Summary - Book "We Now Know Rethinking Cold War History". Course: The Cold War (HIST ). Gaddis p. Summary: The Basis for Conflict between US. Mar 1, We Now Know: Rethinking Cold War History. Summary This is the pressing question that historians have argued over since the 's. John Lewis Gaddis. We Now Know: Rethinking Cold War History. New York: Oxford University Press, x + pp. $ (cloth), ISBN
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Who started the Korean War? What did the Americans mean by "massive retaliation"? When did the Sino-Soviet split begin? Why did the U. And what made the Cold War last as long as it did?
This is a fresh, thought-provoking and powerfully argued reassessment of the Cold War by one of its most distinguished historians. It will set the agenda for debates on this subject for years to come.
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 U. Read more Read less. Credit offered by NewDay Ltd, over 18s only, subject to status. Add all three to Basket.
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One person found this helpful. This is a must read book for anyone interested in the Cold War. It is without doubt the most objectively written and well researched book I have read on the subject. Gaddis' recent work on the Cold War has been somewhat hampered for many of the same reasons as most other Realists since the end of the Cold War. Fluidly written and deceptively deep post-revisionism is the order of the day, and there are few contemporary authors to rival Gaddis for sheer persuasiveness.
Americans were reluctant to assume world responsibilities in the absence of clear and present danger. Despite the alarms suspected subversive activities set off inside the United States, most notoriously during the "Red Scare" of , the Soviet Union in the interwar years failed to meet that standard.
Indeed, the most significant Soviet American contacts during this period involved the efforts of American corporations--all of them reliable bastions of capitalism--to increase trade with and investment in the world's only communist state. Lenin was no isolationist: But these approaches undercut more than they reinforced one another. Barely concealed attempts to overthrow capitalist governments made it difficult for Soviet diplomats to negotiate with them. Chilled relations, in turn, did little to discourage efforts to root out Comintern agents.
Nor did the Bolsheviks free their proletarian internationalism from the parochial habits of Russian radicalism, a deficiency that made their appeal to European workers less successful than it might otherwise have been. Meanwhile, as with most revolutions, the passage of time was shifting the goals of this one from the immediately attainable to the ultimately desirable.
As Lenin's successor, Josef Stalin, consolidated his power during the latter half of the s, he by no means abandoned the goal of world revolution, but he did place increasing emphasis on first building up the strength and security of the Soviet state. The USSR would probably have become a great power even if Stalin had followed his mother's advice and become a Georgian priest, but the fact that he did not--that this deceptively unimpressive figure succeeded in outmaneuvering all other aspirants to the succession as well as Lenin's own attempts to deny it to him--very much affected the way in which that happened.
It is possible to imagine a Trotsky or a Bukharin ordering the collectivization of agriculture and the large-scale industrialization this was to have made possible. It is not at all clear, though, that they or anyone else would have implemented these measures with the brutality Stalin relied upon, or that they would have followed them with massive purges against mostly imaginary enemies.
Paranoia--the tendency to "place sinister interpretations on events that may have no sinister bearing, and attribute hostile motives to acts that may have no hostile intent"--need not be incapacitating: The number of deaths resulting from Stalin's policies before World War II, it is now agreed in both Russia and the West, was between 17 and 22 million--substantially more than twice the number of Hitler's victims in the Holocaust.
The scale of this disaster makes the words that characterize it seem bleached, like the bones of the dead. But one way of putting it is that Stalin had conflated the requirements of national with personal security in a completely unprecedented way. It is revealing that the historical figure he most sought to emulate was not Lenin--whose experiments with terror were bad enough--but Ivan the Terrible.
Years later Stalin's successor, Nikita Khrushchev, would recall his old boss's "utter irresponsibility and complete lack of respect for anyone other than himself. This supreme act of egoism spawned innumerable tragedies: It did so, first, by undercutting potential resistance within Germany itself. Stalin's distrust of European socialism was so great that he forbade the German Communist Party from collaborating with the Social Democrats to oppose the Nazi assumption of power in Alarmed by the results of this policy, he then allowed his foreign minister, Maxim Litvinov, to advocate collective security through the League of Nations, but just as the highly visible Moscow purge trials were getting underway.
