In The Cold War, Odd Arne Westad offers a new perspective on a century when a superpower rivalry and an ideological war transformed every corner of our globe. We traditionally think of the Cold War as a post-World War II diplomatic and military conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union. But in this major new work, Westad argues that the conflict must be understood as a global ideological confrontation with roots in the industrial revolution and with continuing implications for the world today. The Cold War may have begun on the perimeters of Europe, but it had its largest impacts in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Expanding our understanding of the Cold War both geographically and chronologically, Westad offers the definitive new history of an ongoing battle.
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Odd Arne Westad, is a "Norwegian historian, specializing in the Cold War" (according to an on-line source), was born the same year I was (1960). I was intrigued with reading/listening to this lengthy dissertation on the subject of the Cold War. Admittedly, I have not found a great number of global histories in this subject.
This book contains 635 pages (hardcover edition) of reading, plus many references, almost 23 hours of listening. There was so much to digest that I would probably pick up so much more by reading an listening to it again.
However, I am no novice about this subject. Here is a short list of the shortcomings and disagreements that I have with the authors telling of this very important period of our history:
1. There is hardly a mention of the Venona decrypts, which is VERY important in revealing a lot of mysteries surrounding Soviet espionage during the Cold War.
2. There is no mention of plausible deniability policies that were instituted by the Truman and Eisenhower administrations. The fact that both former presidents kept crucial illegally locked away from prying eyes of congressional leaders.
3. Westad takes the standard line on that "horrible Joseph McCarthy" in the senate, out to destroy honest hardworking Americans employed by the State Department. Well there is much truth that has been PROVEN by the Venona decrypts, which were released to the general public in 1995, so these revelations aren't a small unimportant story to the big picture of the Cold War. Perhaps Westad should have taken the time to read "Blacklisted by History" by M. Stanton Evans, or "Stalin's Secret Agents" by M. Stanton Evans, and Herbert Romerstein. The material in these books alone will give Americans a Cold War chill like they NEVER felt before!
4. The author almost seems to deny the fact that the Venona decrypts (revealed in 1995) proved that there were MANY communists and fellow travelers firmly embedded in the U.S. government, especially the State Department during the 1940's, 1950's and beyond. Hopefully, thinking Americans learned what happens when you have one party in control of the Executive branch of government for 24 years! The moles have a long time to establish themselves and eliminate the people who can potentially expose them.
5. The coverage in this book on China went way beyond what I have ever been exposed to. There was much to be learned. However, there was no mention of the debacle regarding the treachery in the State Department of John Stewart Service and his eventual defection to communist China after he was discovered as a traitor. I don't recall any mention of Lauchlin Currie either. These two traitors probably have more to do with China being led by a communist government after World War II than anyone else, as far as the US governments interest were concerned. This is all well documented in The Venona Secrets written by Herbert Romerstein and Eric Breindel.
6. I also believe that point was lacking with regard to the extensive damage caused by the many communist spies in the US and in the U.K. governments that succeeded in spoiling democracy for many countries after WWII and responsible for the slaughter of at least hundreds of thousands of innocent people caught in the web of deceit.
7. There was also nothing mentioned in the text about how livid Eisenhower was with the fact that the US State Department and military planners had no contingency plans on how the U.S. should react when Stalin either died or was removed from power. Here was a golden opportunity, if properly planned to begin a Cold War thaw. This just shows how infested the State Department still was with communist sympathizers always trying to topple our government.
8. My last point of non-coverage involves the fact that I am not a believer in the innocence of Harry Hopkins, special advisor to Roosevelt and later Harry Truman. I do think there was enough evidence (although not absolutely proven) that he sold out eastern Europe. The greatest level of incompetence shown by F.D.R. during his entire administration, was his inability to properly brief Harry Truman, his new incoming vice president in his 4th term. Truman had very little truth of Roosevelt's wishes except for the backstabbers in the State Department and Harry Hopkins. He trusted Hopkins to be a special envoy to the Soviet Union to negotiate a settlement with Stalin with regard to Poland and Czechoslovakia. What Stalin got was a man who was willing to go against the intentions of Truman, paving the way for the eventual enslavement of millions of people in the countries trapped behind the iron curtain.
Westad does a great job with giving a background on the various Soviet leaders. As mentioned above, his depth on China's communist leadership is immense. The autocracies are covered in rich and sickening detail at times, but proves the wretchedness of communism.
Westad provides a great background on Korea, taking the reader through the history and division of that country into North and South. He covers the Korean war with rich detail.
The book also focuses on the client states of the Soviet Union and the US. There were some really terrible things that happened to people in these client states, by both superpowers. The US has NOTHING to be proud of here, with the manipulation by the CIA to put evil people in power in these client states to stem the tide of communism, especially in Africa, Central, and South America.
Another area where Westad covers with outstanding detail the things that happened during the Cold War in Western Europe. He shows how various US presidents acted and reacted to the state of affairs with regard to NATO countries, as well as non-NATO countries like France, when they pulled out of NATO.
I realize this is a long review, to an much longer book packed with many details about the Cold War. This is the longest book/audio book, I have ever read & listened to with regard the the Cold War. I would definitely recommend it to those who are serous students of the Cold War era. Few books get into this level of detail. But, as I mentioned in the eight points above, this book is lacking in some very important subject matter, that leaves the big story incomplete. So read/listen and enjoy, but remember, there is so much more out there that will help you build a clearer picture of this historical time.