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Product details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: OUP USA; Updated Edition edition (23 Jun. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019517447X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195174472
  • Product Dimensions: 20.1 x 2.8 x 13.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 437,683 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"Excellently organized, a good focused survey of American foreign policy strategies during the cold war."--Tanya Charwick, Ohio State University"A welcome contribution to the literature of the subject and should become a point of departure for scholars of modern American foreign policy."--Review of Politics"Deserves the attention of every student of foreign affairs."--Foreign Service Journal"A superb and timely overview of the evolution of U.S. national security policy since the close of World War II."--Orbis"A work of truly distinguished scholarship that makes an invaluable contribution of American policy towards the Soviet Union since World War II."--Alexander L. George, Stanford University --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

John Lewis Gaddis is at Yale University.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Jolley HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 29 Nov. 2002
Format: Paperback
I do not believe there is a finer overview of post-World War II American foreign policy than this important book. As a work of history as opposed to political science, it is well-suited for any reader who cares about America's relationship with the world. Gaddis explains containment as it was originally envisioned by George Kennan and then goes on to show the fluctuations between symmetrical and asymmetrical policies up through the Carter administration. He first describes each policy stance--its antecedents, influences, and applications--then describes the applicability of that policy in reality. He shows how Kennan's conception of containment was quickly lost in the enactment of NSC 68 by the Truman administration and the U.S. involvement in Korea. He describes Eisenhower's "New Look" as a shift back to a policy wherein America drew distinctions between conflicts it would and would not react to, relying heavily on the nuclear option in an all-or-nothing containment strategy. Then he dissects the "flexible response" policy of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, ascribing much importance to their Keynesian economic outlooks in convincing them that America could response to any and all threats while still growing the domestic economy. After the debacle of Vietnam, Gaddis does a wonderful job of describing the détente policies of Nixon and Kissinger.
The most important conclusion he draws is that economic realities and domestic politics seemingly play an integral part in America's oscillating policies over time. To be more exact, the perception of means largely steers policy. Eisenhower adopted an asymmetrical policy, relying on the nuclear threat while decreasing the nation's conventional forces, because he feared the effects of overspending.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By rob crawford TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 10 May 2012
Format: Paperback
This is a good, if extremely pedestrian academic study of the notion of containment. It is interesting in that it show how, from its conception by George Kennan, it get bent out of shape as it is put into practice by warring bureaucrats. Kennen, the famous "X" in the Foreign Affairs article that introduced the idea, had a very nuanced conception of how to help the USSR evolve: keep it from expanding into strategically important areas so that it could have the time to evolve internally, from its politics to its military. Once the idea was out, Paul Nitze - that most influential, independently wealthy bureaucrat - wrote a memo from within the Truman Administration, advocating a purely militarized policy of opposing the USSR wherever it sought to go. This led first to Dulles' "pactomainia", according to which the USA signed security treaties with a plethora of "allies", resulting in a dangerously hair-trigger over-commitment of obligations in the early nuclear age.

Then it resulted in the Vietnam War, which the USA tried to contain by conventional means, a horrible war that rightfully tarnished America's reputation. What was clear was that a militarized containment policy allowed the communist powers to choose the time and place of its forays, which the USA attempted to stop indiscriminately, regardless of local realities and political considerations. From the nuanced and multi-facetted position that Kennen outlined, the USA became a stupid policeman. On the other hand, the USA was vulnerable to the demands of anyone who portrayed their policies as "anti-communist" and hence, easy to manipulate.

