Books: Nobody Used the Big One

A major American historian revisits the global struggle between communism and the West

Admit it -- You miss theĀ cold war. It was a roughly symmetrical duel, a face-off between two nuclear powers. The battle against terrorism is more like a free-for-all in a gladiator movie--spear vs. net, triton vs. tiger. We land our troops with guns. They board our trains with backpacks.

In The Cold War: A New History (the Penguin Press; 333 pages), John Lewis Gaddis, the pre-eminent American scholar of the period, does indeed manage to make the old global standoff seem, for all its insanities, like a relatively coherent and well-managed struggle. In this brisk, useful primer on the period, he...

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