Ulster Logo
Link to facebook  Link to INCOREinfo on twitter  Link to INCORE rss feed    Linkedin link Linkedin link

The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest


A Journey through the Cold War: A Memoir of Containment and Coexistence
Raymond L. Garthoff

Washington, Brookings Institution Press, 2001
400 pp, HB: £36.95, ISBN: 0-815701020

One of the most interesting legacies of the Cold War in the United States is the mass of think tanks and new academic disciplines that developed as institutional support networks for an expanding corps of cold warriors. Intellectuals, historians, political scientists and proper scientists alike found niches in academia and at places like the RAND corporation. It was there in 1950 that Raymond Garthoff began his career, one that would also include stints at the Central Intelligence Agency and the Department of State.

An expert on Soviet military strategy, Garthoff moved into intelligence estimation at the CIA. While his stories of clever observations made during trips to the Soviet Union in the late 1950s are an interesting insight to the romanticized perception of intelligence work, it is Garthoff's ability to use his career, his varied experiences and not least his presence to add additional insight to elements of the East-West relationship that may in some cases be missing from memoirs crafted by political figures.

Working from his stated purpose of adding to what is known and understood (xiv) about the record, Garthoff adds a scholar's sense of balance and critique. In fact, it was as a scholar at the Brookings Institution, one of Washington's preeminent think tanks, that Garthoff crafted Détente and Confrontation, and The Great Transition, extensive, descriptively-titled volumes of Cold War history. In some senses, A Journey through the Cold War becomes a Garthoff reader; it allows one to understand exactly how the author was involved in the events of which he writes as a scholar. Here is the value of this work; the transitory career of cold warriors -- in and out of government, universities and think tanks -- means that a significant amount of the historical record thus far produced has been created by participants. Generally, this fact begs questions both of source selection and motive. This work reinforces a sense of balance and insight, an ability to probe and a careful diligence that have made Garthoff successful in transitioning himself from participant to contemporary historian.

The structure, roughly chronological, also allows a synthesis of important work Garthoff has published in journals over the years. While today few readers are apt to dig through yellowed copies of Missiles and Rockets, Garthoff's citation of his own past works gives them a new value here.

While A Journey through the Cold War is useful as companion reading in Cold War studies, it by no means serves as an overview text on the conflict. While it is robust in its portrayal of the Soviet side, it is not intended as an exploration of secondary elements of the Cold War, matters like third world conflict or domestic political developments. That said, it does provide valuable and well written insight as to the function of Washington's defense, diplomatic and intelligence establishments, as well as solid historiographical and textual data on an important and accomplished contemporary historian's work.

Jon Levy, Johns Hopkins University

Disclaimer: © INCORE 2010 Last Updated on Monday, 10-Aug-2015 12:20
contact usgoto the search page
go to the top of this page