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BOOK REVIEW You Cant Win for LosingAt Least in the Third World
Odd Arne Westad. The Global Cold War: Third World Intervention and the Making of Our Times. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005. Notes, illustrations, maps, index. xiv + 484 pp. $35.00.

For about three decades after World War II, Third World leaders of all stripes and colors had enormous weight in world affairs. One reason was the force of anticolonial resistance movements and the emergence of authentic and popular revolutions that genuinely sought a third path to develop and organize their societies. Another was the bipolar structure of the Cold War, which fueled big-power competition and rivalries for the allegiance of former colonies and provided the two alternative models against which postcolonial leaders dened themselves. Furthermore, in the heart of imperial power, intellectuals such as Michel Foucault had begun articulating a plague on both modern houses doctrine shortly after World War II came to an end, when concerns about the end of History gripped a generation of young French intellectuals. The defeat of fascism, the impending collapse of European empires, and the substitution of American for British global leadership appeared to signal the end of the pre-history of the modern: but then the modern took two forms, liberal America and the socialist Soviet Union, each providing a stark alternative to the other, and thus an occasion for philosophers such as Jean-Paul Sartre, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and Raymond Aron to mount a profound inquiry into the meaning of the superpower rivalry that came to dominate the postwar world.1 Foucault soon provided a radical alternative, a highly sophisticated body of thought that was nonetheless consonant with the global emergence of the Third World (and a new Left): the United States and the USSR were two sides of the same modern coin; for each, their pretensions to new forms of freedom were less important than their joint acceptance of the modern project to discipline, mold, and punish their citizensand those in other countries. By 1975 the Indochina War, so important as a catalyst for Third World aspirations, had come to a victorious end for Hanoi, OPEC had breached the
1. Didier Eribon, Michel Foucault, trans. Betsy Wing (Cambridge, MA, 1991), 1920. I would like to thank Marilyn Young for her helpful comments on this review. Diplomatic History, Vol. 32, No. 2 (April 2008). 2008 The Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR). Published by Blackwell Publishing, Inc., 350 Main Street, Malden, MA, 02148, USA and 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK.


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historic Western dominance of the oil regime, and anticolonial resistance had vanquished its last formidable enemythe centuries-old Portuguese empire. The previous decade had diminished both Washington and Moscow as their blocs splintered, with De Gaulle developing a nuclear force independent of NATO, the Vietnamese forcing a humiliating defeat on the United States, and China towering over the Soviet Union as a model for world revolution. Leaders of former colonial countries and dependencies such as Mao Zedong, Ho Chi Minh, Kim Il Sung, Fidel Castro, Muammar Qaddaf, Ben Bela, Sekou Tour, and many others exercised a world-ranging inuence. The Non-Aligned Movement gathered these nations and leaders together as the embodiment of Third World aspirations. In a few short years almost all of this momentum was exhausted, like a car running on empty. After 1978, Chinas export-led development took its cues not from Maoism or the Soviet model, but from South Korea and Taiwan. World market forces dropped oil prices back to pre-OPEC levels, and the major multinationals and producers sustained a cheap energy regime all the way into the new century. The rst model of non-Western development, the Soviet Union, astounded everyone by simply disappearing and declaring itself a mistake (70 years on the road to nowhere), bringing an abrupt end to competition with Washington in the Third World. The United States emerged as the singular superpower and congratulated itself on a global victory. Meetings of the Non-Aligned Movement moved to the back pages, Mao was remembered for molesting little girls, Kim Jong Il became a poster boy for everything wrong with actually (or barely) existing socialism, and the end of history nicely encapsulated not just the collapse of communism but the erasure of any Third World alternatives or authenticity beyond the neo-liberal path of capitalist development. This astonishing transformation is now reected in a major ideological victory and a gnawing absence: the second Bush administrations success in gathering Third World resistance under the all-purpose epithet of terrorism, and the antediluvian ideas and frightful methods used by authentic terrorists like Osama Bin Laden, a nihilist masquerading as a liberator amid the absence of non-Western leaders of comparable weight, or indeed any good news at all from entire continents like Africa (once the focus of a host of efforts at postcolonial development). But all we have to say is Nelson Mandela to make this reversal of verdicts evaporate, and to recall that anticolonial resistance was a central shaper of the world we live inand almost always, Washington was on the wrong side. To think about this reversal, readers could do worse than buy Odd Arne Westads ne book, which was prompted in the rst instance by the time he spent in Africa and Asia just as this reversal beganthe late 1970s and early 1980s. Furthermore, he sympathized profoundly with those who attempted to achieve a more just and equitable society and struggled against foreign intervention. If Third World leaders often shaped their agenda to attract the atten-

