pitying Lyndon Johnson asked Acheson why he was receiving criticism from
those who should really ‘love’ him. Acheson replied, ‘Mr. President, it’s simple. You’re
not a very lovable person.’
Beisner has no doubt about Acheson’s place in the pantheon of America’s most
distinguished diplomats. He concurs with Henry Kissinger’s opinion that Acheson was
the greatest US Secretary of State of the twentieth century. In fact, Beisner can think of
few that have surpassed his insight and sober judgement in American history – ‘only
John Quincy Adams and William H. Seward from earlier times might match him’. This
is high praise indeed, and Beisner does an estimable job in justifying Acheson’s
ranking. This dandyish, martini-quafﬁng diplomat – whose hauteur and dress sense
harked to a bygone era – helped transform Germany and Japan from enemies to loyal
friends, provided crucial impetus for the Marshall Plan, and set the US on an
ultimately triumphant path of vigilant opposition to Soviet expansionism.
Acheson was ferocious in debate, but his certitude in argument was also worryingly
complete at times. Beisner applauds Acheson’s intellect and bureaucratic acumen, but
he does not skirt over his less edifying tendencies: his waspish impatience with those
whose views contradicted his own. On the day that John Foster Dulles died, Acheson
shocked a dinner party by announcing ‘Thank God Foster is underground’. Beisner is
never more interesting than when poring over Acheson’s strained relationship with
George Kennan, done with a wonderful eye for nuance. Kennan was intellectually
brilliant and similarly conservative, but his disavowal of Truman’s brand of expansive
containment led Acheson to dismiss the man’s mettle in the most derogatory terms,
referring in private conversations to his ‘marshmallow mind’. Such mud-slinging
might have amused his audience – and Acheson’s wit matched his favourite tipple in
its dryness – but it was unnecessary for a man of his stature to make low blows.
It is commonplace for people to turn to the right as they get older and Dean
Acheson was no exception. In his ﬁnal years he gave free rein to his latent racism in a
series of inﬂammatory remarks that backed white minority rule in South Africa and
Rhodesia. This unfortunate ﬁnal chapter has sullied Acheson’s shine in the eyes of
many historians. But Beisner cautions us to be careful when judging historical ﬁgures
by the standards of the present. It is certainly interesting that George Ball and George
Kennan – both as disparaging about sub-Saharan Africa as Acheson – have largely
escaped censure for their unpleasant views on the extra-European world. Unlike
Cold War History 559
Acheson, who supported President Johnson right up to the Tet Offensive, their
prescient opposition to the Vietnam War might have afforded them greater protective
kudos from the scholarly community.
University of East Anglia
q 2008, David Milne
Louis Johnson and the arming of America: the Roosevelt and Truman years, by Keith
D. McFarland and David L. Roll, Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 2005, xii þ452 pp.
Louis A. Johnson has not enjoyed a distinguished historiographical career. Between
1937 and 1950 he was one of America’s most colourful politicians, with the happy
knack of occupying pivotal positions at key moments. Indeed, he was Roosevelt’s
Assistant Secretary of War in the tense period between Munich and the fall of France,
the President’s personal envoy to India during Gandhi’s campaign against British
colonial rule, Truman’s campaign ﬁnance manager in the Democrats’ surprise election
victory of 1948, and his Secretary of Defense during the turbulent months before and
after the Korean War. After he was forced to resign in September 1950, however,
Johnson quickly dropped out of sight. And in the large literature on the period he has
been sometimes ignored and frequently castigated.
