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The Fifty-Year Wound: How America's Cold War Victory Has Shaped Our World Paperback – June 1, 2003

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 784 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books (June 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316164968
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316164962
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 5.5 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #652,867 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

America won the cold war, what Derek Leebaert calls a "muffled world war" in The Fifty-Year Wound, but the cost of victory--psychically, morally, and financially--was beyond frightful. The Soviet Union collapsed peacefully; civilization survived "more or less" intact; the world was "liberalized," and the cold war period was the longest "great power" peace since Rome fell. But a half-century "pattern of alarm" and the "industry of national security" curbed freedoms, diverted talent into "fundamentally unproductive" fields, postponed research, "trammeled" investment, and caused a national "waste of spirit." As well, Leebaert suggests the Cuban missiles were primarily psychological threats; American involvement in Vietnam led to OPEC's economic muscle; Kennedy was perhaps the most hawkish of post-WWII presidents, and that the events of September 11 were a direct cold war legacy. This massive, comprehensive, and stern but guardedly optimistic overview will reward the determined reader with its insights and hundreds of telling, sometimes shocking, details. --H. O'Billovitch --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Leebaert, a founding editor of the journal International Security and lecturer in government at Georgetown, recalls how Paul Nitze, a long-time Cold Warrior, said at the turn of the 21st century that "we did a goddamn good job" with the Cold War. Leebaert answers that assessment in his sure-to-be-controversial and riveting book, in which heretofore unpublished documents and new analyses combine to create a lucid, balanced and in-depth study of the issue. "Well," Leebaert writes, "yes and no: yes if the overriding emphasis is that civilization survived more or less intact, that the Soviet Union collapsed peacefully, and that most of the world was liberalized along the way; no if we dwell on the indirection, inexcusable ignorance, political intrusions, personal opportunism, and crimes underlying this ultimate victory." What, in other words, did we lose in order to win?After relatively few pages outlining the postwar crises and confrontations up to 1950 and the Korean War, Leebaert begins what becomes a brilliant and highly quotable examination of what went right and what went wrong mostly wrong, he argues as the U.S. went from containment of a virulent and ominous U.S.S.R. to abetting its collapse. According to Leebaert, the often astonishing history of our recent past has numerous villains the CIA, the Pentagon, "systems analysis" technicians, a greedy "scientific and technological elite" and what Eisenhower called the "military-industrial-congressional complex." But Ike himself is one of Leebaert's heroes, as are Truman, Marshall and Reagan (he credits the latter with accelerating the end of the Cold War). Others, such as Kennedy and Nixon, get rough treatment (for them, the presidency was "a means for displaying planetary ambitions"), as do political gurus such as Kennan and Kissinger. America had to face down the Soviets almost alone, hindered, Leebaert asserts, by the rapaciousness of the OPEC nations and the self-interest of not only the rebuilding Japan, but of France and Britain as well. He considers the Korean War to have been "the detonator that blew U.S. power around the world" and that ended any chance of post-WWII American isolationism; the Chernobyl disaster,he contends, symbolized the Soviet empire's long slide into ineptitude and paralysis. His claim, however, that the greatest Cold War nuclear crisis came not from missiles in Cuba during the Kennedy years, but from the paranoid and disintegrating Andropov in 1983, will raise some eyebrows. Much happened in the 50 years that was "harmful to American life," Leebaert writes, and many of those costs emerge as frighteningly high in this analysis. 16 pages of photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Derek Leebaert, who has taught foreign policy at Georgetown University for fifteen years, is a partner in the Swiss management consulting firm, MAP AG. His previous books include The Fifty-Year Wound: How America's Cold War Victory Shapes Our World (2002) and To Dare and to Conquer: Special Operations and the Destiny of Nations from Achilles to Al Qaeda (2006). He is also a coauthor of the MIT Press trilogy on the information technology revolution, and a founding editor of International Security and The International Economy, as well as editorial board member of European Security. He served in the US Marine Corps Reserve and is a director of the U.S. Army Historical Foundation, Providence Hospital in Washington, D.C., and of other public service institutions.


Advance Praise for
Magic and Mayhem

"A great book. It not only makes a powerful case but it is thoroughly entertaining, brimming with colorful anecdotes and wonderful portraits. It is a joy to read!"
--Liaquat Ahamed, author Lords of Finance

"A brilliant, blistering indictment of the quackery that passes for statecraft in Washington and of the glib, opinionated mediocrities inhabiting the inner circles of American power."
-- Andrew J. Bacevich, author of Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War

"Derek Leebaert artfully portrays the many grand delusions about America's role in the world that have arisen from a heady brew of magical thinking going back generations. Leebaert writes with exceptional verve and his book is a real pleasure to read."
--Peter Bergen, CNN national security analyst and author of Holy War, Inc.