Stalin put his own terror on public display, therefore, at a time when Hitler's, for the most part, was still hidden: Nor did they monopolize short-sightedness: Stalin himself had long hoped for some kind of cooperation with Nazi Germany, despite the ideological inconsistencies this would have involved. His decision to sign a non-aggression pact with Hitler in August , just days before Germany invaded Poland and less than two years before it would attack the Soviet Union itself, was entirely in keeping with the spirit, and the characteristic competence, of Stalinist diplomacy.
Despite a contrast in forms of government that could hardly have been greater, Soviet and American leaders shared a sense of impotence as war again approached. Neither country could control what was happening, nor did there seem to be the slightest prospect that they might in the future cooperate. An informed observer, as late as the end of , would have had every reason to regard Tocqueville's prophecy about an eventual Russian and American domination of the world as, still, a wild improbability.
IV There were important parallels, but equally important differences, in the careers of Hitler and Stalin. Both had risen from being outsiders in their respective societies to positions of unchallenged authority over them; both had been underestimated by potential rivals; both were prepared to use whatever methods were available--including terror--to achieve their purposes.
Both exploited the fact that a harsh peace and the onset of a global economic crisis had stalled the advance of democracy in Europe, but not the technological means of controlling large populations; both made full use of the opportunities for propaganda, surveillance, and swift action provided by such innovations as the telephone, radio, motion pictures, automobiles, and airplanes.
Both benefited, as a consequence, from the conviction of many Europeans that authoritarianism was the wave of the future. Both merged personal with national interests; both dedicated themselves to implementing internationalist ideologies.
But where Stalin looked toward an eventual world proletarian revolution, Hitler sought immediate racial purification.
Where Stalin was cautiously flexible, Hitler stuck to his perverse principles through thick and thin: Where Stalin was patient, prepared to take as long as necessary to achieve his ambitions, Hitler was frenetic, determined to meet deadlines he himself had imposed. Where Stalin sought desperately to stay out of war, Hitler set out quite deliberately to provoke it. Both authoritarians wanted to dominate Europe, a fact that placed them at odds with the traditional American interest in maintaining a balance of power there.
But only Hitler was in a position to attempt domination: It certainly did so in Washington and London. Roosevelt had long regarded Nazi Germany as the primary danger to American security and had sought, ever since extending diplomatic recognition to the Soviet Union in , to leave the way open for cooperation with Moscow. Winston Churchill loathed Marxism-Leninism at least as much as his predecessor Neville Chamberlain, but he shared Roosevelt's view that geopolitics was more important than ideology.
Both leaders foresaw the fragility of the Nazi-Soviet alliance and were prepared to accept Soviet help in containing Hitler whenever that became possible. They also repeatedly warned Stalin of the impending German attack in the winter and spring of Only the Soviet dictator's misplaced faith in a fellow authoritarian--a kind of brutal romanticism, to which his own temperament and style of governing would allow no challenge--prevented the necessary defensive measures and made Hitler's invasion in June of that year such a devastating surprise.
He struck because he had always believed German racial interests required Lebensraum in the east; but he paid little attention to what Napoleon's precedent suggested about the imprudence of invading Russia while Great Britain remained undefeated. It is even more difficult to account for Hitler's declaration of war on the United States the following December, four days after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.
Had he not acted, Roosevelt would have found himself under immense pressure to divert American resources--including the Lend Lease aid already flowing to Great Britain and even by then to the Soviet Union--to the Pacific. The best explanation of Hitler's behavior appears to be that excitement over Japan's entry into the war impaired his ability to think clearly, and in an autocratic system no mechanisms existed to repair the damage. Both Stalin and Hitler made foolish mistakes in , and for much the same reason: The effect turned out to be a fortunate one, because it eliminated any possibility of an authoritarian coalition directed against the United States and its democratic allies; instead, the democracies now aligned themselves, however uneasily, with one authoritarian state against the other.
German statecraft had once again drawn Americans and Russians into Europe, but this time in such a way as to throw them, despite deep ideological differences, into positions of desperate dependence upon one another. For without the Soviet Union's immense expenditure of manpower against the Germans, it is difficult to see how the Americans and British could ever have launched a successful second front.
But without the United States' material assistance in the form of Lend Lease, together with its role in holding the Japanese at bay in the Pacific, the Red Army might never have repelled the Nazi invasion in the first place. Tocqueville had long ago foreseen that the United States and Russia, if ever moved to do so, would command human and material resources on an enormous scale: What neither Tocqueville nor anyone else could have anticipated were the circumstances that might cause Americans and Russians to apply this strength, simultaneously, beyond their borders, and in a common cause.
