We Now Know: Rethinking Cold War History / the Cold War: The United States and the Soviet Union, 1917-1991

Article excerpt

We Now Know: Re Cold War History. By John Lewis Gaddis. Clarendon Press, $30.00, 425 pp.

The Cold War: The United States and the Soviet Union, 1917-1991. By Ronald E. Powaski. Oxford University Press, $35.00, 356 pp.

The Cold War may be over, but the war over interpreting it may just be beginning: Who started the conflict? What happened? Why did it end? Who won?

Most Americans in the initial post-WWII years saw it as Stalin's fault. But like most things American, this view fell out of fashion in the late 1960s. Revisionist intellectuals developed what one writer calls the "social worker's view of the Soviet bad boy." That is, Stalinist policy was merely a rational reaction to American belligerency, as exemplified by NATO, the Marshall Plan, and the creation of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

A "post-revisionist" school emerged in the late 1 970s. It tried to "de-moralize" the origins of the Cold War, arguing through painstaking scholarship that the conflict was inevitable.

Now, two recent books offer counterblasts from different post-Cold War perspectives: We Now Know: Rethinking Cold War History, by John Lewis Gaddis, and The Cold War: The United States and the Soviet Union, 1917-1991, by Ronald E. Powaski. Gaddis, a leading

Cold War historian and an engaging writer, relies on newly available Soviet documents for his narrative of the Cold War through the Cuban Missile Crisis. What is it we now know? Gaddis writes that the " 'new' history is bringing us back to an old answer: that as long as Stalin was running the Soviet Union a Cold War was unavoidable."

Stalin was a dedicated Marxist-Leninist who viewed a war with the Capitalist West as-a matter of "when," not "if." Gaddis documents Mao's dedication to Stalin and their intent to expand communism in Asia. …