Ronald Reagan and His Quest to Abolish Nuclear Weapons

Ronald Reagan and His Quest to Abolish Nuclear Weapons

Paperback

By (author) Paul Lettow

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  • Publisher: Random House Trade
  • Format: Paperback | 327 pages
  • Dimensions: 125mm x 198mm x 23mm | 136g
  • Publication date: 14 February 2006
  • Publication City/Country: New York, NY
  • ISBN 10: 0812973267
  • ISBN 13: 9780812973266
  • Edition statement: Reprint
  • Sales rank: 1,037,410

Product description

In""Ronald Reagan and His Quest to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, Paul Lettow explores the depth and sophistication of President Ronald Reagan's commitment to ridding humankind permanently of the threat of nuclear war. Lettow's narrative spans the start of Reagan's presidency and the 1986 Reykjavik summit between Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, during which America's Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) was a defining issue. Lettow reveals SDI for what it was: a full-on assault against nuclear weapons waged as much through policy as through ideology. While cabinet members and advisers played significant roles in guiding American defense policy, it was Reagan himself who presided over every element, large and small, of this paradigm shift in U.S. diplomacy. Lettow conducted interviews with several former Reagan administration officials, and he draws upon the vast body of declassified security documents from the Reagan presidency; much of what he quotes from these documents appears publicly here for the first time. The result is the first major work to apply such evidence to the study of SDI and superpower diplomacy. This is a survey that doesn't merely add nuance to the existing record, but revises our very understanding of the Reagan presidency.

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Author information

Paul Lettow received an A.B. in history, "summa cum laude," from Princeton University and a D.Phil. in international relations from Oxford University. He has taught American history at Oxford University. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the Washington, D.C., area. "From the Hardcover edition."

Review quote

"Lettow conveys this extraordinary story crisply and convincingly. . . . A significant addition to our understanding of Reagan and the endgame of the Cold War." -The Washington Post Book World "Paul Lettow's sharp and succinct book makes the best case yet for why Ronald Reagan deserves to be remembered as one of the most visionary grand strategists of the twentieth century." -John Lewis Gaddis "Paul Lettow is lucid and dispassionate. His willingness to go far back, to the very birth of the nuclear age (which coincided with the very birth of Reagan's anticommunism), and then to trace the story forward as Reagan's ideology slowly matured, pays triumphant dividends." -Edmund Morris "Provocative, informative . . . Lettow's achievement is to show that both Reagan's detractors and votaries misread him." -The New York Times Book Review

Flap copy

Ronald Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) has puzzled scholars and commentators. Some have claimed that it was a purely political maneuver, while others have explained it as a ruse conjured up by presidential advisers to weaken Soviet resolve. These assumptions, however, fail to acknowledge the depth of Reagan's involvement in nuclear abolition, and how passionately committed Reagan was to the pursuit of this goal. In" Ronald Reagan and His Quest to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, Paul Lettow renders untenable the persistent belief that Reagan was an ideologically shallow figurehead. Reagan's wish to ban nuclear armament first came to light in 1945, just months after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. While sidestepping political partisanship, Lettow demonstrates that scholars and historians have largely neglected to assess properly the influence of Reagan's ideal and how it led to one of the most important, if the least understood, of Reagan's accomplishments. In a narrative that covers the start of Reagan's presidency and the 1986 Reykjavik summit between Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, during which SDI was a defining issue, we see SDI for what it was: a full-on assault against nuclear weapons waged as much through policy as through ideology. While cabinet members and advisers-Secretary of State George Shultz and Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger among them-played significant roles, it was Ronald Reagan, himself who presided over every element, large and small, of this paradigm shift in U.S. diplomacy. Lettow conducted interviews with former Reagan officials-four of his six national security advisers, both of his ambassadors to the USSR, and both ofhis defense secretaries. He also draws upon the vast body of declassified security documents from the Reagan presidency; much of what he quotes from these documents appears publicly here for the first time. The result is the first major work to apply such evidence to the study of SDI and superpower diplomacy. In "Ronald Reagan and His Quest to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, Paul" Lettow does not simply add nuance to the existing record; he revises our very understanding of the Reagan presidency. "From the Hardcover edition.