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The Global Cold War: Third World Interventions and the Making of Our Times New Ed Edition

17 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0521703147
ISBN-10: 052170314X
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Editorial Reviews


"Based on prodigious research, this ambitious and wide-ranging book presents the most important account to date of the Cold War in the Third World. Westad's study represents broad-based, international history at its best. He deftly weaves together the tale of world politics writ large with stories about variegated processes of revolution and social change across the Third World. This should prove an indispensable work for anyone interested in the history of the twentieth-century."
-Robert J. McMahon, University of Florida

"The Global Cold War is a powerful account of the way in which the third world moved to the center of international politics in the closing decades of the 20th century. Drawing on a stunning multiplicity of archival material, Odd Arne Westad integrates perspectives and disciplines which have, until now, remained separate: U.S. and Soviet ideologies, their politics and the interventions that flowed from both; insurrection, rebellion, revolution and the power of competing models of development, systems of support or subversion (sometimes synonymous) that in part determined their outcome. Westad writes with the combination of clarity, wit and passion that have always characterized his work. This time the canvas is large enough to do full justice to his scholarship and his humanity."
-Marilyn B. Young, New York University

"Odd Arne Westad's new book is an extremely important contribution to the historiography of the Cold War. With broad erudition, amazing geographical range, and inventive research in archives around the globe, Westad tells the tragic story of the United States and Soviet Union's involvement in what became called the 'Third World.' The newly emerging nations of the 'South' - of Africa, Asia, and Latin America - barely emerged from their humiliating subservience to European colonialism before being dragged by Cold War rivalries into ideologically-inspired upheavals that ended up bankrupting their countries and devastating their peoples. Westad's study enables his readers to integrate the Third World into the history of the Cold War and confronts them with the meaning of intervention in the past for the international system today."
-Norman M. Naimark, Stanford University

"In a reinterpretation of the Cold War that is as thorough as it is important, Westad places Soviet and American interventions in the Third World at the center of their struggle. Driven by ideology and the need to affirm the rightness of their principles, both superpowers felt compelled to contest with the other in areas of little intrinsic importance. The results were almost uniformly failures, and in the process brought much sorrow and destruction to the Third World. The picture is not a pretty one, but Westad shows that studying it reveals much about the Cold War, and about the current world scene."
-Robert Jervis, Columbia University

"Westad's account is sharply observed and deeply researched...this book is superb: few scholars could match Westad's mastery of the sources."
-Foreign Affairs, May/June 2006

"The Global Cold War is remarkable for its geographical and historical breath"
-Robert A. Goldberg, University of Utah, Journal of Interdisciplinary History

"This study is a comprehensive, well-documented, and well-written history of the Cold War in the Third World. Westad has done a superb job of explaining how the world of today, both at home and abroad, is largely a product of the Cold War era. His book belongs on the shelf of every serious student of recent world history."
-Ronald Powaski, The Historian

"This particularly impressive and clearly written account of the Cold War is especially valuable because of its global perspective, and its focus on the worldwide impact of superpower impressive work that deserves attention."
-Jeremy Black, University of Exeter, The Journal of Military History