Johnson’s mauling at the hands of numerous historians stemmed partly from the
fact that those who wrote the ﬁrst round of history in the 1950s and 1960s were his
former political antagonists in the 1940s, and they grasped every opportunity to
continue their feud. Dean Acheson was the most prominent. In his Pulitzer prize
winning memoirs, Acheson wrote Johnson off as an egotistical self-publicist who was
probably suffering from mental illness – and his verdict been widely repeated. At the
same time, Johnson did little to burnish his own legacy. After leaving ofﬁce, he gave no
interviews to reporters. He also left a paltry number of documents in his private
papers. As Bruce Cumings notes, ‘if one were to judge by the weight of his ﬁles, he paid
more attention to the annual gathering of bigwigs at Bohemian Grove, the ruling class
retreat in California, than to East Asian policy’.1
This biography by McFarland and Roll is therefore a much-needed reassessment of
an important ﬁgure. Using numerous interviews to ﬁll the documentary gap, the
authors convincingly undermine the allegation that Johnson was mentally unbalanced.
They also have two broader goals. One is to spotlight American mobilisation policy in
two key periods: Johnson’s efforts to increase US defences in the wake of Axis
expansion between 1938 and 1940, and his campaign, in the opposite direction, to balance
the budget by slashing military expenditure during 1949 and 1950. For McFarland and
Roll, the conﬂicting nature of these two acts reveals the key to Johnson’s political career.
560 Book reviews
In their view he was ‘an instrument of confrontation’, utilised by Roosevelt and then
Truman to ﬁght the powerful isolationists in the late 1930s and the equally powerful
military services a decade later. Johnson accepted this brutal role because of loyalty and
ambition. He was a man driven by politics rather than principle.
The book’s second goal is to reassess the differing presidential styles of Johnson’s two
bosses. FDR, they argue, was far more successful in using Johnson because he had a
clear strategic vision. He also had the necessary ‘ﬁnesse and talent for evasion,
deception and deniability’. Truman, by contrast, thought solely of balancing the budget
in the dangerous months before the outbreak of the Korean War. Despite his
reputation for decisiveness, he also failed to provide a clear lead on China policy,
thereby allowing the damaging division between Johnson and Acheson to ﬂourish.
Throughout, McFarland’s and Roll’s insights are invariably judicious, their insights
often penetrating. Indeed, this is a ﬁne biography of an important ﬁgure and it
deserves a wide audience.
 Cumings, Origins of the Korean War, vol. II, pp. 158– 9.
Cumings, Bruce. Origins of the Korean War, vol. II: The Roaring of the Cataract, 1947 – 1950.
Princeton, NJ and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 1990.
London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)
q 2008, Steven Casey
At the dawn of the Cold War: the Soviet–American crisis over Iranian Azerbaijan, 1941–1946,
by Jamil Hasanli, Lanham, MD, Rowman & Littleﬁeld, 2006, xiii þ409 pp.
In dealing with the history of the Iranian crisis of 1945 – 46, Jamil Hasanli raises very
signiﬁcant and still disputable questions concerning the origins of the Cold War as well
as the motives and characteristics of Soviet foreign policy in the ﬁrst years after the end
of the Second World War. The book’s undoubted advantage is that the author
scrutinised and put into use unique documentary material from the archives of the
Azerbaijan Republic, Georgia, and Russia.
Hasanli’s starting point is that the Cold War was initiated by the dramatic events in
Iranian Azerbaijan (p. xii). This is already stated in the title of the book, in which the
author prefers to apply the term ‘the Soviet – American crisis’ instead of the more
Cold War History 561
habitual deﬁnition ‘the Iranian crisis’. At the same time Hasanli focuses on
the analysis of little-known internal events in Iranian Azerbaijan in 1941 – 46, which
were considerably inﬂuenced by the USSR’s foreign policy, directed at strengthening
Soviet positions in the north of Iran, and a response to it by ofﬁcial Tehran. But in
speaking about the distinctive feature of Hasanli’s comprehensive examination of the
autonomy movement in Iranian Azerbaijan, it should be noted that he places high
emphasis on the support which was provided to it by Soviet Azerbaijan and its
The author’s approach not only ﬁlls a gap in the historiography of the Iranian crisis,
it also gives an opportunity to understand to what extent the national factor
inﬂuenced the Kremlin decision-making process toward Iranian Azerbaijan. So,
contrary to the author’s point of view, according to which the highest Soviet leadership
strove for the annexing of Southern Azerbaijan to the USSR, the cited documents show
that it was Soviet Azerbaijan’s political ﬁgures who had such intentions and that they
tried to put pressure on Stalin in this question. Hasanli also notes that S.J. Pishavari
and some other leaders of Iranian Azerbaijan examined the possibility of a transition
from the established national autonomy to the creation of an independent Azerbaijan
state with the perspective of joining Soviet Azerbaijan (pp. 160, 179 –81, and 186).
