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

By John Lewis Gaddis | Go to book overview

8
The Long Peace: Elements of Stability in the Postwar International System

I SHOULD like to begin this essay with a fable. Once upon a time, there was a great war that involved the slaughter of millions upon millions of people. When, after years of fighting, one side finally prevailed over the other and the war ended, everyone said that it must go down in history as the last great war ever fought. To that end, the victorious nations sent all of their wisest men to a great peace conference, where they were given the task of drawing up a settlement that would be so carefully designed, so unquestionably fair to all concerned, that it would eliminate war as a phenomenon of human existence. Unfortunately, that settlement lasted only twenty years.

There followed yet another great war involving the slaughter of millions upon millions of people. When, after years of fighting, one side finally prevailed over the other and the war ended, everyone said that it must go down in history as the last great war ever fought. To everyone's horror, though, the victors in that conflict immediately fell to quarreling among themselves, with the result that no peace conference ever took place. Within a few years each of the major victors had come to regard each other, and not their former enemies, as the principal threat to their survival; each sought to ensure that sur

This essay was presented at the Nobel Institute Symposium on "The Study of War and Peace," Noresund, Norway, June, 1985, and was summarized at the International Congress of Historical Sciences, Stuttgart, West Germany, August, 1985. It has appeared, in a slightly different form, in International Security, X (Spring, 1986), 99-142; and in Φyvind Osterud , ed., Studies of War and Peace ( Oslo: 1986), pp. 125-60. I am grateful as well to Stanley Hoffmann, Robert Jervis, and Uwe Nerlich for providing opportunities to discuss this paper before seminars conducted by them, and to Pierre Hassner, Kjell Goldmann, Harold Molineu, and Joseph S. Nye, Jr., for helpful suggestions.

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