Now, I think these are the basic learnings from this book, though others may disagree and see the policy as effective. It depends on your assumptions, e.g.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 7 July 2001
Format: Paperback
The attitudes and policies that the United States adopted toward the Soviet Union from the Second World War to the early 1980s was, John Lewis Gaddis argues in this comprehensive survey, by no means consistent. The book charts the course of the policies of each of the different US administrations throughout the period, scrutinising their assumptions and principles for dealing with the Soviet Union, before going on to examine how each attempted to translate these into practice. He begins his account by examining the strategies advocated by George F. Kennan - a senior figure within the US State Department in 1945 - who believed that US security would best be preserved not through a programme of massive rearmament, but ensuring that Europe recovered from the war, making it less susceptible to communism and capable of shouldering its own defence burden. From the 1950 onwards, though, each American administration disregarded Kennan's advice, and attempted to meet the Soviets from a position of armed strength. Gaddis argues, though, that even then their were distinct differences in approach; in particular he distinguishes between symmetrical and asymmetrical approaches to containment. A symmetrical approach envisioned a proportionate response to any Soviet approach; an asymmetrical strategy envisioned 'massive retaliation'. The book's main strength is that, in setting up this analytical framework, Gaddis is able to systematically examine a large and extremely complex chunk of history. Written by the US's foremost cold war historian, the book superbly balances a detailed narrative with a judicious assessment of the various administrations' policies. Although this survey is now almost twenty years old, it remains the most comprehensive account of American national security policy during the cold war.
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Amazon.com: 15 reviews
39 of 39 people found the following review helpful
Analysis and Critique of Evolving US Strategies in the Cold War 23 Mar. 2008
By Leonard J. Wilson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Strategies of Containment, by John Lewis Gaddis, is a description of the evolving strategy of containment that was the basis of US policy toward the Soviet Union from 1946 through 1989. Gaddis traces the concept of containment from its inception by George F. Kennan through the modifications applied by five administrations and assesses the strengths, weaknesses, and effectiveness of each version. This book is more than another chronology of the cold war; it provides deep insights into strategic thinking and is essential reading for any serious student of the cold war. Here's a brief summary:

Kennan's Original Doctrine of Containment

* Identify and defend vital interests based on the centers of industrial strength - Britain, Western Europe, Japan -don't try to defend the entire world.
* Use all instruments of power: economic, diplomatic, political, and cultural power as well as military power. Rebuilding the economic vitality of the above areas is a high priority.
* Seek to divide the communist world. Our primary adversary is the Soviet Union. Other communist countries, if not actively supporting Soviet policy, may be led to serve as quasi-allies by depriving the Soviets of their support.
* General war with the Soviets is unlikely, so we can afford to take risks. We can limit our defense spending and not try to defend the world. A point defense of our vital interests is probably adequate.
* Define threats in light of US vital interests, not in terms of Soviet capabilities

Truman and NSC-68

* The policies articulated in NSC-68 moved toward a perimeter defense covering the entire world rather than a point defense of vital interests.
* Primary emphasis was switched to military power and to the entire spectrum of war
* US interests were redefined in response to perceived threats (anything that is threatened must be an interest).
* US strategy became based on a symmetric response to threats - responding in the same time, place, and with the same means as the adversary (e.g., the Korean War).

Eisenhower, Dulles, and the New Look

* Eisenhower's guiding philosophy was that defense is not just defeating the enemy - it is the preservation of our economic and political systems.
* Spending too much on defense could destroy these systems by leading to either inflation or the imposition of autocratic controls. He reduced the defense budget by 33% from Truman's last year and held it at about that level for eight years.
* Alliances relied on allies for ground forces with the US providing Air and Naval support.
* The nuclear threat became the cornerstone of deterrence across the spectrum of conflict - with goal of avoiding war - in belief that any war was all too likely to escalate to nuclear.
* Asymmetric response to threats - response need not be in same place or using same methods as Soviet threat
* Anti-colonial Conundrum: The communists are fomenting wars of national liberation while the US is trying to rebuild Europe (the colonial powers). If the US backs decolonization, it undermines the European allies it is trying to rebuild. If the US backs the colonial powers, it loses any chance of support from the colonies. The Soviets really put us in a no-win position on this issue.

Kennedy, Johnson, and Flexible Response

* Kennedy and Johnson return to NSC-68 reasoning by lowering threat of nuclear response and replaced it with flexible response, requiring a direct, symmetric response to threats - a respond in same time and place using the same means.
* These administrations applied a circular logic: Threats create interests which demand responses which require capabilities even where no interest previously had been identified. This was articulated in the "bear any burden, pay any price" rhetoric.
* This strategy necessitated greater reliance on military response versus economic, political, etc which increased demands on the defense budget.
* Kennedy abandoned Eisenhower's commitment to a balanced budget and relied on Keynesian fiscal policy to stimulate the economy. Spending was predicated on the potential of the economy rather than its actual performance. Lack of budgetary constraints led to inability to prioritize, to distinguish the essential from the peripheral, the feasible from the infeasible which encouraged more "bear any burden, pay and price' reasoning because it wasn't real money.
* Flexible response led to graduated escalation in Viet Nam which became "never enough to defeat the enemy, just enough to prolong the war". Stakes were repeatedly raised to prevent the humiliation of a defeat but this only made the eventual defeat more humiliating.
* Calibrated escalation yielded the initiative to the enemy - allowed him to define the terms of conflict. Deterrence can be made effective only if the adversary can be made to doubt that he can retain control of the situation. Taking the nuclear option away encouraged adversaries to call our bluff.

