In This Review

The Fifty-Year Wound: The True Price of America's Cold War Victory
The Fifty-Year Wound: The True Price of America's Cold War Victory
By Derek Leebaert
Little, Brown, 2002, 722 pp

This book is an angry, interesting history of the Cold War. Because it opens decrying the Cold War as a terrible waste, readers may think this account is just a revisionist counter to Western triumphalism. In fact, Leebaert is harsh in his appraisals of Soviet and Chinese behavior. Aided by an ability to read Russian-language sources, his perspective is that of the battlefield soldier who thinks his cause is just but is furious about the bloat and foolishness he sees back at headquarters -- especially in Washington, at places such as the CIA. This book is often slapdash in its treatment of particular episodes, and it suffers from critical omissions. It is not an authoritative history of anything. But Leebaert is often perceptive and well informed. His arguments are intriguing and provocative even when they are wrong. He provides a welcome corrective against a complacent drift into settled orthodoxies of either the left or the right, while reminding us just how profoundly the Cold War has shaped the modern world.