Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Fifty Year War: Conflict and Strategy in the Cold War

Wow, a non-news post!

I just recently finished reading The Fifty Year War: Conflict and Strategy in the Cold War by Norman Friedman. Norman Friedman is a strategist who worked during the Cold War at the Hudson Institute, partially as the deputy director of national security studies. He combines a lot of research, as well as first-hand experiences and knowledge in this book.

I wasn't alive for much of the Cold War (was born in 83, so I was 8 at the 'end' of the USSR in 1991), so this book was of additional interest to me given the influences of the Cold War even today, especially with our foreign policy.

The book starts by talking about the origins of the Cold War, and its various roots, starting with the Spanish Civil War, and Stalin's 1937 attempt to control it. It then moves through World War II, and the various decisions and moves made by the powers through the end of the war.

It moves on to discuss the opening moves of the Cold War, from Stalin's military buildup, to the Marshall Plan, to both Tito in Yugoslavia and Mao in China.

The increased tension, the buildup of the two nation's military forces, and the eventual downfall of the Soviet Union are also covered in extensive detail.

For starters, the book is a fantastic resource to anyone who wants to learn about the Cold War as a whole. Not only is there a lot of good information and insight in the book, there's also a very extensive bibliography in the back for further reading about almost any aspect or period of the war.

In addition, the book provides a lot of context for the decisions of the time, as well as gives a great feel for the misinterpretations each country had about one another, as well as how they were exploited. For instance, the "black" (above Top Secret classification) programs towards the end of the war, was used to sop up the Soviet's hard currency in two ways (in addition to the desire to develop some of these projects in secret, of course) - first, because the Americans knew the Soviets wouldn't be able to stop themselves from spending the resources to uncover what those projects were, and second, combined with deceptive leaks to journalists, the US forced the Soviets to spend a ton of money trying to replicate things that even we couldn't do, solely because the Soviet opinion at the time was that the West, particularly the US, could accomplish anything with technology that they wanted.

It also clearly goes into the political, economic, and military decisions that made the US successful during various phases of the war, as well as the decisions made by the USSR that led to their downfall. The book is also very critical of the McNamara era, and the setbacks the period caused on the US's strategy.

The book is EXTREMELY detailed in some places, and I suspect probably more than the average reader will be able to handle, but generally these are contained in only certain areas.

Naturally, if you're interested in the Cold War, this is must-read. Either as an overview, or just to get more information about the 'chess match' played by the two sides, it's a great source.

Of course, the purpose of this blog isn't books, but wargames tend to have a strong relation to an interest in military history. When talking about the Cold War, there's really only one game that comes to mind: Twilight Struggle.

In my opinion, and of course my limited experience, no other game does as good a job of providing a feel for the tension of the Cold War, as well as the consequences of many of the decisions made by each side throughout it. And what's interesting (to me, at least), is finally knowing the history behind some of the cards, and seeing their effect on both the table as well as on my opponent. As I've said, I wasn't alive for the Cold War, and honestly it was barely covered in school. I didn't know all that much about it... but now, I can appreciate both the results of the war, and the topic of the game.

Also, now I want to play Twilight Struggle more :). Maybe I need to get VASSAL running...

1 comment:

  1. I would like to share one documentary with all please watch This documentary is a vivid portrayal of post-Taliban Afghanistan.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.