Nixon, Kissinger and Détente

* Nixon and Kissinger moved the US government from a bi-polar to a multi-polar world view by positing the existence of five significant power centers: US, USSR, Western Europe, China, and Japan. They recognized that these five power centers were far from equal. Only the US and USSR were superpowers able to exert substantial influence via military, economic, political, or diplomatic means. This strategy was a return to the balance of power envisioned by Kennan.
* In the military arena, they focused on sufficiency rather than superiority over the Soviet Union and sought to persuade Brezhnev that a similar policy would be in his country's best interest as well. Sufficiency won the logical argument over superiority because the latter invariably provoked the other side into matching every military advance, producing and endless and unwinnable arms race.
* Conceptually, Kissinger and Nixon changed the country's strategic definition of US interests and threats to those interests. For most of the interval between Kennan and Nixon-Kissinger, the US strategic view had started with the USSR, its capabilities and intentions, then identified the impact these capabilities could have. These impacts became viewed as threats and US interests were defined as anything thus threatened. Nixon and Kissinger reversed the logical flow, much as Kennan did, starting with the identification of US interests, independent of any adversary. They then identified as an adversary an entity with capability and intent to harm these interests.
* Again returning to Kennan's approach, Nixon-Kissinger sought to use negotiations to influence Soviet behavior. They took a long-term approach to negotiations, discarding the tendency of previous administrations from Roosevelt on to use negotiations and agreements with the Soviets for domestic political purposes. They discarded the approach of seeking agreements on specific areas where they could be reached and adopted a strategy of linkage - maintaining that Soviet unwillingness to negotiate in good faith on military and strategic issues of importance to the US would result in US refusal to accommodate Soviet desires for economic and trade relations and recognition of the post war division of Europe.
* The next step in the Nixon-Kissinger strategy was to seek an accommodation with China to reduce US-Chinese tensions and, thereby, free China to take a more assertive stance in its own dealings with the USSR. This was a return to Kennan's goal of dividing communism and redefined our prime enemy as the Soviet Union

