The Devil We Knew

The Devil We Knew : Americans and the Cold War

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H. W. Brands, author of Inside the Cold War: Loy Henderson and the Rise of the American Empire, 1918-1961 (OUP/USA 1991) and Bound to Empire: The United States and the Philippines (OUP/USA, Fall 1992), has written a stimulating book on the Cold War and American policy relating to it - especially involving the question of why the Cold War lasted as long as it did. It is Brands's controversial assumption that in many ways it was American attitudes and foreign policy that fostered the extension of the Cold War as long as it lasted. Brands examines America's involvement in the Cold War in four distinct areas - the psychological, strategic, economic, and political - and how these factors interacted with each other in different ways and different periods over the entire era. The book combines these four persepectives into a broad explanation of American action during the Cold War and attempts to answer the question about why America acted as it did. Brands's book is intended to be an extended essay and think-piece, not a comprehensive history of the Cold War. Much of the book focuses on how the Cold War developed a life of its own during its 40-odd years of existence: major groups shaping American foreign policy felt comfortable with its conditions and were reluctant to leave it for uncharted territory. This is a stimulating, well-written study that focuses on the main events and ideas of American foreign policy since the war. It is especially effective in showing how American perceptions and domestic attitudes tended to influence - often negatively - the way American foreign policy dealt with the post-1945 more

Product details

  • Hardback | 252 pages
  • 157.48 x 236.22 x 27.94mm | 589.67g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0195074998
  • 9780195074994

About H. W. Brands

About the Author: H.W. Brands is Professor of History at Texas A&M University. His books include Bound to Empire: The United States and the Philippines, and Inside the Cold War: Loy Henderson and the Rise of the American more

Review Text

A sophisticated interpretation of America's involvement in the cold war that appears calculated to draw fire from the left as well as right. In assessing the conflict's origins and costs, Brands (History/Texas A&M) provides a wide-ranging survey of US foreign policy from Yalta through the Berlin Wall's collapse. Following WW II, he argues, perceived political imperatives on the home front induced US leaders to take a balance-of-power approach to global security. Positions soon hardened, with the result that containment doctrine dominated American strategies in Western Europe, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and elsewhere. In time, Brands recounts, the US/USSR confrontation (which proved a bonanza for the military/industrial complex) acquired a life of its own - one that conceptual simplicity made acceptable, even soul-satisfying, to the domestic electorates. While stopping short of claiming that the Kremlin posed no threat (nuclear or otherwise) to the national interest, Brands concludes that American antagonism prolonged a deadlock that, he suggests, could have been resolved as early as Stalin's death in 1953, as well as at several subsequent junctures. But as the author makes clear, the superpowers managed to avoid direct face-offs (except in Cuba) in the course of their protracted hostilities. Nor does Brands ignore the irony of reactionary Republicans like Nixon and Reagan doing more for the cause of detente than such liberal Democrats as JFK and LBJ, who felt obliged to take a hard line against Communist aggression. In his mildly contrarian reckoning of the Red menace's socioeconomic and geopolitical implications, moreover, Brands displays an impressive flair for vivid phrasing: "The arena of American political debate during the early 1950s was slick with half-truths and smaller fractions"; "during the autumn of 1989, history hopped a fast train West...." A provocative audit of an adversarial world order whose passing, in retrospect at least, seems to have been long overdue. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

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67 ratings
3.68 out of 5 stars
5 15% (10)
4 45% (30)
3 34% (23)
2 6% (4)
1 0% (0)
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