We Now Know: Rethinking Cold War History

We Now Know: Rethinking Cold War History

We Now Know: Rethinking Cold War History

We Now Know: Rethinking Cold War History


"A masterly review of the early pahses of the conflict between the United States, Russia, China and their respective allies from 1946 to the Cuban missle crisis in the autumn of 1962. It is clear, thorough and judicious; in short, magnificent."--The Economist "...Gaddis has done a thorough job of collating material from these diverse sources...and constructing a trenchant analysis that puts these fascinating tidbits into context."--San Francisco Chronicle & Examiner Based on the latest findings of Cold War historians and extensive research in American archives as well as the recently opened archives in Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, and China, We Now Know provides a vividly written, eye-opening account of the Cold War during the years from the end of World War II to the Cuban missile crisis. The book brims with new information drawn from previously unavailable sources, with fresh insight into the impact of ideology, economics, and nuclear weapons, and with striking reinterpretations of the roles of Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Khrushchev, Mao, and Stalin. Indeed, Gaddis concludes that if there was one factor that made the Cold War unavoidable it was Stalin.


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, 1835

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, 1945

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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