These options were discussed with the party leadership of the Azerbaijan SSR and
found their encouragement.
However, if the author’s assertion that the Stalin leadership planned territorial
expansion at the expense of Iranian Azerbaijan is a rather arguable point, then his
documentary analysis of the Soviet struggle with the US and Great Britain for Iran’s oil
resources beginning in 1944 brings out clearly that the Soviet desire to get an oil
concession in northern Iran had the decisive inﬂuence on its policy in the Iranian
On the whole, Jamil Hasanli’s monograph is a novel and fundamental historical
study, notwithstanding the fact that it is difﬁcult to agree with some of the author’s
theses, above all the idea that the crisis in Iran marked the beginning of the Cold War
(pp. 225 –6 and 386– 7). In contrast to contradictions between the wartime allies on
the settlement of European issues, in which the ideological factor played a very
important role, the Iranian crisis was the most salient case of a traditional great
power struggle for geopolitical interests inside the still existent anti-Hitler coalition.
At the same time Hasanli does not consider his concept ‘the ﬁnal word’ in debates on
the issue (p. xiii). So the book under review spurs readers to engage in further
Institute of World History, Russian Academy of Sciences
q 2008, Natalia Yegorova
562 Book reviews
Collapse of an empire: lessons for modern Russia, by Yegor Gaidar, translated by Antonina
W. Louis, Washington, DC, Brookings Institution Press, 2007, xviii þ332 pp.
The causes of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War have been a
hotly debated topic for almost two decades. Yegor Gaidar’s Collapse of an Empire is a
valuable contribution to the literature. Although he states in the introduction that his
purpose is to help cure what he sees as the disease of ‘post imperial nostalgia’ among
Russia’s elite and its citizens (p. xiv), this book is far more than a simple polemic. Nor
is it simply a memoir – though Gaidar, a key economic adviser in the last years of the
Soviet Union and Russia’s Prime Minister in the ﬁrst years after its collapse, is well
placed to write one. Instead, the volume is a strongly researched account of the
economic problems and political errors that brought about the Soviet Union’s
The ﬁrst three chapters of the book set the problems faced by the Soviet Union in a
broad historical context. We are reminded that empires have a tendency to over-
extend, as the ambitions of their leaders move far beyond their means. Authoritarian
regimes, like that of the Soviet Union, are brittle and their legitimacy is all too easily
threatened during periods of upheaval. States that rely on natural resources usually do
so at the expense of economic development in other spheres. Gaidar cites numerous
historical examples, including sixteenth century Spain, the Austro-Hungarian Empire,
and Yugoslavia. It is an interesting section, although the reader may ﬁnd Gaidar’s
tendency to jump from one historical example to another rather disorienting.
The Soviet Union suffered from all three of the above problems. Gaidar traces Soviet
economic development, focusing on the post-World War II period, to show that
without the Stalinist enforcement apparatus the system soon stopped showing results.
The world oil crisis in the 1970s saved the state budget, allowing the Soviet
government to purchase grain and consumer goods while continuing to provide funds
for Soviet allies abroad and continuing a defence build-up at home.
