I watch a lot of movies and attempt to read a lot of books. Perhaps you’ve noticed the current items in my various queues in the sidebar to your right. You can see what I’m watching or reading, but not what I thought of it. Thus henceforth, Wednesday’s shall be dedicated to the review of such materials. I don’t promise a new one every week, but I will endeavor to do just that. I hope you will find them informative and helpful and occasionally amusing.
For most people from my generation, the backend of Generation X or the frontend of Generation Y, depending on how you look at it, the Cold War lurks in a foggy part of our brain as something that we hazily remember as having happened during our life time, but we were too young to really understand it. As an elementary school kid in the 80’s, I can remember hearing names like Reagan and Gorbachev, and have a vauge recollection of things like SDI, Chernobyl, and the Berlin Wall. Of course, everyone remembers the nukes. It is percisely because of these hazy Gen X/Y memories that John Lewis Gaddis wrote The Cold War. In the foreward Gaddis, a professor of Cold War studies at Yale and author of numerous previous books on the subject, says that he began to realize that many of his students were only four years old when the Berlin Wall came donwn. They needed a concise aerial view of the history that “didn’t have so many words.” Gaddis has achieved that goal and then some.
The Cold War begins with it’s roots in the waning weeks of World War II. The alliance of necessity between rival ideologies had reached it’s terminus. Gaddis deftly takes the reader through the events that followed as Stalin played the gambler to take what he thought he was owed as reperations for holding off and then driving back the Germans for four years: Eastern Europe. From these opening “shots” Gaddis guides us through the next four decades of the freezes, flashpoints, crises, thaws, detente’s, and finally crumblings of the Cold War. From the well known events and conflagrations of the Berlin Airlift, Korea and Vietnam, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and Nixon’s opening of China to the lesser known like the Brehznev Doctrine, Charter 77, and events in the Middle East, Gaddis brings the drama and it’s players to life in vivid fashion. The accounts of smaller nations bending their superpower sponsers to their will, the “tail wagging the dog”, by insinuating the threat of their sponser-friendly regeimes being overturned, are fascinating.
As it is a high-level view of nearly half a century of tension, no subject is given too deep an investigation, but as a primer on the era, another work would be hard-pressed to displace it from the top. It is not a long book, 275 pages, and the prose moves quickly across the page. Anyone interested in studying this complex and intriguing period in modern history would be wise to start with Gaddis’ excellent volume.