"People of left and right will find much insight in this expose of the national security magicians and their delusions, fantasies, pretenses and misuses of history. Leebaert gives us not the usual fairy godmother list of solutions, but some basic advice grounded in playing to our country's strengths. Hear him!"
--John F. Lehman, former Secretary of the Navy and member of the 9/11 Commission

"Leebaert provides a superb story of America's global engagements and of the 'magic' that caused various ones to go astray. Here is also superb insight as to how our nation should capitalize on her strengths while we come to better understand our vulnerabilities."
--General John H. Tilelli, Jr., USA (Ret), former Vice Chief of Staff, U.S. Army, and Commander, U.S. Army Forces Command

"This book is a bombshell."
--Walter A. McDougall, Alloy-Ansin Professor of International Relations, University of Pennsylvania, author of Promised Land, Crusader State

"Why do national security professionals, despite all evidence, keep promising quick and nearly bloodless victory when committing U.S. forces overseas? The answers are chilling. Anyone concerned about how America decides to go to war must read Magic and Mayhem."
--F. Whitten Peters, former Secretary of the Air Force; member, Defense Science Board

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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See all 16 customer reviews
Telling the truth took great courage.
Everest E. Riccioni, Col. USAF, Ret.
It reads like a first draft of a book that the author did not have the time or interest to craft into a real book.
Stephen M. Picca MD
My biased conclusion, therefore, is that this cannot be a reasoned contribution to an important subject.
John Odonnell

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Robert David STEELE Vivas HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on December 1, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an extraordinary book, in part because it forces us to confront the "hangover" effects of the Cold War as we begin an uncertain path into the post 9-11 future. It begins by emphasizing that the Cold War glorified certain types of institutions, personalities, and attitudes, and ends by pointing out that we paid a very heavy cost--much as General and President Eisenhower tried to warn us--in permitting our society to be bound by weaponry, ideology, and secrecy.
Two quotes, one from the beginning, one from the end, capture all that lies in between, well-documented and I would add--contrary to some opinions--coherent and understandable.
"For the United States, the price of victory goes far beyond the dollars spend on warheads, foreign aid, soldiers, propaganda, and intelligence. It includes, for instance, time wasted, talent misdirected, secrecy imposed, and confidence impaired. Particular costs were imposed on industry, science, and the universities. Trade was distorted and growth impeded." (page xi)
"CIA world-order men whose intrigues more often than not started at the incompetent and went down from there, White House claims of 'national security' to conceal deceit, and the creation of huge special interests in archaic spending all too easily occurred because most Americans were not preoccupied with the struggle." (page 643)
Although the author did not consult the most recent intelligence reform books (e.g. Berkowitz, Johnson, Treverton, inter alia), he is consistently detailed and scathing in his review of intelligence blunders and the costs of secrecy--in this he appears to very ably collaborate the findings of Daniel Ellsberg's more narrowly focused book on "SECRETS: A Memoire of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Stephen M. Picca MD on July 28, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Without understanding the hisory of the cold war you cannot make any sense out of the present state of the nation or of current events such as the disaster of Sept.11. This book attempts to give an overview of this enourmous subject from the end of WWII up until today. It is well referenced and informative and many non-historians would benefit from reading it. The main problem is that the writing is terrible. It reads like a first draft of a book that the author did not have the time or interest to craft into a real book. As such it is simultaneously interesting, informative and frustrating to read.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Brandon Chitwood on July 3, 2004
Format: Paperback
Considering the author's weighted interest toward technology and business, it is surprising how well much of this book reads. It is nothing if not quotable, brimming with insight-packed sentences and entertaining character sketches. Leebaert definitely knows his stuff: this doorstop-worthy tome is loaded with information.
Perhaps too much information. The main flaw of the book is its rather bogus thesis: The Cold War was filled with "costs." Yes, I suppose any forty year endeavor would be filled with its share of expenditures, many mistaken, but this is hardly the most enlightening point to make about the superpower conflict. Unfortunately, it is Leebaert's point, and he desperately tries to tie every nugget of info he tosses at the reader into his great theme. Every chapter, no matter how diffuse the subjects covered, is rounded off with a monotonously pedestrian "these mistakes could have been avoided" conclusion a harried undergraduate would have been ashamed to employ.
Many of Leebaert's mini-analyses of various arenas of the conflict are fascinating: his emphasis on the economic and technological subplots of the Cold War are particularly insightful. But the attempt to weave these analyses into an overarching narrative ultimately undo much of the coherence of the book. His appraisal of many of the power players in the struggle often come across as bitchy or unfair (as he spends little time examining the reasons for their actions, but nonetheless tallying their "mistakes" to play up his theme).
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Everest E. Riccioni, Col. USAF, Ret. on August 6, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Derek Leebaert's book, The Fifty-Year Wound is the finest work of historical analysis that I have ever read and studied. His work is complete and definitive. With his insight into the dynamics of world events he has transformed the mosaic of the complex events and personalities of the 50 years of Cold War into a seamless story. Many know the history of events, but few can reveal why they were what they were. His perspectives are priceless; his words dense with meaning. He has a unique ability to capture and interpret significant events in a single sentence. He reveals the good and the bad, and separates facts from fiction. Telling the truth took great courage. His style is fascinating. With the moment of the subject and his outstanding ability to write, this will be one of the outstanding books on national events and international relations of this decade. I give it an unqualified recommendation for all who wish to learn from history.
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