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The Cold War and Soviet Insecurity: The Stalin Years by Vojtech Mastny Review by: Albert Resis

The American Historical Review, Vol. 102, No. 5 (Dec., 1997), pp. 1536-1537 Published by: Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Historical Association Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2171182 . Accessed: 30/12/2013 10:37
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foreign affairs. These blunders, Mastny contends, stemmed from Stalin's notion that Soviet security depended on control of Eastern Europe, above all Poland. That notion generated his incoherent policy toward postwar Germany, his belated rejection of the Marshall Plan, the Prague coup, his needless break with Tito, and his monumental blunder of giving Pyongyang the green light to invade South Korea. Mastny presents the most informative and richly documented account we have of Stalin's dealings with The Cold Warand Soviet Insecurity: Mao Zedong, Kim I1 Sung, Josip Broz (Tito), and VOJTECH MASTNY. The Stalin Years.New York: Oxford University Press. lesser Communist leaders, based on communications 1996. Pp. xi, 285. $30.00. drawn from previously inaccessible archives. He has tapped the pertinent collections in Moscow, Prague, The end of the Cold War does not spell the end of and East Berlin and has mined the revealing, archiveCold War history. It is now possible not only to based studies produced by the new generation of conceive of the conflict as history but also to study it as Russian scholars. Most significant, he even gained history, Vojtech Mastny points out. Consequently, the limited access to Russia's new archival sanctum sancthrust of this book differs markedly from that of torum, the Archive of the President of the Russian Mastny's Russia's Road to the Cold War:Diplomacy, Federation, which contains the Stalin files and other Warfare,and the Politics of Communism, 1941-1945 material regarded by Moscow as still too sensitive for (1979). Raising questions that were almost unthink- general release. The greatest surprise to come out of able at the height of the Cold War, the present work the Russian archives so far, Mastny avers, is that there aims to consider not only the Western perception of is no surprise. The previously top-secret papers corthe Soviet threat but also the "putative" Western roborate much of what Moscow said publicly; the threat to the Soviet Union and their intricate interplay. Kremlin, in fact, did not keep two sets of books on Stalinist despotism proved more horrendous than even foreign affairs. The archives simply allow one to see the most perfervid Cold Warriors imagined. How, how Stalin piled blunder on blunder in foreign affairs then, does one explain the fact that Soviet aggression while unleashing Communist security organs to and Communist subversion did not materialize on a butcher scapegoats both at home and in the People's scale remotely approaching Western worst-case proDemocracies. jections? The Western perception of a Soviet threat Although Mastny aimed to explore Soviet threat but was at the essence of the Cold War, Mastny holds, he failed even to mention the overriding perception, then asks: "Could it be that the threat was an empty threat-a real threat, not a flight of paramilitary one and its costly containment an aberration?"Were noia-that the paranoiac Stalin had to face. Until well Western assessments of the Soviet threat tragically into the Khrushchevperiod, the United States enjoyed flawed, or did containment thwart a real threat? As in his 1979 book, Mastny locates the source of overwhelming strategic superiority. It had the capabilthat threat in Joseph Stalin's insatiable pursuit of ity of reproducingnew Hamburgsand Dresdens, not to security at the expense of everybody else's security. mention new Hiroshimas and Nagasakis, while the That craving was the root cause of growing East-West USSR lacked the capability of inflicting any material tension, notwithstandingboth Stalin's and his Western damage on the U.S. mainland. Painfully aware of his partners' desire for manageable relations. The Cold vulnerability, Stalin ordered a crash program in interWar, although both unintended and unexpected, was continental ballistic missile (ICBM) development. Apart from a gibe at the doctrine of "Mutual nonetheless predetermined, because the root of StalAssured Destruction" (MAD) as peacekeeper, Mastny in's insecurity was more internal than external. In order to justify and bolster his despotism, he needed has but one criticism of U.S. Cold War policy. The tension abroad. In short, so long as Stalin ruled there government failed to shorten the agony of the Cold was little or nothing that the West could have done to War when Washington passed up the opportunity to impose a settlement on Stalin in his last weeks when avert or abbreviate the Cold War. his regime was supposedly tottering. This judgment that want? He realized What, then, did Stalin really Europe, beyond his realm as constituted by February ignores a fundamental lesson of the Cold War: the 1948, was beyond his grasp. Nowhere outside what chimera of attempting to translate strategic superiority Moscow regarded as its security zone did he foresee into absolute political advantage. Moreover, all prothe establishment of communism. What Stalin really posals to parley with Stalin, whether made by Winston wanted was a Western Europe that was undivided, but Churchill, Walter Lippmann, Henry Wallace, or even so fragmented and weak that none of its states would George Kennan, were given short shrift by Washington. The Truman administration acted as if any sugbe capable of resisting his will. This largely inferential analysis of Stalin's intentions gestion advanced to negotiate with Stalin would slow is followed by a peerless account of his blunders in the U.S. drive to achieve the level of strategic superi-

ideology itself contains the answer, namely, its telos of a world communized was the first cause and Soviet imperial expansionism the efficient cause of Soviet conduct. Once the Soviet telos was undercut by setbacks in geopolitics (in Afghanistan, for example) and then challenged internally by glasnost' the Soviet enterprise collapsed. Ideas, indeed, have consequences. CARL A. LINDEN George WashingtonUniversity

