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

Synopsis

Did the Soviet Union want world revolution? Why did the USSR send missiles to Cuba? What made the Cold War last as long as it did? The end of the Cold War makes it possible, for the first time, to begin writing its history from a truly international perspective. 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 its most dangerous moment, the Cuban missile crisis.

We Now Know stands as a powerful vindication of US policy throughout the period, and as a thought-provoking reassessment of the Cold War by one of its most distinguished historians.

Excerpt

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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