Gaidar argues, convincingly, that the seeds for the Soviet Union’s destruction were
sown long before Mikhail Gorbachev and perestroika. He shows that Gorbachev’s
initiatives only accelerated a developing crisis. The anti-alcohol campaign, rather than
restoring discipline in the workplace, exacerbated a growing budget crisis. Difﬁcult
decisions on ﬁscal and economic reforms were postponed until later. Part of the
problem was that Gorbachev and the leadership failed to grasp the extent of the crisis
when they ﬁrst came to power; lack of political will was another. The government did
not even begin to curtail the military and foreign aid budgets until 1989. Over the next
two years, reform efforts lagged far behind the escalating crisis. Political decisions –
including key foreign policy ones, like support for the reuniﬁcation of Germany –
were now dictated by economic considerations.
Collapse of an Empire is, in part, a justiﬁcation of the radical economic reforms that
Gaidar initially supported under Gorbachev and then helped oversee under Yeltsin.
What will most impress historians is the extensive use of archival materials that are
only beginning to make their way into studies of the late Cold War period. Gaidar
Cold War History 563
quotes at length from economic data and planning documents stored in the State
Archive of the Economy (RGAE), papers prepared by economists advising Soviet
leaders, and meetings of the Council of Ministers. This gives readers an unprecedented
view of decision-making in the Soviet Empire’s last years.
London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)
q 2008, Artemy Kalinovsky
Hungary from the Nazis to the Soviets: the establishment of the Communist regime in
Hungary, 1944 –1948, by Peter Kenez, Cambridge and New York, Cambridge University Press,
2006, ix þ312 pp.
The Hungarian revolution of 1956 takes centre-stage in historical publications on
Hungary. With the revolution hogging the limelight, its pre-history tends to be
forgotten. Kenez’s Hungary from the Nazis to the Soviets sets the record straight. It is one
of the few books in English dealing with the decisive 1944 – 48 period. These were the
years when the communist takeover of Hungary was imminent, but, as Kenez rightly
argues, this was not always apparent to contemporaries.
Kenez starts with a description of the immense destruction in the country wrought by
war. Wholesale plunder of the economy and draconian reparation payments caused the
worst inﬂation the world had seen to date. Against this background of a society on the
brink of collapse Kenez presents an overview of the steady breakdown of Hungary’s ﬂawed
post-war democracy and the growing power of the Hungarian communist party (MKP).
As a young Hungarian child Kenez lived through these bitter times. This is reﬂected
in poignant footnotes, such as Kenez’s personal memories of Soviet soldiers handing
out bread to children and dangling corpses from Budapest lamp posts. Despite his
personal suffering, this is a balanced book. Kenez points out that some of the changes
introduced after 1945 were not the result of communist or Soviet scheming, but in fact
long overdue social reforms. For all its ﬂaws, the elections of 1945 were Hungary’s ﬁrst
free elections based on universal suffrage. The 1945 land reform ended the power of
the landed gentry and the status of the church as the country’s largest landowner. The
ﬁction that Hungary was still a monarchy was ended with the introduction of the
republic. Conservatives such as Cardinal Mindszenty still rejected these moves. Due to
his opposition to the communists he has often been presented as a ﬁgure of anti-Soviet
resistance. Due to his rejection of such democratic reforms he appears in Kenez’ book
as a tainted hero, out of touch with the times.
A key strength of the book is its broad approach. Kenez covers such topics as politics,
economy, the position of the church, post-war retribution, foreign policy, communist
propaganda, Hungarian cinema, and anti-Semitism. Another strength is the reliance
on new material from the former party archives. These sources add interesting detail to
564 Book reviews
what is already known and vastly improve our understanding of the communist post-
war takeovers. The Hungarian communists, for instance, had a great deal of leeway to
shape policy. Often, as Kenez points out, they turned out to be more radical than their
Soviet masters, in which case they had to be reigned in.
Kenez gives a comprehensive overview of a crucial period in Hungarian history,
covering politics, economics, society, and culture. He presents new sources and
research on a crucial period to a non-Hungarian audience. This makes Hungary from
the Nazis to the Soviets highly interesting to anyone dealing with the post-war history
of Eastern Europe and the origins of the Cold War.
