Historian H. W. Brands of Texas A&M University writes that the fundamental question addressed in this book is: Why did the United States act as it did in the Cold War? His answer is, not surprisingly, for a variety of reasons. By no means does he go into them all, or into any of them in much depth. As he rightly states, the book is an essay rather than a history. No theme ties the essays together, other than to concentrate on some of the mistakes the United States made and the price the country paid for victory in the Cold War, a victory Brands sees as ambivalent at best. This early entry in the race to assess the Cold War offers opinions on a variety of matters, some insightful, some witty, too many cliché-ridden. The hero is Mikhail Gorbachev. In one of his most effective images, Brand writes: In a stunningly short period, [Gorbachev] deprived Americans of the only major enemy most of them had ever known, and, like the half of a two-person tug-of-war who unwarningly lets go, he threw America's Cold War apparatus abruptly o balance.