We Now Know: Rethinking Cold War History

By John Lewis Gaddis | Go to book overview

ONE
Dividing the World

There are now two great nations in the world, which starting from different points, seem to be advancing toward the same goal: the Russians and the Anglo-Americans. . . . [E]ach seems called by some secret design of Providence one day to hold in its hands the destinies of half the world.

Alexis de Tocqueville, 18351

With the defeat of the Reich and pending the emergence of the Asiatic, the African, and perhaps the South American nationalisms, there will remain in the world only two Great Powers capable of confronting each other--the United States and Soviet Russia. The laws of both history and geography will compel these two Powers to a trial of strength, either military or in the fields of economics and ideology. These same laws make it inevitable that both Powers should become enemies of Europe. And it is equally certain that both these Powers will sooner or later find it desirable to seek the support of the sole surviving great nation in Europe, the German people.

Adolf Hitler, 19452

It has become almost obligatory to begin histories of the Cold War with Tocqueville's famous prophecy, made more than a century before the events it foresaw had come to pass. Hitler's prediction, advanced even as these events were happening, is deservedly less well known. Still, the similarity in these two visions of the future, put forward 110 years apart by the greatest student of democracy and the vilest practitioner of autocracy, is striking: it is rare enough for anyone to anticipate what lies ahead, even in the most general terms. Was the division of the world that began in 1945 really the result of "some secret design of Providence," or, if one prefers the Führer's more secular formulation, of a set of laws derived from history and geography? Or was it an improbable accident? Or was it, as great events most often are, something in between?

Tocqueville made his forecast the way most people do: by projecting the past and the present into the future. At the time he wrote the United States and Russia occupied vast expanses of thinly populated but resource-rich continents. Each had a high birth rate, and therefore the potential for rapid growth. Each

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We Now Know: Rethinking Cold War History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents xi
  • One - Dividing the World 1
  • Two - Cold War Empires- Europe 26
  • Three - Cold War Empires- Asia 54
  • Four - Nuclear Weapons and the Early Cold War 85
  • Five - The German Question 113
  • Six - The Third World 152
  • Seven - Ideology, Economics, and Alliance Solidarity 189
  • Eight - Nuclear Weapons and the Escalation of the Cold War 221
  • Nine - The Cuban Missile Crisis 260
  • Ten - The New Cold War History 281
  • Notes 296
  • Bibliography 387
  • Index 415
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