University of Amsterdam
q 2008, Martin Mevius
Michael of Romania: the king and the country, by Ivor Porter, Stroud, Sutton, 2005, xxi
The relevance of monarchies in modern South-East European history is a subject that
is very much underrated by the specialists on the region. The Balkan monarchs made
crucial contributions to the process of state and nation building and even today their
pre-eminence is conspicuous in countries such as Romania, where the former
sovereign is a public ﬁgure of highest moral integrity who saved the country from
disaster in the Second World War, or in Bulgaria, where the heir to the throne became
one of the most successful prime ministers after the fall of communism.
In this timely book Ivor Porter charts the life of King Michael of Romania with great skill
and in-depth understanding. Through eloquent personal accounts and historical records
from the king’s personal archive he shows how very much the life of the sovereign was
intertwined with the recent history of his country. The author knows Romania intimately,
being well known for his activity as a British special operations executive operative in the
country and as a later member of the Allied Control Commission in Bucharest.
The book is thus an important witness statement that throws new light on the onset
of the Cold War in Romania and South-East Europe. The author shows that the
communisation of the country started with direct Western approval, and also because
of its unwarranted trust in the Soviets coupled with hesitation at every step, mirroring
in many aspects the behaviour toward Hitler before the war. Moscow did not display
such niceties and went straight for the jugular in order to achieve its objectives.
In Romania there was room for manoeuvre against the Soviet plans in 1945 – 46, but
the opportunity was lost because of the West’s procrastination. The Russians, unlike
the Western Allies, expertly knew the problems of Romania and were able to exploit
them in full, as shown by the restoration of Transylvania to Romania as a powerful
bargaining argument securing the country’s cooperation.
Cold War History 565
King Michel stands apart as a moral beacon in the middle of his country’s tragedies.
Even in 1943 he made a public call for the country to extricate itself from the war,
causing panic among the pro-German leadership. His greatest accomplishment was
the coup of 23 August 1944, when with immense courage and vision he helped to
overthrow the pro-German dictatorship, with the effect that Romania immediately
joined the Allies’ cause. The country thus avoided an imminent catastrophe, and
according to western sources the king’s action shortened the war by six months. That is
a most remarkable achievement, even more so for a 23-year-old monarch, revealed by
the fact that the army and administration followed their sovereign unwaveringly. This
brought him and Romania the esteem of the Allies, well expressed in Churchill’s
instruction to the British representatives in Bucharest: ‘stick to the boy’ (p. 130). The
Soviets were conscious of his popularity among the people and even decorated the
king with the Order of Victory, the highest Soviet honour given to only ﬁve foreigners,
among them General Eisenhower. Uniquely in Cold War Europe, this resulted in three
years of uneasy cohabitation between the king and a Soviet-imposed government led
by communists, with the Red Army present all over the country.
A great merit of this book lies in conﬁrming the continuity between the successive
dictatorships that plagued Romania in the twentieth century – beginning with the royal
dictatorship of King Carol II, Michael’s father, continued by the wartime fascist-military
one of Marshal Antonescu, and culminating in the communist totalitarianism. There was
not only continuity of methods and motives, but also of individuals involved at all levels in
propping up these successive dictatorships with equal zeal.
Through his actions King Michael interrupted that vicious cycle for a very brief period,
and after his forced abdication he became a symbol of democracy and hope for most
Romanians in the decades to come. Even after 1989 the crypto-communists that came to
power continued to put up obstacles to his deﬁnitive return home. He was allowed to
reside in Romania again and regain his citizenship only in 1996, once the country made a
decisive break with the legacy of the Cold War when for the ﬁrst time the opposition
gained power through democratic elections. The book thus makes it abundantly clear why
we need to investigate seriously the royal history of South-East Europe in order to enhance
our understanding of the Cold War problems in that region of the world.