Hitler's twin declarations of war accomplished that, giving the Soviet Union and the United States compelling reasons to re-enter the European arena with, quite literally, a shared sense of vengeance. Through these unexpectedly unwise acts, therefore, this most improbable of historical agents at last brought Tocqueville's old prophecy within sight of fulfillment. V When a power vacuum separates great powers, as one did the United States and the Soviet Union at the end of World War II, they are unlikely to fill it without bumping up against and bruising each other's interests.
This would have happened if the two postwar hegemons had been constitutional democracies: Victory would require more difficult adjustments for Russians and Americans because so many legacies of distrust now divided them: It was too much to expect a few years of wartime cooperation to sweep all of this away. At the same time, though, these legacies need not have produced almost half a century of Soviet-American confrontation.
The leaders of great nations are never entirely bound by the past: Alliance in a common cause was as new a situation as one can imagine in the Russian-American relationship. Much would depend, therefore, upon the extent to which Roosevelt and Stalin could--in effect--liberate their nations' futures from a difficult past. The American President and his key advisers were determined to secure the United States against whatever dangers might confront it after victory, but they lacked a clear sense of what those might be or where they might arise.
Their thinking about postwar security was, as a consequence, more general than specific. They certainly saw a vital interest in preventing any hostile power from again attempting to dominate the European continent.
They were not prepared to see military capabilities reduced to anything like the inadequate levels of the interwar era, nor would they resist opportunities to reshape the international economy in ways that would benefit American capitalism.
They resolved to resist any return to isolationism, and they optimistically embraced the "second chance" the war had provided to build a global security organization in which the United States would play the leading role.
But these priorities reflected no unilateral conception of vital interests. A quarter century earlier, Wilson had linked American war aims to reform of the international system as a whole; and although his ideas had not then taken hold, the coming of a second world war revived a widespread and even guilt-ridden interest in them as a means of avoiding a third such conflict.
Roosevelt persuaded a skeptical Churchill to endorse Wilson's thinking in August, , when they jointly proclaimed, in the Atlantic Charter, three postwar objectives: To put it in language Mikhail Gorbachev would employ decades later, security would have to be a condition common to all, not one granted to some and withheld from others.
Despite this public commitment to Wilsonian principles, neither Roosevelt nor Churchill ruled out more realistic practices. Had postwar planning been left to them alone, as in democracies it could not be, they might well have come up with something like what Roosevelt occasionally talked about: But even this cold-blooded approach, like the Wilsonian constraints that kept the politically sensitive Roosevelt from insisting on it, implied a sense of collective security among the four: There was, thus, little unilateralism in F.
The United States would seek power in the postwar world, not shy away from it as it had done after World War I. It would do so in the belief that only it had the strength to build a peace based on Wilsonian principles of self-determination, open markets, and collective security.
It would administer that peace neither for its exclusive advantage nor in such a way as to provide equal benefits to all: Nor would Roosevelt assume, as Wilson had, public and Congressional approval; rather, the administration would make careful efforts to ensure domestic support for the postwar settlement at every step of the way.
There would be another attempt at a Wilsonian peace, but this time by the un-Wilsonian method of offering each of the great powers as well as the American people a vested interest in making it work. It was within this framework of pragmatism mixed with principle that Roosevelt hoped to deal with Stalin. But no tradition of common or collective security shaped postwar priorities as viewed from Moscow, for the very good reason that it was no longer permitted there to distinguish between state interests, party interests, and those of Stalin himself.
National security had come to mean personal security, and the Kremlin boss saw so many threats to it that he had already resorted to murder on a mass scale in order to remove all conceivable challengers to his regime. It would be hard to imagine a more unilateral approach to security than the internal practices Stalin had set in motion during the s. Cooperation with external allies was obviously to his advantage when the Germans were within sight of his capital, but whether that cooperation would extend beyond Hitler's defeat was another matter.
It would depend upon the ability of an aging and authoritarian ruler to shift his own thinking about security to a multilateral basis, and to restructure the government he had made into a reflection of himself. It is sometimes said of Stalin that he had long since given up the Lenin-Trotsky goal of world revolution in favor of "socialism in one country," a doctrine that seemed to imply peaceful coexistence with states of differing social systems.
