This reconsideration of Ronald Reagan's activities during the end of the Cold War avoids simple tropes and hyperbole to deliver a calm, rational analysis of this pivotal period in world history. Using fresh interviews and newly declassified documents, author James Mann examines how Reagan's receptivity to Gorbachev "helped create the climate in which the Cold War could end", even as the president's openness to Russia angered his closest advisors and many in his party. Performer Alan Skarl's gravelly baritone adds gravitas to this thoughtful, well-researched analysis.
As he did so masterfully in Rise of the Vulcans, Mann sheds new light on the hidden aspects of American foreign policy. He reveals previously undisclosed secret messages between Reagan and Moscow; internal White House intrigues; and battles with leading figures such as Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, who repeatedly questioned Reagan's unfolding diplomacy with Mikhail Gorbachev. He details the background and fierce debate over Reagan's famous Berlin Wall speech and shows how it fit into Reagan's policies.
Ultimately, Mann dispels the facile stereotypes of Reagan in favor of a levelheaded, cogent understanding of a determined president and his strategy. This book finally answers the troubling questions about Reagan's actual role in the crumbling of Soviet power. Mann concludes that by recognizing the significance of Gorbachev, Reagan helped bring the Cold War to a close.
©2008 James Mann; (P)2009 Tantor
Non Fiction Reader
One becomes inured to the vagaries of Washington politics. Many, outside the Beltway, prefer not to have their noses rubbed in it. Sort of not wanting to see how sausages are made. The first half of this book is boring when it rubs one's nose in the minutia of political maneuvering and jockying for position and one-up-manship. Almost every sentence contains the words: "Mr. Gorbachev tear down this wall." In the first part you are left with the impression that the only thing that came out of the President's tenure was the Berlin apeach. It appears there were various (numersous?) agencies, departments persons, ad nauseum.that either did not want those words in Reagan's spreech...or did...or maybe some variation; and the author provides not only the official reasons, for or against, but intuited reasons what or what not politicans thought or thought they thought, and so on. It sort of reminds me of a Mozart farce. The author feels the necessity of repeating the five words over and over while comparing the final speach's wording with every conceivable, discarded variation. It portrays, in dreary detail, why Washington is disfunctional.
The second part is worth the listen. (Note the uniform 3 star rating. I rate the first part zero (for boredom) and the second part 4 stars or maybe 4 1/2 stars.) The second part at least gives the President's tenure some perspective. And provides a thumb-nail sketch of what the idea behind those words meant and what they led to. One almost forgets the first part but is on the look-out for repititions sneaking in. On the negative side, I don't think the fact that the Reagans imported a bed from Spain to sleep in, or that Reagan fell off to sleep both times when visiting the Pope add any insight to the demise of the Soviet political and economic system.
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