London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)
q 2008, Valentin Mandache
In from the cold: Latin America’s new encounter with the Cold War, edited by Gilbert
M. Joseph and Daniela Spenser, Durham, NC and London, Duke University Press, 2008,
ix þ439 pp.
Finally, with In From the Cold, we have an inspiring volume dedicated to bringing
‘Latin America more meaningfully and centrally into Cold War studies’. This is not a
566 Book reviews
view from Washington or a re-examination of ‘high-proﬁle events, personalities, and
coups’ (p. viii). Rather, as Gilbert Joseph describes it in his excellent introductory
chapter, this collection reassesses ‘Latin America’s Cold War conﬂict from within’,
focusing primarily on ‘the human beings caught up in the messy process of history’
(pp. 17 and 29).
Seeing the world from as many perspectives as possible illuminates the Cold War’s
full dimensions, and this ‘multilayered and multivocal history’ certainly opens readers’
eyes to a variety of them (p. vii). Among others, it incorporates views pertaining
to Argentines assigned to anti-communist crusades in Central America, Cuban
revolutionaries in Africa, Mexican union leaders and cinema producers, and Mexican-
Americans in California. It also highlights female perspectives, from those of radical
Brazilian students who carried rocks underneath their skirts, to Mexican mothers who
risked repression to change a school’s name from ‘Henry Ford’ to ‘Emiliano Zapata’,
and women in rural Guatemala who experienced US theories of modernisation,
revolutionary insurgency, and counter-revolutionary oppression ﬁrst-hand.
What we learn from these viewpoints is as revealing as it is complex. Primarily we
see how intrusive the Cold War was for day-to-day lives. And if not always joined up,
these chapters demonstrate unequivocally how ultimately devastating this was. The
relationship between the Cultural Institute in Morelia and the Bay of Pigs or between
California’s agricultural strikers, the Mexican revolution, and anti-Vietnam protests
are also glimpses of a bigger, as-yet untold story about the interconnectedness of
events both within Latin America and between this region and other areas of the global
Ensuring these previously forgotten voices of the Cold War are heard is fascinating
and laudable. However, I was left with a slight feeling that we still have a lopsided
account of what I call the inter-American – as opposed to Latin America’s – Cold War.
On one side, we have the story of White House or State Department corridors, while
on the other side, we have factories, cultural institutes, and rural markets. Where is the
in-between layer – the view from presidential and foreign ministry corridors in
Mexico City, Brasilia, or Guatemala City? In fact, the historiography of the inter-
American Cold War seems back to front; the diplomatic history that is outdated where
US– Soviet history is concerned is lacking when it comes to relations between Latin
American elites and states. The editors of this volume share this concern. Joseph calls
for ‘cross-fertilization’ between diplomatic history, area studies, and social and
cultural history. However, the volume’s chapters largely stick to old patterns of
segregation, leaving it up to the reader to make comparative connections.
One comparison I made is that this volume provides many, sometimes ambiguous,
deﬁnitions of ‘Latin America’s Cold War’. Clearly, it was violent and pervasive, and as
Daniela Spenser notes, ‘the Cold War narrative reads differently when viewed through
a local lens’ (p. 387). Only Carlota McAllister tackles head-on the question of whether
events are ‘part of the Cold War’ or something else (p. 351). We need more of this,
especially if we want to answer what is perhaps the most provocative question the
volume raises: did Latin America’s Cold War ever end? (pp. 5 and 394)
Cold War History 567
Without a doubt, In From the Cold will spark interest and enthusiasm among scholars of
the global Cold War as well as Latin Americanists. As Thomas Blanton argues, ‘the
opportunities for Cold War scholarship based on newly recovered archives in Latin
America and the United States are immense’ (p. 67). And as Spenser notes, the
opportunity is not just about new sources; it is about asking new questions (pp. 382–4).
London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)
q 2008, Tanya Harmer