Reagan

Reagan continued the return to Kennan's original concept of containment:
* Adopt an asymmetric strategy - don't let the enemy determine the time, place, and terms of conflict
* Apply economic, political, diplomatic, and moral power more than military power. A prime example was his Berlin speech: "Mr. Gorbachev! Tear down this wall!" He put the Soviets in the same kind of no-win position that they had inflicted on Eisenhower over colonialism in the 1950s by setting the Eastern Europeans at odds with the Kremlin.
* He recognized that Soviet system was bankrupt financially, intellectually, morally and turned up the pressure until it collapsed.
* Reagan was also lucky. Kennan had hoped to transform the Soviet Union with the help of a new generation of Russian leaders. Gorbachev turned out to be the leader Kennan had hoped for. He and Reagan together ended the cold war and transformed the Soviet Union from a totalitarian system to one that might have evolved into a more liberal one had the 1991 coup d'état not destroyed it first.
30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
An authoritative overview of U.S. foreign policy 17 April 2002
By Daniel Jolley - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I do not believe there is a finer overview of post-World War II American foreign policy than this important book. As a work of history as opposed to political science, it is well-suited for any reader who cares about America's relationship with the world. Gaddis explains containment as it was originally envisioned by George Kennan and then goes on to show the fluctuations between symmetrical and asymmetrical policies up through the Carter administration. He first describes each policy stance--its antecedents, influences, and applications--then describes the applicability of that policy in reality. He shows how Kennan's conception of containment was quickly lost in the enactment of NSC 68 by the Truman administration and the U.S. involvement in Korea. He describes Eisenhower's "New Look" as a shift back to a policy wherein America drew distinctions between conflicts it would and would not react to, relying heavily on the nuclear option in an all-or-nothing containment strategy. Then he dissects the "flexible response" policy of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, ascribing much importance to their Keynesian economic outlooks in convincing them that America could response to any and all threats while still growing the domestic economy. After the debacle of Vietnam, Gaddis does a wonderful job of describing the détente policies of Nixon and Kissinger.
The most important conclusion he draws is that economic realities and domestic politics seemingly play an integral part in America's oscillating policies over time. To be more exact, the perception of means largely steers policy. Eisenhower adopted an asymmetrical policy, relying on the nuclear threat while decreasing the nation's conventional forces, because he feared the effects of overspending. Kennedy wanted to distance himself from the previous adminstration, and his liberal economic outlook convinced him that the American economy could be grown and controlled in such a way as to provide the funds for increasing both military and domestic spending, which would allow him to meet any threat any where at any time. This symmetrical policy, continued by Johnson, led America into a war in the wrong place at the wrong time against the wrong enemy. Nixon, naturally, wanted to distance himself from Johnson, and he also faced great constraints in public perception and Congressional distaste for increased military spending--under such constraints, he and Kissinger decided on a policy of détente with the Soviet Union, a policy that was effective to some degree but was ineffective in many ways (especially lesser regional conflicts). Carter's foreign policy was a blundering tightwalk between symmetry and asymmetry and was basically no policy at all. Gaddis is fairly objective in his assessment of the oscillating course of foreign policy, pointing out the successes as well as the failures of each strategy. He does not discuss every single incident because it would be impossible to cover everything in detail, so some issues I was interested in, such as Greek policy in 1948, the Bay of Pigs invasion, Khrushchev's shoe-thumping speeach at the U.N., the Iranian hostage crisis, to name a few, were barely mentioned, but his overall synthesis and communication of ideas is illuminating. I learned a great deal from reading this book. I only wish the book had been written more recently than 1982, so it could have concluded with a study of how Ronald Reagan actually won the Cold War.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
A Stunning Foreign Policy Book 28 April 2000
By John Ryan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This great book by John Lewis Gaddis is a rare achievement in the field. It is a necessarily dense assessment of American post-war foreign policy but, at the same time, immensely readable and enjoyable. The focus of the book, as implied by its title, is a deep exploration of the containment strategy as originally authored by George Kennan during his stint in Russia for the State Department. Gaddis explains the origins of containment quite well, but the real genius of the book is the way he takes us on a logical examination of the strategy's evolution into the heart of the Cold War. A nice surprise is learning how American leaders misunderstood the real intentions of George Kennan himself, resulting in military investments of which Kennan did not approve. A particularly fascinating section of the book is Gaddis's descriptions of the Nixon-Kissinger strategy of opening the doors to China as a means of gaining leverage against the Soviets. In these areas Gaddis walks a high-wire balance of strict academia and joyous intrigue. Gaddis doesn't approach this material from any particular political viewpoint, but rather with his own brand of sharp and steely reason. This book truly is a masterpiece and a must-read for anybody serious about American foreign policy. It is the stuff of genius, the core of which is Gaddis's crafty work of combining political science with poetry.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Best work on post WWII foreign policy 16 Dec. 2002
By M. A Newman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Anyone interested in learning how US foreign policy is created should start with this important and well-written book. Gaddis examines the post war search for ways in which the various administrations attempted to come up with a strategy to deal with the Soviet Union. Of course this was the primary center piece of foreign policy and it was the prism by which all other actions, all around the world, were viewed.
What is interesting to me is that each administration sought to embrace some new measure once it took office. What Gaddis makes plain is that despite the rhetoric, what they ended up doing, without exception is to rely on the basic rules of containment established under Truman. For all the talk about "New Looks" and "Flexible Responses," "Rolling Back Communism" and "Detente" new presidential adminstrations were left to fall back on the methods and processes that were developed under Truman and refined somewhat under Eisenhower.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A welcome scrutiny of history with the advantage of post-Cold War hindsight 7 Nov. 2005
By Midwest Book Review - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Now in a revised edition, Strategies Of Containment: A Critical Appraisal Of American National Security Policy During The Cold War is a revised and expanded edition of Bancroft Prize winner and Cold War expert John Lewis Gaddis' classic on understanding the history of containment as a policy, its role in bringing the Cold War to an end, and its possible value or pitfalls in the future. Originally published during the Regan presidency when the Soviet Union was still a superpower, Strategies Of Containment includes a greatly expanded chapter on Reagan, Gorbachev, and the completion of containment, as well as a new epilogue. A welcome scrutiny of history with the advantage of post-Cold War hindsight.
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