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The Devil We Knew: Americans and the Cold War Paperback – October 20, 1994

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (October 20, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195093771
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195093773
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #523,751 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this thought-provoking, controversial study, Brands charges that the responsibility for fomenting the Cold War, and especially for its prolongation, rests heavily on the United States. The Cold War, he argues, was fueled by the endless search for foreign enemies by which Americans need to affirm their identity and basic goodness. The American desire to save the world, according to Brands, determined the fervor with which the Cold War was waged. He highlights the economic aspect, which, he notes, can be seen in retrospect as a massive effort to open foreign markets to U.S. products, and analyzes the Cold War as a long-running "issue" in American politics. With sly wit, Brands describes how Mikhail Gorbachev deprived this country of "an enemy that could hardly have been improved upon" and discusses the current awkward, enemy-less mode in which the U.S. finds itself as the government strives to develop a new national security agenda and politicians work out new campaign rhetoric to replace obsolete anticommunism. Brands is an assistant professor of history at Texas A & M and the author of Inside the Cold War.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

For most Americans, the abrupt end of the Cold War created a feeling of relief mixed with anxiety for the future. By the late 1980s, the U.S.-Soviet relationship had settled into an almost comfortable middle age. We knew them, and they knew us. Both Pessen and Brands devote much of their works to an overview of how the Cold War developed. Pessen, one of our foremost Jacksonian scholars, is harshly critical of American foreign policy during the past 40 years. He argues that the United States consistently misrepresented Soviet intentions, with serious damage to American domestic freedoms. Brands ( Inside the Cold War: Loy Henderson and the Rise of the American Empire, 1918-1961 , LJ 4/15/91) is more even-handed in his criticism, believing that American policy-makers were influenced by psychological, strategic, economic, and political factors that came into play at different times throughout the Cold War era. Both books should be considered valuable extended interpretive essays that, separately or together, would be good choices for any library.
- Ed Goedeken, Iowa State Univ. Lib., Ames
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

H.W. Brands taught at Texas A&M University for sixteen years before joining the faculty at the University of Texas at Austin, where he is the Dickson Allen Anderson Centennial Professor of History. His books include Traitor to His Class, Andrew Jackson, The Age of Gold, The First American, and TR. Traitor to His Class and The First American were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize.

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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Steven S. Berizzi on September 8, 2000
Format: Hardcover
On the final page of this brief, but provocative, rumination about the United States' Cold War experience, author H.W. Brands, professor of history at Texas A & M University, presents this paradox: In 1945, nearly all Americans and probably a majority of interested foreigners had looked on the United States as a beacon shining the way to a better future for humanity, one in which ideals mattered more than tanks. During the next forty years,American leaders succeeded in convincing many Americans and all but a few foreigners that the United States could be counted on to act pretty much as great powers always have. To the extent that Brands is correct, the question, of course, is: Why? This is not merely an intellectual exercise. During the Cold War, Brands reminds us: "More than 100,000 Americans died fighting wars that had almost nothing to do with genuine American security." Practically all of them died in the barren hills of Korea and the steaming jungles of Vietnam. The question, again, is: Why?
Brands posits the "dual character of the Cold War - being both a geopolitical and an ideological contest" and explains: "The ideological gulf between the United States and the Soviet Union gave the geopolitical rivalry unprecedented urgency." In Brands's interpretation, the origins of the Cold War were partly the dynamics of conventional international relations: The United States and the Soviet Union emerged from the Second World War as the only world powers, so, practically by definition, they had to be rivals. But, as Brands, observes, geopolitical competition was intensified by extreme ideological differences.
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0 of 6 people found the following review helpful By John Desmond on December 27, 2013
Format: Paperback
While not the only one, this is one of the most blatant effort by "revisionist" (I.e., liberal) historians to avoid admitting that they had been wrong about the Soviet Union and how to fight it all along. It turns out that the Cold War was all our fault, and ending it only had to do with the wonderfulness of the Russians finally coming through despite us. Oh, and the tragedy that has befallen the now-fascist Russia since Putin's rise, that's our fault too. It wasn't communism with its tens of millions murdered that was evil, it was the free market system. Anything bad the Russians did, we made them do, and the only reason they weren't more wonderful was because we were so evil we prevented them from succeeding. Someone should tell the author that you can't win the Stalin Prize for literature anymore, so he should stop competing. (Although Putin my reinstate it.)
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