The Cold War: A World History

By Smith, Jordan Michael | The National Interest, September 2017 | Go to article overview

The Cold War: A World History


Smith, Jordan Michael, The National Interest


Odd Arne Westad, The Cold War: A World History (New York: Basic Books, 2017), 720 pp., $35.00.

In 2005, the Yale historian John Lewis Gaddis released his book, The Cold War: A New History. Glowing reviews of the book followed in the New York Times and Foreign Affairs. Among the few dissenters was Tony Judt, a New York University historian who died in 2010. Judt had opposed the Iraq War, when so many other intellectuals--including Gaddis--joined in the delusions that George W. Bush could, should and would democratize the Middle East. By 2005, those fantasies were discredited by events in Mesopotamia (though Gaddis was unchastened, arguing in the American Interest as late as 2008 that the senior goal of American foreign policy should be "ending tyranny").

In the New York Review of Books, Judt argued that "John Lewis Gaddis has written a history of America's cold war: as seen from America, as experienced in America, and told in a way most agreeable to many American readers." However brilliant his works had been during the Cold War, Gaddis became an American triumphalist once the Berlin Wall collapsed. He had comparatively little understanding of the Soviet experience and, most egregiously, didn't seem to care much about the enormous damage both superpowers inflicted on what was then called the Third World. The result, Judt argued, was that the Cold War was "a story still to be told."

With Odd Arne Westad's new book, the story is now told. Westad is the coauthor of several books on the Cold War, as well as coeditor of the three-volume Cambridge History of the Cold War. He also wrote The Global Cold War: Third World Interventions and the Making of Our Times, which won the Bancroft Prize. As its title indicates, The Global Cold War suggested that the Cold War was very much a globe-spanning conflict, migrating into areas far beyond the borders of the two superpowers.

His new book integrates that focus on the developing world with a more traditional emphasis on the great powers. It is aimed at a general rather than a scholarly audience, with far fewer footnotes or archival research than his previous works (more on that later). The Cold War: A World History is told chronologically, but unlike most books on the subject, it begins with the right period.

The first well-regarded book on the war written from a post-Berlin Wall perspective was Martin Walker's Cold War, published in 1994. Like so many others to come, it began with the dissension in the Allied ranks in the closing years of World War II. By beginning with an earlier period, Westad advances beyond that approach. He is able to devote some attention to the ideological sources of the struggle, which began with Lenin's interpretation of communism, prioritizing global revolution and antagonism toward the noncommunist world. "The Cold War was born from the global transformations of the late nineteenth century and was buried as a result of tremendously rapid changes a hundred years later," he writes. Those changes include decolonization, the ascension of the United States to world power and the gradual decline of scientific socialism, as well as the two world wars. "The Great War jumpstarted the destinies of the two future Cold War Superpowers. It made the United States the global embodiment of capitalism and it made Russia a Soviet Union, a permanent challenge to the capitalist world." Westad also makes the thought-provoking claim, rather unusual in a book on the Cold War, that

it is therefore quite possible that the Cold War will be reduced in
significance by future historians, who from their vantage point will
attach more significance to the origins of Asian economic power, or the
beginning of space exploration, or the eradication of smallpox.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Westad proceeds from there through all the stops along the way to the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. Separate chapters examine India, China, the Middle East and Latin America, as well as summaries of Richard Nixon's diplomacy and the reigns of Kennedy, Brezhnev and Gorbachev. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

The Cold War: A World History
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.