In This Review

Reagan's War: The Epic Story of His Forty-Year Struggle and Final Triumph Over Communism
Reagan's War: The Epic Story of His Forty-Year Struggle and Final Triumph Over Communism
By Peter Schweizer
Doubleday, 2002, 288 pp

Schweizer argues that Ronald Reagan came into the White House determined to implement revolutionary changes in American Cold War policy -- a shift, as conservatives always had sought, that would move beyond containment to the defeat of the Soviet superpower. Schweizer does a masterful job at tracing the connections between Reagan's policies as president and the beliefs, values, and proposals that marked his 40-year career in the public eye. From his anticommunist struggles in Hollywood to his political career in Sacramento and Washington, Reagan continually returned to a handful of themes and ideas. Schweizer makes a strong case that as president, Reagan consistently acted to implement this anticommunist agenda, overruling the qualms of cautious advisers and persisting unswervingly, despite worldwide criticism and a lack of domestic political support. After Schweizer, even inveterate Reagan-haters will have to abandon the picture of an amiable dunce drifting passively while a handful of advisers set the agenda. What remains open to debate is how important Reagan's foreign policy was to the fall of the Soviet Union. Did Reagan's wholehearted embrace of an arms race force the Soviet leadership to acknowledge their system's bankruptcy and thus embark on reform? Or was the decay of the Soviet system so far advanced that U.S. policy had only limited effects on its internal politics? How much credit goes to 40 years of containment versus 8 years of rollback? Schweizer does not answer these questions definitively, but his book is likely to have a lasting influence on the historiography of the Reagan years.