John Lewis Gaddis & the Cold War


Gaddis, John Lewis. The Cold War: A New History. New York: Penguin, 2005. London: Allen Lane, 2005.

To Service, Times (London), 1 Jan. 2006, this is a "magisterial account.... Gaddis has harvested a basketful of recent literature and boiled it down to a valuable compote.... Reagan emerges as the hero of Gaddis's story and the 'malleable' Gorbachev the lesser figure. This understates the Soviet leader's part in initiating and deepening the process." Mazower, Times (London), 7 Jan. 2006, says that the author "has produced a lively and readable history of this struggle for global mastery, from its anxious beginnings, to its surprisingly peaceful ending." However, "[t]his is very much an American view.... It all ends up sounding reassuringly like the triumph of virtue" over evil.

Lacayo, Time, 23 Jan. 2006, calls The Cold War a "brisk, useful primer." Ikenberry, FA 85.2 (Mar.-Apr. 2006), sees it as a "beautifully written ... view of the Cold War, full of illuminations and shrewd judgments." A Publishers Weekly (via reviewer says that the author "delivers an utterly engrossing account of Soviet-U.S. relations from WWII to the collapse of the U.S.S.R.... The interpretations on offer are not startlingly original ... but a new, concise narration was Gaddis's aim here, and he succeeds royally."

Mann, Washington Post, 29 Jan. 2006, says that the author "boils down the history of the entire Cold War to a sometimes brilliant 266 pages of text, in trenchant, lucid prose intended not for historians and specialists but for ordinary readers." However, Gaddis is "clearly much better at writing about the early Cold War, from the 1940s through the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, than at dealing with later periods.... When [he] gets to the late 1960s and '70s, by contrast, he offers fewer insights and seems to be hurrying to cover everything."

Gaddis, John Lewis. "Intelligence, Espionage, and Cold War Origins." Diplomatic History 13, no. 2 (Spring 1989): 191-212.

See D. Cameron Watt, "Intelligence and the Historian: A Comment on John Gaddis's 'Intelligence, Espionage, and the Cold War Origins.'" Diplomatic History 14, no. 2 (Spring 1990): 199-204.

Gaddis, John Lewis. The Long Peace: Inquiries into the History of the Cold War. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987. New ed. 1989 [pb]

Northrup, Library Journal (via, calls this "collection of essays ... [a] provocative and well-argued work." The author finds "the long peace" rooted in "nuclear deterrence and the fact that the United States and Russia studiously avoid direct confrontation."

Gaddis, John Lewis. "NSC 68 and the Problem of Ends and Means." International Security 4, no. 4 (1980): 164-170.


Gaddis, John Lewis. Strategies of Containment: A Critical Appraisal of American National Security Policy during the Cold War. 2d rev. & expanded ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

[NatSec/00s, & Policy/00s]

Gaddis, John Lewis. Surprise, Security, and the American Experience. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004.

Szafranski, Air & Space Power Journal 18.4 (Winter 2004), finds this work to be "well written and thought provoking." The author's thesis is that U.S. national security policy is based on three approaches -- preemption, unilateralism, and hegemony -- which are all rooted in our history and persist today.

For Killebrew, Parameters (Winter 2004-05), the author "has produced a small and pristine essay on the American experience that will change the reader's view of American history, the current war in Iraq, and the outlook for the future.... Though not all will agree with Gaddis's ambivalent views on the United States' current course, the reader can't help but respect the historian's brilliant analysis of America's past and present security strategies, and his penetrating and honest perspective of current events."

van Tol, NWCR 58.4 (Autumn 2005), calls this work "a succinct and masterful statement of the central national security dilemma that presently faces us.... Gaddis argues that far from being a radical departure, the Bush administration's response to the [9/11] attacks represents considerable continuity with American historical tradition." To Schecter, I&NS 20.4 (Dec. 2005), the author "does well on finding thematic precedents" in national security strategies of the past in an effort to illuminate the present. However, he "comes up short by failing to zero in on presidential deception and the misuse of intelligence."


Gaddis, John Lewis. The United States and the End of the Cold War: Implications, Reconsiderations, Provocations. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992. 1994. [pb]

Clark comment: See especially Chapter 5, "Intelligence, Espionage, and Cold War History," although there are numerous references to intelligence elsewhere in the text.

Brumberg, WPNWE 18-24 May 1992, praises Gaddis for his "engaging style,... impressive range of knowledge, and ... way of getting after the truth." Nevertheless, he tends "to gloss over some unsavory U.S. policies and to underestimate the internal causes of the Soviet downfall." For the Choice, Nov. 1992, reviewer, this book of 11 essays is "[w]ell-written, intelligently argued, and heavily documented. [Gaddis] offers significant new interpretations of the American style in foreign policy, the objectives of containment, and the roles of morality, nuclear weapons, intelligence, and espionage in Washington's conduct of the Cold War."


Gaddis, John Lewis. The United States and the Origins of the Cold War, 1941-1947. New York: Columbia University Press, 1972.

Mann, Washington Post, 29 Jan. 2006, notes that in this "post-revisionist" work, the author "portrayed the origins of the conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union less as the lone fault of one side or the other and more as the result of a plethora of conflicting interests and misperceptions between the two superpowers, propelled by domestic politics and bureaucratic inertia."

Gaddis, John Lewis. We Now Know: Rethinking Cold War History. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

Nincic, APSR 92.1, notes that We Now Know "deals principally with the superpower rivalry in Europe (Germany in particular), the Third World (especially Asia), and the nuclear arms race." The reviewer finds the book "a pleasure to read and ... very competent historiography." However, there is "not much" here of which those who study international rivalry have been unaware; "the additions to factual knowledge Gaddis provides are somewhat at its margins." Nor, from the point of view of a political scientist, does Gaddis contribute much in the way of casual propositions that place the Cold War in a new light.

For Kelley, Parameters, Summer 1998, "95 percent of this book [is] extraordinarily cogent; the remainder, unfortunately, bears the imprint of a disaffected generation, manifested in metaphoric overkill ..., rhetorical outrage..., and ridicule of nuclear deterrence and the judgment and morality of those compelled to manage it.... But notwithstanding the distractions, this landmark work is destined to become a classic on the era, and deservedly so."

Mets, Air Power Chronicles, Spring 1999, calls We Now Know "a first-class book written by a first-class scholar. It is central to the understanding of how our foreign policy has evolved over the last half century. That also makes it central to the way in which our national-security policy has evolved. Thus, it is required reading for all air warrior/scholars but it is so well written that the task should not be at all tedious."

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