The Cold War and After: History, Theory, and the Logic of International Politics

By Morgan, Roger | The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE, June 7, 2012 | Go to article overview

The Cold War and After: History, Theory, and the Logic of International Politics


Morgan, Roger, The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE


The Cold War and After: History, Theory, and the Logic of International Politics. By Marc Trachtenberg. Princeton University Press. 332pp, Pounds 32.00 and Pounds 19.95. ISBN 9780691152028 and 2035. Published 5 April 2012

Marc Trachtenberg, of the University of California, Los Angeles, is unusual among US international relations specialists in being deeply committed to historical approaches and methods, and in meticulously combining these with the kind of conceptual apparatus more characteristic of the international relations trade. His footnotes refer copiously to the trade's leading exponents, including Kenneth Waltz, Robert Jervis, John Mearsheimer, and representatives of the "English School", including Martin Wight and Hedley Bull. However, they refer even more copiously to diplomatic memoirs and biographies, and to the nitty-gritty of published and unpublished documentary sources, American, French, German and British.

The result is a stimulating reconsideration of some of the central and already much-studied issues of the Cold War: how the US tacitly accepted the East-West partition of Europe after 1945, despite some belligerent sloganising about "rolling back" Soviet power; how exactly Washington decided in the early 1950s to press for the rearmament of West Germany, as part of a package including the commitment of US troops to European defence; and the tortuous course of the US' relations with France in the 1960s and 1970s, from Washington's unexpected offer of help in the development of France's nuclear deterrent to the resounding misunderstandings and recriminations surrounding Henry Kissinger's "Year of Europe" initiative of 1973.

In each of these cases, Trachtenberg demonstrates the value of examining the detailed documentary evidence in the light of a clear-cut theory of how the "international system" works (its "logic", so to speak), and of the fundamental forces influencing the way states behave. In his own view, as he trenchantly states in an opening chapter, the "realist" school in international relations is guilty of gross exaggeration when it goes so far as to say that states are always and exclusively concerned with the ruthless maximisation of their own power at the expense of others. …

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