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Complex topic, simple analysis...
on February 27, 2012
Robert McMahon's "The Cold War" is a very short introduction to a complex topic. In less than 170 pages including maps and photographs, the author attempts to sketch the history of the Cold War from its World War II origins to its de facto ending in 1990 with the reunification of Germany.
The author makes a vigorous show of presenting both sides of the long rivalry between the US and the USSR, although to this date, the Soviet side remains far less transparent in the historical record. The book covers ground quickly, tracing the many arenas of the superpower competition in Europe, East Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and the Caribbean. He very deftly interweaves political, military, and economic developments, although the constraints of space mean light coverage for each.
The book succeeds in the limited sense of offering its promised short introduction. There are many more detailed and more nuanced studies available. This reviewer was offended by the author's apparent willingness to grant moral equivalence to the Soviet Union, a murderous regime whose ideology was incompatible with Western values and whose culpability in starting World War II with Nazi Germany is ignored. This book is recommended only to those who lack the time and interest for a serious study of the topic.