Once in awhile a book comes along that has that special quality of illuminating a real world mystery. Robert Caro's biography of Johnson and Albert Speer's memoir are two such works. Peter Schweizer's Victory is another.
For years I wondered, as I read news accounts and histories, why no one had a logical explanation for why oil prices had dropped so dramatically in 1985, when just a couple years earlier pundits were saying the sky was the limit for oil. And why, shortly thereafter, did the Eastern Bloc begin to crumble, soon to be followed by the Soviet Union itself? Then why did the Bush Administration see fit to conduct a war to liberate Kuwait and protect Saudi Arabia? And were all these momentous events related? The answer is yes. Victory describes clearly how they all were indeed closely related.
King Fahd of Saudi Arabia was worried that he would be overthrown as the Shah of Iran had been, either by Muslim extremists, or by Soviet backed revolutionaries. At the same time, the Reagan Administration was interested in the economic strangulation of the Soviet Union. The source of most of the USSR's hard currency was the sale of its oil on international markets. So a deal was struck.. The US would guarantee the security of the Saudi monarchy with AWACS jets and Stinger missiles and, ultimately, US armed forces. In return, Saudi Arabia would flood the market with oil, driving the price for a barrel of crude from $35 down to $10.
With its oil income cut by 70%, Moscow could no longer buy the technology it needed to keep pace in the arms race, let alone dole out largesse to Poland or East Germany. And when Iraq invaded Saudi Arabia's tiny neighbor Kuwait, it was time for the US to uphold its part of the bargain.
Victory aptly describes this and other maneuverings to win the Cold War, such as the support of the mujahedin in Afghanistan and of the Solidarity movement in Poland. It is based largely on interviews with such key players as Caspar Weinberger, Robert MacFarlane, George Schultz, Richard Pipes, Herb Meyer, and Richard Allen, so that it provides an almost palpable sense of being in the White House as the strategy was crafted. It effectively gives the lie to those facile commentators in the media who claim the Soviet Union fell of its own weight. It didn't. It was pushed.