by Nicholas Thompson
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Thompson (Wired magazine) has crafted an impressive dual biography of two of the most prominent participants in the 50-year-long Cold War. The author is the grandson of Paul Nitze; he became aware of a great deal of primary material that Nitze had filed away in storage cabinets unknown to other historians. George Kennan, the Dove of the title, a longtime State Department official famous as the author of containment as an approach to dealing with the Soviets, was often opposed intellectually by Nitze, who favored a more aggressive approach. Thompson weaves an impressive narrative that alternatively discusses what each man was doing and thinking over the decades between 1945 and about 1990; the two maintained a personal friendship in spite of their different personalities and politics. The book provides a more nuanced interpretation of the sometimes volatile Nitze, which serves as an important counterpoint to the better-known Kennan. VERDICT Thompson writes exceedingly well, and his book not only provides new information on Nitze and his friendship with Kennan, but will introduce a new generation of readers to these two significant architects of American Cold War policy. Recommended for all. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/09.]-Ed Goedeken, Iowa State Univ. Lib., Ames (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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The cold war was a matter of personalities as well as policies. From the 1940s through the 1980s, Paul Nitze and George Kennan were central actors at opposite poles. Nitze was the hawk. In the darkest days of the nuclear arms race, he argued that the way to avoid an atomic war was to prepare to win it. Few policymakers matched either his knowledge of weaponry or his persuasive skills. Even fewer matched Nitze's ability to alienate superiors, but his talent could not be overlooked for long. George Kennan was the dove, consistently arguing that the U.S. must end its reliance on nuclear weapons, advocating forbearance in the face of provocation. He had an unusual ability to forecast events: the Sino-Soviet split, the way the cold war would eventually end. In these days of personalized polarization, the close friendship between these two men seems anomalous-but instructive. That Thompson is Nitze's grandson does not inhibit his nuanced account of two men whose common goal of serving America's interests transcended perspectives. Their mutual respect and close friendship enabled administrations to balance their contributions. That balancing in turn significantly shaped the cold war's outcome. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Thompson, Paul Nitze's grandson, examines the rivalry between Nitze and George F. Kennan and its place in the history of the Cold War. Lifelong friends, the two men often differed on policy, most starkly in the 1970s and 1980s. However, it is only at that point that the contrast between Nitze's militarized approach and Kennan's political one becomes worthy of Thompson's title, as Nitze opposes SALT, despite his role in arms negotiations, and Kennan joins a "no first use" campaign. Kennan brought Nitze into the Policy Planning Staff in 1949; the two had clashed over the language of the Truman Doctrine, but held similar views on German unification and the war in Korea. Both opposed the US role in Vietnam. Thompson, a journalist, had access to material never before used, but his work, while detailed and filled with fascinating anecdotes, provides little in-depth analysis. The omission of footnote numbers and the placement of sources by page and phrase at the end of the book further minimize the use the author made of these invaluable resources. The book is readable and useful, but the material would have benefited from a more scholarly treatment. Summing Up: Recommended. General and undergraduate collections. L. M. Lees Old Dominion University
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
The terms hawk and dove were used (or abused) to label U.S. policymakers who favored different approaches in dealing with the Soviet Union during the cold war. This outstanding dual biography illustrates how simplistic those labels were. Both Paul Nitze and George Kennan received Ivy League educations, both served in government positions during World War II, and both were intimately involved in policy decisions at the start of the cold war. Kennan, the supposed dove, promoted the policy of containment, which stressed the need to hold the line against Soviet expansion until communism collapsed due to its internal contradictions. Yet at critical moments he insisted on the U.S. strongly standing up to the Soviets, and he wasn't adverse to the prudent use of military power. Nitze, the hawk, consistently favored increasing our nuclear and conventional forces and favored a rollback of Soviet power in Europe. Yet he tried to limit our commitment in Vietnam, and he worked diligently on arms control under President Reagan. Excellent insights into these men and their roles in the era they helped shape.--Freeman, Jay Copyright 2009 Booklist