Morris (The Cost of Good Intentions) traces the origins of the cold war and the mutual incomprehension that has characterized U.S.-Soviet relations since National Security Council Memorandum 68 presented its demonic picture of the Soviet Union in 1950 and called for a drastic increase in defense spending. The action-reaction dynamic of the resulting arms race is appraised from the points of view of both Washington and Moscow, emphasizing that the technology of long-range destruction tends to take on a life of its own, regardless of the motivations of statesmen and strategists. Although he believes that the arms race ``can neither be ended nor reach a point of enduring stability,'' Morris considers it conceivable that normal intercourse between the two superpowers will not include implicit threats of mutual destruction. He warns, however, that efforts to control the arms race ``without reference to the sources of broader political tension will almost necessarily fail.'' The Nixon-Kissinger effort to combine arms negotiation with an overall improvement in political relations is described here as one of the few instances in which Washington ``came even close to forging a consistent long-range policy.'' (May)
The subtitle is apt for this history of the Cold War told against the backdrop of the arms race. Morris ( A Time of Passion ) provides an accurate and balanced work with sound conclusions: Indeed, technology sometimes is the driving force behind policy, and Star Wars probably will just increase instability and add new weapons. Morris's prognosis for halting the arms race is gloomy, but he holds out hope that the Gorbachev era may put an end to the underlying political distrust, which has resulted in the arms race. The works cited and chapter notes are extensive and valuable. An excellent book that will appeal to interested lay readers and specialists. Gerald N. Sandvick, North Hennepin Community Coll., Brooklyn Park, Minn.