Friday, 1 August 2008

The Cold War by John Lewis Gaddis

Have you stopped worrying about the Cold War and the threat for the end of Humanity? The Cold War by John Lewis Gaddis explains why you have and why you were right to worry. It gives an historical overview of the different phrases of the Cold War from its on set in the late 1940’S to its demise in 1989. It develops important ideas such as in an era of total war and destruction then a major war ceases to have any political relevance.

Access to the contemporary records shows time and time again that the political classes in the USA, UK, USSR and China came to similar conclusions when faced with the cultural conflicts of the 60’s , having to be in bed with unnatural allies, etc
It also sets out that in the 20-50s it was not clear whose ideas of the state, politics, human rights etc would win. What saved us from the authoritarian states that 1984 fears is that liberal capitalism was able to deliver greater living standards then the controlled economies. Its food for thought what would have happen if the USSR had been able to become the economic powerhouse that communist china is now.

In the 70’s political activities focused on freezing the superpower relationship and the post war settlement as fact of life but in giving a legitimacy to human rights it quicken the demise of communist legitimacy that its economic failures compounded. In the 80’s the smoke and mirrors that kept up the illusion of the USSR superpower finally imploded.

The approach reminds me of the story from china in the 1960's when a senior leader of the communist party was asked what he thought of the success and failures of the French revolution. He replied its too early to say!

The origin of the book was a student's plea that he could update his massive history of the Cold War of the 50s and 60's so it covered the whole period but with fewer words. He succeeds with a well written, informative and at times jaw dropping account of the incompetence of our rulers!

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