Melvyn P. Leffler
Hill and Wang
Winner of the George Louis Beer Prize
Finalist for the Council on Foreign Relations' Arthur Ross Book Award
To the amazement of the public, pundits, and even the policymakers themselves, the ideological and political conflict that had endangered the world for half a century came to an end in 1990. In For the Soul of Mankind, historian Melvyn P. Leffler offers his interpretations about what caused the Cold War, why it lasted so long, and how it finally came to an end.
The distinguished historian Melvyn P. Leffler homes in on four crucial episodes when American and Soviet leaders considered modulating, avoiding, or ending hostilities and asks why they failed: Stalin and Truman devising new policies after 1945; Malenkov and Eisenhower exploring the chance for peace after Stalin's death in 1953; Kennedy, Khrushchev, and LBJ trying to reduce tensions after the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962; and Brezhnev and Carter aiming to sustain détente after the Helsinki Conference of 1975. All these leaders glimpsed possibilities for peace, yet they allowed ideologies, political pressures, the expectations of allies and clients, the dynamics of the international system, and their own fearful memories to trap them in a cycle of hostility that seemed to have no end.
Leffler's important book illuminates how Reagan, Bush, and, above all, Gorbachev finally extricated themselves from the policies and mind-sets that had imprisoned their predecessors, and were able to reconfigure Soviet-American relations after decades of confrontation.
“[A] sweeping work . . . Leffler is one of America’s most distinguished cold war historians, and this enlightening, readable study is the product of years of research and reflection.” —Jonathan Rosenberg, The Christian Science Monitor
“A masterful account of the Cold War by a distinguished historian in full stride . . . This important book will enlighten and sophisticate the debate on the Cold War, even if it will not end the discussion.” —G. John Ikenberry, Foreign Affairs
"With a keen eye for telling detail, a concern for the choices of individual leaders, and careful judgments, Leffler generates a narrative that carries the reader along as it develops important new ideas. This landmark study transcends many of our standard arguments about the Cold War to focus on what it was really about. Driving much of the maneuvering for security and advantage was the struggle over which political system could meet people’s needs and produce a better society." —Robert Jervis, Columbia University
"This is a lively and very wise book on the Cold War from its beginning to its end. Concentrating on five critical intervals in the history of Soviet-American rivalry, Melvyn P. Leffler, one of the West’s leading authorities on U.S. foreign policy, mines a wealth of new sources for this fresh and stimulating analysis of Cold War crises. The portraits of Cold War leaders, both Soviet and American, are convincingly and elegantly drawn. As illustrated by Leffler, their travails and successes demonstrate how important leadership is in maintaining peace in an unstable world." —Norman M. Naimark, Stanford University
The United States, the Soviet Union, and the Cold War
Melvyn P. Leffler