Edward C. Keefer provides us with the “authorized, but not official” history of Harold Brown’s tenure as the 14th Secretary of Defense as part of the Department of Defense series on its secretaries. It is authorized in that Keefer had access to the official records, but not official in that Keefer’s assessment of Brown’s time in office, the Jimmy Carter years, is his own. Keefer sees Brown as a loyal and effective Secretary whose reputation needs some rehabilitation because Carter was an unsuccessful Commander-in-Chief, naive and smug in his handling of security issues thorough out his presidency, overly concerned with cutting back on defense in his first two years, and then totally knocked off his horse by the Iranian Revolution with its seizure of U.S. embassy staff and the failed American rescue mission, and the Soviet Union’s unexpected and alarming invasion of Afghanistan in his last two years.
Tag: Soviet Union
As President Donald Trump’s administration begins, relations between the United States and Russia make the headlines almost every day. No one seems able to agree on what Russian President Vladimir Putin did or did not do to try to influence the 2016 U.S. elections, much less on what his ultimate aims are. Trump’s own cabinet picks, not to mention the U.S. Congress and Senate, are split on whether the U.S. should try yet another ‘reset’ with Russia, or instead punish Putin further for his actions. Meanwhile European countries allied with the U.S. in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) are undergoing their own wrenching debates about Russia, with some leading politicians believing that Russia intends to break NATO or perhaps even invade the Baltics, while other European political parties openly cooperate with Putin. Business interests in both North America and Europe seek an end to the Western sanctions imposed on Russia after its seizure of Crimea and intervention in eastern Ukraine in 2014, but human rights groups argue to the contrary that even stronger sanctions are warranted.
Sonia Ben Ouagrham-Gormley’s outstanding Barriers to Bioweapons demonstrates that while it may be relatively easy to pick your poison, there are very significant barriers to manufacturing it. Her main argument, as our reviewers so clearly explain, is that making bioweapons—that is, ‘weaponizing’ biological agents such as anthrax, smallpox, plague, and many others—has been far more difficult to achieve than is generally understood. And this is true whether these are small groups intent on creating terror or nation-states working at far larger scales of destruction.
If intelligence has now received sufficient attention so that it is no longer the hidden dimension of international politics, Soviet intelligence still fits this categorization. Our three reviewers welcome Jonathan Haslam’s lively overview of the subject and commend him for drawing on so many of the documents which, although revealing as far as they go, remain tantalizingly limited. As Paul Pillar, a career government official with excellent scholarly qualifications, notes, “Near and Distant Neighbors deserves to be read as a standard work on Soviet intelligence.”
In Democracy Promotion, National Security and Strategy: Foreign Policy under the Reagan Administration, Robert Pee explores the United States’ attempts to promote democracy abroad during the Reagan administration. The title of Pee’s book captures a central challenge Washington faced with this issue not only during the 1980s but also throughout the Cold War after 1945. Security considerations frequently clashed with efforts to promote democracy, representative government, and human rights versus authoritarian regimes that were allied with the U.S. around the globe. After an overview of the emergence of democracy promotion and its relationship to U.S. Cold War policies under containment and a discussion of problems that disrupted cooperation between Washington and private groups as well as a decline in support for modernization as an effective solution, Pee focuses on debate within the Reagan administration on how to integrate the promotion of democracy with U.S. foreign policy goals, most notably the perception of increased challenges of communism aided by the Soviet Union spreading in the Southern hemisphere. In several chapters Pee explores the debate within the Reagan administration over how to respond to issues such as the effort by the Polish government in 1981 to ban the Solidarity labor movement and whether the effort to promote democracy should be aimed at reinforcing Washington’s national-security goal of challenging the Soviet Union and regimes identified as Communist allies of Moscow from Fidel Castro’s Cuba to the new Sandinista regime in Nicaragua and the Soviet- and Cuban-backed government in Angola.
The community of national security scholars benefits whenever Richard K. Betts publishes a new article or book, because his work is consistently well researched, gracefully written, thoughtful, and provocative. I find this work to be no exception and said so on the jacket cover when the book was published. The distinguished reviewers gathered here agree that Betts has produced another worthy volume, although some are disappointed at what they see as an overly shrill tone in some chapters. One of the most remarkable aspects of this book is that Betts emerges as an avowed dove—sort of—after a long history of sounding rather hawkish (although never extreme). Betts in fact refers to himself in the preface as a Cold War hawk, now converted into a post-Cold War dove—even if, he tells us, this “recent dovishness is of a crusty sort” (xi).
Thomas Christensen has written an important book in which he examines several key episodes during the Cold War in Asia, including the Korean War, the Taiwan Strait crises of 1954–55 and 1958, and the Vietnam War. In Worse than a Monolith, Christensen uses these Cold War flashpoints to test and refine existing theories of alliance politics and coercive diplomacy, arguing that a state’s use of coercive forms of diplomacy, including containment and deterrence, is hampered when one’s adversaries are divided. Christensen finds ample fodder for this argument by focusing Worse than a Monolith on looking at America’s efforts to contain the “revisionist” communist alliance during the Cold War in Asia. Disagreements between Moscow and Beijing often caused the two to try to outdo each other in supporting revolutions such as the one in Vietnam, and from the perspective of America’s policy makers, this made the communist alliance “worse than a monolith.” Christensen’s thesis is intriguing. I am interested to know whether during the Cold War, leaders on one side or the other expressed the view internally that they were bedeviled by their adversary’s inability to control its “troops.”
Not only is Francis Gavin one of those rare individuals today who actually remembers the Cold War, but he believes it is relevant to today’s concerns. In this bright and engaging article, he examines several myths concerning the Cold War and nuclear weapons and the alarm they have so routinely inspired.