Sunday, March 16, 2014

myths of the cold war

Historian Mark Kramer does a public service by listing five "myths about the cold war" in the Washington Post. I have frequently been bothered by commentators, often too young to have been politically aware during the tensest periods of the cold war, who claim that we knew who the enemy was; there was a stable balance of terror; we had a consistent and agreed policy of containment; and so forth.

As Kramer makes clear with historical examples, there was more uncertainty and conflict than we like to remember. And while anti-Soviet policies always seemed to be good politics, there was considerable disagreement over how best to tame the Russian bear.

Just as we should avoid overuse of iconic analogies like "Munich" or "Sarajevo," we should also avoid false but comforting readings of history.

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