AMERICAN HISTORICAL REVIEW

DECEMBER 1997

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ority supposedly required to compel the Kremlin to original accounts of the main historical writers of the surrender unconditionally. early period, including the great Tabari. Mastny concludes that the United States correctly The second canopy is "history and adab." Adab, as perceived and successfully thwarted what proved to be Khalidi says, is often translated as belles-lettresbut a genuine threat from the USSR. Indeed, he recom- might better be understood as paideia, a combined mends that the West pursue the same policy to deal esthetic, moral, and educational ideal. Khalidi gives a with similar threats in the future. fine account of the workings of this and similar values A new printing should correct the misdating of the within Arabic historical writing and thought. Since two major events in Nazi-Soviet relations. The Non- what Khalidi calls the "hadith"mode has received far Aggression Pact bears the date August 23, 1939, not more attention, this chapter is needed and welcome. August 25 (p. 15); Adolf Hitler launched Barbarossa The third canopy, "history and hikma" (wisdom, philosophy), includes epistemological writings by theoloon June 22, not in July 1941 (p. 16). gians who had at most only a subsidiary interest in ALBERT RESIS Northem Illinois University history strictly speaking. On so broad a canvas, the specifics of historical thought can become vague, but at the same time the reader gains insights into philosophically oriented historicalwriters such as Mas'udi, MiskMIDDLE EAST awayh, and Biruni. Finally, the fourth canopy, "history TARIF KHALIDI. Arabic Historical Thoughtin the Clasand siyasa" (broadly speaking, politics), incorporates sical Period. (Cambridge Studies in Islamic Civiliza- the political element into a fascinating discussion tion.) New York: Cambridge University Press. 1994. covering a wide range of texts and contexts and Pp. xiii, 250. $54.95. culminating, quite naturally, in Ibn Khaldun. Medieval Arabic historicalwriting is, in and of itself, The study of historiography has been one of the an enormous topic, and by taking "historicalthought" flourishing fields within Islamic history in recent years, as its object this book makes it even more so. At times especially though not only for the early period of it verges on becoming a general intellectual and culIslam. With the major exception of Franz Rosenthal's tural history, for which it is too short; more could have A History of Muslim Historiography(1968), this work been said about the historical writings and writers. has mainly been monographic in scope. At first glance, Nonetheless, Khalidi has produced a fine book, based Tarif Khalidi'sbook seems to constitute a surveyof the on deep learning and extensive research and written in field, which would be highly welcome. But Khalidi has an accurate and clear English style. It integrates something else in mind. His object of'study is historical discussions of different modes of thought and literary thought in classical Islam (mostly ca. 600-1100 but genres-until now mostly considered separately-into including later developments). This is a difficult object a single, balanced presentation that will now become to identify. Much as in medieval Europe, history held required reading for all students of medieval Islamic a tenuous place among the sciences in the Islamic civilization. world, even though it was popular among readers and MICHAEL BONNER attracted many sharp minds. Historical thought can of Michigan University only be located, if at all, through forays beyond the genre of historical writing itself. Khalidi has accord- AxAF LUTFI AL-SAYYID MARSOT. Women and Men in ingly organized his study into four modes of thinking Late Eighteenth-Century Egypt. (Modern Middle East or "epistemic canopies" under which history grew Series, number 18.) Austin: University of Texas Press. through interaction with other sciences and literary 1995. Pp. ix, 189. genres. The first of these is "history and hadith." Hadith Afaf Lutfi al-SayyidMarsot has for many years been a refers to brief reports, with normative and didactic leading force in the historiography of early modern force, of sayings or deeds ascribed to the Prophet and modern Egypt. Her latest publication is one of a Muhammad or to those around him. Khalidi traces number of recent studies on Ottoman Egyptianpolitics various styles of historical writing emerging from old and society, on the one hand, and Ottoman women, on Arab concerns (such as genealogies) and from Quranic the other. This book is not so much a monograph as a and other religious sciences. He presents a develop- summation of the scholarly consensus on late eighmental scheme in which authors are identified with teenth and early nineteenth-century Egyptian society discrete tendencies or points of view. This is an area and women's place in it, with a critique drawnfrom the where controversies have raged with particularfury, as author's research in Arabic and European archivaland scholars such as Albrecht Noth, Stefan Leder, and narrative sources. The book is organized according to Robert Brunschvig have questioned the validity of different sectors of Egyptian society; indeed, the dissuch schemes. Khalidi does not fully engage these cussion of particular status groups sometimes threatadversaries,disposing of Noth and Leder in a footnote ens to obscure the focus on women. (p. 16) and omitting Brunschvig's discussion of Ibn Like Kenneth Cuno in The Pasha's Peasants (1992), 'Abd al-Hakam (p. 67). But he does provide vivid and Marsot treats the period under scrutiny as one of

AMERICAN HISTORICAL REVIEW

DECEMBER 1997

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