Sunday, July 21, 2013

From the Shadows by Robert M. Gates

Any Cold War buff, from the academic to the hobbyist, should enjoy From the Shadows by Robert M. Gates. The subtitle, The Ultimate Insider's Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War, should be taken quite literally. Gates served under five presidents, both in the CIA and the NSC. Through that lens he shares his views on the last half of the Cold War with the USSR leading up to the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

As a Cold War hobbyist, what I found most illuminating were Gates' views on Mikhail Gorbachev. This dedicated communist tried to repair the USSR's economy through perestroika but instead kicked the legs out from under it. At the same time his policy of glasnost revealed to those under Soviet rule just how derelict the system was. Contrary to some popular beliefs, he wasn't a reformer bringing free markets and freedom to Soviet citizens. Instead, he fully intended to continue the onward march of communism but his naive repairs actually had the opposite effect - they destroyed the system he intended to maintain.

I received no compensation of any kind for this review. The book was a gift of a friend (thanks, Nick).

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