Author(s): Odd Arne Westad
As Germany and then Japan surrendered in 1945 there was a tremendous hope that a new and much better world could be created from the moral and physical ruins of the conflict. Instead, the combination of the huge power of the USA and USSR and the near-total collapse of most of their rivals created a unique, grim new environment: the Cold War.
For over forty years the demands of the Cold War shaped the life of almost all of us. There was no part of the world where East and West did not, ultimately, demand a blind and absolute allegiance, and nowhere into which the West and East did not reach. Countries as remote from each other as Korea, Angola and Cuba were defined by their allegiances. Almost all civil wars became proxy conflicts for the superpowers. Europe was seemingly split in two indefinitely.
Arne Westad's remarkable new book is the first to have the distance from these events and the ambition to create a convincing, powerful narrative of the Cold War. The book is genuinely global in its reach and captures the dramas and agonies of a period always overshadowed by the horror of nuclear war and which, for millions of people, was not 'cold' at all: a time of relentless violence, squandered opportunities and moral failure.
This is a book of extraordinary scope and daring. It is conventional to see the first half of the 20th century as a nightmare and the second half as a reprieve. Westad shows that for much of the world the second half was by most measures even worse.
For generations, the Cold War was context, the inescapable setting of political life. This history sets the Cold War itself in context, within the greater landscape of world history, deeply understood, and masterfully presented. It is a powerful synthesis by one of our great historians -- Timothy Snyder, author of Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin Westad has produced a grand narrative of the Cold War. Defining it as a struggle between capitalism and socialism as well as a bipolar international system, Westad brilliantly illustrates its ideological, geopolitical, technological, and economic dimensions. Westad, the world's foremost scholar of the Cold War, once again dazzles readers with the scope and depth of his analysis -- Melvyn P. Leffler, Edward Stettinius Professor of American History, Miller Center, University of Virginia The Cold War is the history of the twentieth century and the foundation for our current world. Arne Westad provides a powerful analysis of why the Cold War occurred, what it meant, and why it still matters. He is especially strong in elucidating the ideas of perfection that drove very imperfect, often brutal, leaders. Westad's book links the Cold War to globalization, recent wars in the Middle East, and American rivalries with Russia and China. This is a book that everyone interested in politics and foreign policy should read. It is a riveting story, told by one of the foremost world historians -- Jeremi Suri, author of The Impossible Presidency: The Rise and Fall of America's Highest Office
Odd Arne Westad is S.T. Lee Professor of U.S-Asia Relations at Harvard University, where he teaches at the Kennedy School of Government. He has published over fifteen books on modern and contemporary international history, among them The Global Cold War, which won the Bancroft Prize, and Restless Empire. He is the co-author of The Penguin History of the World.