Book Description

This is a compelling and controversial reexamination of the global conflict waged by the United States and Soviet Union during the Cold War and the part it played in shaping Africa, Asia and Latin America today. Arne Westad examines the origins and course of Third World revolutions and the ideologies that drove the United States and Soviet Union towards interventionism. He argues that the real lasting legacy of the Cold War are the ideologies, movements and states which interventionism has fuelled and which increasingly dominate international affairs today.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; New Ed edition (February 19, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 052170314X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521703147
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #83,296 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Constant Reader on April 1, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Westad's book offers a new interpretation of the second half of the twentieth century, one that focuses on how the conflict between the US and the USSR-- and the division of the world into two halves-- played out in the Third World, and shaped and was shaped by the politics of those regions. The first two chapters are fairly heavy going, as Westad lays out sweeping statements about first the US, then the USSR, arguing that both countries developed around ideas that committed them to an almost evangelical form of statehood, of exporting their way of life. As he moves into the middle of the book, however, the story really takes off; he offers well-informed, fascinating case studies ranging from Angola and Ethiopia to Iran and Afghanistan. In every case, he illuminates the way in which the US and USSR offered only two sides on the playing field, and how people in these Third World countries responded by playing the superpowers off one another. One of the central processes that he brings to light is the way in which this situation eventually encouraged the rise of sectarian movements in many of those countries, including fundamentalist Islam, which appears here as a natural development from a generation who had watched their predecessors cast in with one of the two superpowers, and end up pawns in a global chess game. After finishing this book, I felt that I had an entirely new perspective on American history in the 20th century and better understood current-day issues from the rise of Islam to American support for Israel to the politics of central Africa. Certainly NOT a light read, but an invaluable one.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Michael Magoon on January 19, 2008
Format: Paperback
This is by far the best book available about the Cold War in the Third World. I have been waiting for a good book on this subject for quite some time, and I was not disappointed.
Westad starts out with a broad overview of American and Soviet history with particular emphasis on the importance of ideology and expansionism. He shows that the Cold War was primarily an ideological struggle between two powers that occurred at a time when when many new nations were coming into being due to European decolonialization. The two forces contributed to the radicalization and violence of the Third World in the Cold War.
Westad does an excellent job of providing both wide scope and in-depth analysis of a number of conflicts. He covers Cuba, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Somalia, Angola, Iran, Afghanistan and Central America. Unless you are an expert in all these conflicts, you are sure to learn something from this book. I am somewhat familiar with a few of them and found no major inaccuracies. And Westad does a great job of integrating them together into a tight narrative and argument.
My only complaint is that the book ends with an argument against "intervention." After 400 pages of explaining why past interventions were so important to the direction of modern history, it seems a bit of a contradiction to the rest of the book. But this is just a tiny criticism of an otherwise great book.
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43 of 57 people found the following review helpful By James R. Maclean on July 7, 2009
Format: Paperback
The core of this book is what appears to be very detailed notes of official Soviet correspondence related to the wars in Afghanistan (1979-1989), Angola (1975-1976), and Somalia-Ethiopia (1974-1978). It is padded with much less-detailed, less recondite information about Cold War operations in Latin America, Indonesia, and the Arab World (mostly the former South Yemen). That, in turn, is further padded with some "analysis" that highly damaging to the book's value as history.

The first layer of "padding" includes most of chapter 3 ("Creating the Third World"), in which Westad races through an unmanageably long itinerary of newly liberated colonies of Western Europe, or else Latin America. This is actually valuable at times, especially if one follows the endnotes: Westad focuses on the destructive aspect of the US in the 3rd World to 1960, and documents it with many non-radical sources. However, Westad is apparently convinced that the former colonial powers or Latin states were entirely without agency of any kind; so the result is that he can simply treat the US as a malevolent black box.

Westad is clearly far more sympathetic to the Soviets, probably because his research tends to pursue Soviet motives through (a) official memoranda to (b) a series of compelling motivations. In contrast, the motives of US figures are documented through informal tapes, and not pursued. The Soviets are therefore portrayed as cautiously evading conflict, and responding only to multiple US provocations; the Usonians are portrayed as omnipotent louts whose behavior requires no explanation.*

The most damaging aspect of the book lies in what I called the "outer" layer of padding.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful By R. Albin TOP 1000 REVIEWER on October 6, 2007
Format: Paperback
This fine book is devoted to a hugely important topic typically neglected in most discussions of the Cold War; the course and impact of the Cold War in the Third World. Most overview monographs on the Cold War concentrate on US-Soviet relations and/or the impact of the Cold War in Europe and Japan. Westad successfully attempts an overview and structural analysis of the Cold War in the Third World. Westad opens with a pair of summary chapters on the USA and Soviet Union leading up to the beginning of the Cold War. He then covers the early decades of the Cold War in the Third World concisely, and devotes much of the book to the last 2 decades of the Cold War, including detailed analyses of the events in Afghanistan, Africa, and Central America. Based on a wealth of secondary sources and analysis of primary literature from both US and Soviet archives, the narrative is comprehensive, clear, and punctuated with thoughtful analysis.

There is a lot of surprising information. While many readers will be aware of US interventions in places like Guatemala and Iran, Westad's descriptions of the depth of US interventions in places like Indonesia and Brazil will come as a surprise. Similarly, his description of how the Soviet involvement in the Third World came to be seen as a crucial element of the legitimacy of the Soviet state goes a long way towards explaining why the events in Afghanistan had such importance. With respect to the battleground states of the various Third World countries where US and Soviet interventions took place, this is generally a series of tragic stories, usually involving considerable bloodshed and impoverishment.

Westad goes considerably beyond good narrative. Several well articulated themes run through the narrative.
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