The Long Peace: Inquiries into the History of the Cold War

The Long Peace: Inquiries into the History of the Cold War

The Long Peace: Inquiries into the History of the Cold War

The Long Peace: Inquiries into the History of the Cold War

Synopsis

In this fascinating new interpretation of Cold War history, John Lewis Gaddis focuses on how the United States and the Soviet Union have managed to get through more than four decades of Cold War confrontation without going to war with one another. Using recently-declassified American and British documents, Gaddis argues that the postwar international system has contained previously unsuspected elements of stability. This provocative reassessment of contemporary history--particularly as it relates to the current status of Soviet-American relations--will certainly generate discussion, controversy, and important new perspectives on both past and present aspects of the age in which we live.

Excerpt

THE COLD WAR, whatever else one might say about it, has been a remarkably durable phenomenon. It has already exceeded in length the Peloponnesian War, the First and Second Punic Wars, the Thirty Years' War, the Wars of the French Revolution and Napoleon, and what Winston Churchill called the second Thirty Years' War that began with an assassin's gunshot at Sarajevo and ended with mushroom clouds over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Almost half of the 20th century has now been taken up by one aspect or another of that conflict, a rivalry made all the more striking by the fact that at no point in its long history have its major antagonists actually come to blows.

"De quoi s'agit il?" Marshal Foch used to ask his subordinates in World War I. "What is it all about?" The passage of time has made this no easy question to answer. The great antagonism between the United States and the Soviet Union has become encrusted, over the years, with successive layers of routine, custom, tradition, myth, and legend. Few of the men who shaped the affairs of nations at its outset are still alive; fewer still are able to recall with any precision what impelled them to act as they did at that time. Documents on the origins of the Cold War abound in Western archives -- though almost none are available in the Soviet Union -- but these sources provide no guaran-

This essay was originally prepared for the Harry S. Truman Centennial Symposium at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Washington, D.C., September 7-8, 1984. It is to be published, in a somewhat different form, in a forthcoming volume containing the proceedings of that conference. I am indebted, for helpful comments, to Alonzo Hamby, Michael Hogan, Michael Lacey, and Vojtech Mastny.

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