But that is a misunderstanding of Stalin's position. What he really did in the late s was to drop Lenin's prediction that revolutions would arise spontaneously in other advanced industrial countries; instead he came to see the Soviet Union itself as the center from which socialism would spread and eventually defeat capitalism. The effect was to switch the principal instrument for advancing revolution from Marx's idea of a historically determined class struggle to a process of territorial acquisition Stalin could control.
It cannot be otherwise. He kept Lenin's Comintern in place but turned it to his own purposes: One of his most far-sighted initiatives involved the recruitment of an elaborate network of youthful spies in Great Britain and the United States during the s--most of them anti-fascist intellectuals--years before they could have risen to positions that would have given them anything significant to spy upon.
Nor did Stalin rule out war itself as a means of advancing the revolutionary cause. He would not, like Hitler, risk military conflict to meet some predetermined timetable.
But he did see wars among capitalists as likely to weaken them and therefore speed "socialist encirclement: And he by no means excluded the possibility of an eventual war with capitalism involving the Soviet Union itself. What is striking about Stalin, though, is how small that separation was. To a degree we are only now coming to realize, Stalin literally imposed his rhetoric upon the country he ran: Not even Hitler ran so autocratic a system.
The result was a kind of self-similarity across scale, in which the tyrant at the top spawned smaller tyrants at each level throughout the party and state bureaucracy: It was typical of the Kremlin boss, the most consummate of narcissists, that he thought very far ahead indeed about security. But it was always and only his own security that he was thinking about. Here, then, was the difficulty. The Western democracies sought a form of security that would reject violence or the threat of it: Stalin saw things very differently: World politics was an extension of Soviet politics, which was in turn an extension of Stalin's preferred personal environment: The contrast, or so it would seem, made conflict unavoidable.
VI But is this not putting things too starkly? The United States and its democratic allies found ways to cooperate with the Soviet Union, after all, in fighting Germany and Japan. Could they not have managed their postwar relationship similarly, so that the safety Stalin demanded could have been made to correspond with the security the West required?
Could there not have been a division of Europe into spheres of influence which, while they would hardly have pleased everybody, might have prevented an ensuing four and a half decades of superpower rivalry? Stalin appears to have relished his role, along with Roosevelt and Churchill, as one of the wartime Big Three. Such evidence as has surfaced from Soviet archives suggests that he received reassuring reports about Washington's intentions: It is worth asking why this practice of wartime cooperation did not become a habit that would extend into the postwar era.
The principal reason, it now appears, was Stalin's insistence on equating security with territory. Western diplomats had been surprised, upon arriving in Moscow soon after the German attack in the summer of , to find the Soviet leader already demanding a postwar settlement that would retain what his pact with Hitler had yielded: Stalin showed no sense of shame or even embarrassment about this, no awareness that the methods by which he had obtained these concessions could conceivably render them illegitimate in the eyes of anyone else.
When it came to territorial aspirations, he made no distinction between adversaries and allies: Stalin coupled his claims with repeated requests for a second front, quite without regard to the fact that his own policies had left the British to fight Germany alone for a year, so that they were hardly in a position to comply.
He reiterated his military and territorial demands after the Americans entered the war in December, despite the fact that they were desperately trying to hang on in the Pacific against a Japanese adversary against whom the Soviet Union--admittedly for good strategic reasons--had elected not to fight.
This linkage of postwar requirements with wartime assistance was, as the Russians used to like to say, "no accident. After strong initial objections, Roosevelt and Churchill did eventually acknowledge the Soviet Union's right to the expanded borders it claimed; they also made it clear that they would not oppose the installation of "friendly" governments in adjoining states.
This meant accepting a Soviet sphere of influence from the Baltic to the Adriatic, a concession not easily reconciled with the Atlantic Charter. But the authors of that document saw no feasible way to avoid that outcome: Self-determination was a sufficiently malleable concept that each of the Big Three could have endorsed, without sleepless nights, what the Soviet government had said about the Atlantic Charter: For unlike Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill would have to defend their decisions before domestic constituencies.
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Gaddis has a knack for asking large and interesting questions, and he brings a of startling revelations from newly opened archives, what "we now know" turns. May 20, Gaddis has written a lively, deeply informed summary, the most accessible and compelling guide to the international conflicts, issues, and. In this final webinar of the "We Wrote the Book on Laser Therapy" series, learn from Ron Riegel, DVM (author and co-editor of the textbook that inspired this.