The Lost Peace
Historian Robert Dallek examines the beginnings of the cold war.
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“The Lost Peace,” instead, cites one single primary document. The rest comes from secondary sources and even, a few times, Wikipedia. Even worse, he overlooks some of the best scholarship on the cold war, work from respected scholars like Odd Arne Westad, Bruce Kuniholm, Walter LaFeber, and others. And he relies far too heavily on McCullough’s overrated, maudlin book, “Truman,” and the memoirs of George F. Kennan. It seems Dallek dipped into the vast ocean of cold war historiography, grabbed what he could with one hand, and declared himself satisfied.Skip to next paragraph
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This wouldn’t be so bad if Dallek had anything new to say about the years between 1945 and 1953. But he does not. The beginning years of the cold war are among the most examined in history. The subject has fascinated many and the fall of the Soviet Union has facilitated new research. Many good books already exist on the topic, from LaFeber’s books to those of John Lewis Gaddis, Melvyn Leffler, Vladislav Zubok, and others. When Dallek does cite their work, he rarely challenges their conclusions, rarely wades into the academic controversies. “Political leaders and governments around the world did not take much knowledge from the horrors of the two world wars,” he writes, a rather banal judgment coming from someone with so deep a knowledge of postwar foreign policy.
Coming from a lesser writer, “The Lost Peace” might not be so underwhelming. But emerging from someone as gifted and reliable as Dallek, it cannot be considered anything but.