• A “definitive account” of the Cold War by Odd Arne Westad, praised by Michael Mandelbaum

    Prof. Westad is one of the great historians of the Cold War. One of his great contributions has been to expand our understanding of the bipolar contest beyond the central front in Europe to include across Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia.

    Prof. Michael Mandelbaum is one of the great analysts of US foreign policy, during that era and today. He is also among the most lucid of writers and appreciates that quality in others.

    So, when Mandelbaum praises Westad’s latest book, The Cold War: A World History,  as the “definitive account,” it is worth taking very seriously.

    To quote Mandelbaum:

    At a certain point after an historical chapter closes it becomes possible to write an account of it that incorporates such consensus as exists, and that may therefore stand as reliable, and as close to definitive as it is possible to come, for a generation. The Cold War, extinct for more than a quarter century, has reached that point, and with The Cold War: A World History, Odd Arne Westad has written such an account….

    The book’s explanation of the two most important and controversial features of the Cold War—its origins and its conclusion—are likely to stand the test of time. The defeat of Germany and the severe weakening of Great Britain and France in World War II left a vacuum of power in Europe, the heart of the international system. The United States and the Soviet Union filled it. They became competitors rather than cooperating with each other because of their strongly held and incompatible ideologies. –Mandelbaum on Westad

    Mandelbaum points to several areas where Westad’s account could be stronger, or where his interpretations could be contested, but his overall conclusion is strongly positive.

    Like the old advertisement that says, “With a name like Smucker’s, it has to be good.”

    With a name like “Odd,” it has to be even-handed. And so it is, says Mandelbaum:

    A book such as this one renders many judgments, and they are, for the most part, balanced. –Mandelbaum on Westad

    Mandelbaum is too thoughtful to put it like this, so I will: Westad meets the Smucker’s standard.