The Devil We Knew: Americans and the Cold War / Edition 1

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Overview

In the end, Americans claimed victory in the Cold War, but Brands gives us reason to tone down the celebration. This wide-reaching history makes clear that the Cold War was simultaneously far more, and far less, than we ever imagined at the time.

In a witty, perceptive history, Brands provides an engaging account of American anticommunist policies and politics at home and abroad, and shows how the Cold War was exploited by politicians, bureaucrats, and industrialists. Brand's previous books include Bound to Empire and Inside the Cold War.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
A critical history of the American experience of the Cold War, from Truman's creation of the CIA to Reagan's creation of SDI, and on to the disintegration of the Soviet Union. In the end, the US claimed victory, but, according to Brands "The call to arms against communism caused American leaders to subvert the principles that constituted their country's best argument against communism." Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Kirkus Reviews
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 d‚tente 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 vividphrasing: "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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195093773
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 10/28/1994
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 530,917
  • Product dimensions: 8.06 (w) x 5.37 (h) x 0.55 (d)

Meet the Author

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 Empire.

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Table of Contents

1 The Last Days of American Internationalism: 1945-1950 3
2 The National Insecurity State: 1950-1955 31
3 The Immoral Equivalent of War: 1955-1962 59
4 The Wages of Hubris: 1962-1968 86
5 What Did We Know and When Did We Know It?: 1969-1977 118
6 Old Verities Die Hardest: 1977-1984 148
7 Who Won the Cold War?: 1984-1991 187
Notes 229
Index 237
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