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tions of the Cold War superpowers, they also endeavored to be different, to fashion an authentic third way that varied greatly from place to place. Westad thinks empire is a misleading term: instead of empires, what the United States and the USSR sought was control and improvement; in other words they wanted country X on their side, leaning to one side meant following their developmental model, and for several decades both sides had approaches that seemed to work. Industrialization on the Soviet model made North Korea perhaps the fastest growing postcolonial country in the world in the 1950s and 1960s, just as South Korean export-led development gave it growth rates unmatched elsewhere in the 1970s and 1980s. Furthermore, Wilsonianism and Leninism were genuinely held convictions in the United States and USSR about the cruelty and historical obsolescence of colonialism, Westad writes, which only added force to this competition. Westad devotes several chapters to examining the similarities and differences in American and Soviet attitudes toward non-European peoples, reminding us that both had a commitment to modernization (if along different paths). When he analyzes the destruction of modernization regimes in Afghanistan and Iran (and we can now add Iraq), we become aware of our losses; Islamic fundamentalists are something new in our time, but they want to leave the modern world, not join it or transform it. Westad also hopes to displace the Cold War conict in Europe and focus instead on superpower strategies in the Third World, unlike some historians who see the latter as an afterthought or mere coda to the bipolar struggle. (That Westad is Norwegian rather than American is one of the best things about this book, setting him free of the parochial moral and ideological baggage still inhabiting studies of the Cold War in the United States.) According to Westad, historians and political scientists focused on Soviet and American interventions, while anthropologists and sociologists studied Third World revolutions and their consequences. By integrating these two large literatures, mostly unconnected to each other, his book contributes to a small but rewarding interdisciplinary approach to the study of international history. In this sense The Global Cold War recalls Matthew Connellys inuential study of the Algerian anticolonial struggle and how it shaped the world we live in, Mark Bradleys cultural history of American involvement with Vietnam, and a number of other recent studies. The Global Cold War is the opposite of a parochial account. I cannot think of another study that ranges so far, so effectivelyfrom Indonesia to South Africa, from Afghanistan to Mexico. Exemplary passages include Westads discussions of the Sharpeville massacres relationship to the civil rights movement in the American South, his cogent judgment that it was really the Mexican revolution of 19101911 that set the pattern for U.S. intervention in Latin America, and his accurate observation that the Iranian revolution of 1979 created a watershed for both Moscow and Washington in their relations with the Third World; suddenly someonein this case the Ayatollah Khomeinireally had cast a pox on both their houses, and the world is still dealing with the consequences. Westad

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also notices things that many other historians ignore, for example that CIA Director William Casey combined with powerful Saudis and Pakistanis to bankroll the Afghan resistance (the 1983 photo of President Ronald Reagan meeting with Afghan mujahedin commanders might be worth the price of this book; it looks like a Hollywood set, with Groucho Marx in a turban), or that Reagans (Second) Cold War policies took up right where Zbigniew Brzezinskis National Security Council had left off, Jimmy Carters liberalism notwithstanding. Afghanistan is perhaps the best example of how both administrations worked to topple Soviet intervention, only to have this y back in the American face with tragic consequences on 9/11. What Westad calls Soviet messianic modernism was a Bolshevik idea from the beginning, but it was muted until 1945; likewise, Wilsonianism seemed to die a natural death along with its architect. The Soviets then had the misfortune to bolt out into the world in the decades after 1945, just when the United States was at the height of its powersmarrying Wilsonianism to a dominant military position in the world, it discarded the last tethers hamstringing its own global mission. Soon Moscow also had China as a competing center of revolution and industrialization, whereas Washington had the eld of global capitalist development all to itself (apart from some nattering about the Japan model in the 1980s). If that was bad timing, perhaps the fatal Soviet mistake was also an irresistible one: in the 1950s it sought to compete with the United States on the singular eld where Americans invented all the rules, mass production and mass consumption of consumer durables (think Nikita Khrushchev and Richard Nixon arguing over washing machines in 1959). Restricting all this stuff to the Soviet elite only enhanced demand among the masses (another mistake American capitalism never made), and the denoument was inevitable; the only question was when the leadership would give up and let everyone go after their own cars and refrigerators. Westad has an admirable tendency to bend over backward to understand what Moscow and Washington were up to in the Cold War, but he is not always convincing, even when he can cite primary materials. We learn that NSC 51 was critical of imperialism in Southeast Asia and thus belies the notion that Washington would refrain from facilitating processes of decolonization owing to the effects this might have on its European allies, but NSC 48 was much more important because it started the ow of U.S. military aid to the French in Indochina (the rst guns shipped out in May 1950), which only deepened the colonial quagmire that ended at Dienbienphu. Westad thinks that it was only later that the United States willfully reduced its potential for real alliances with popular nationalist movements because of anti-Communist impulses, when in fact Dean Acheson deemed Ho Chi Minh and other revolutionary nationalists to be mere creatures of Moscow at least as early as 1947. (That did not, of course, stop the United States from allying with unpopular nationalist movements, such as the one led by Chiang Kai-shek.) The Korean War barely gets a mention, and what he says is mostly based on former Soviet documents; this leads him to say

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(of Vietnam) that for the rst time a conict in the Third World had brought down an American president. But Lyndon Johnsons decision not to run in 1968 followed in Harry Trumans wake; Trumans levels of unpopularity in 1952 were unprecedented until George W. Bush matched them (but did not go lower) in the summer of 2007, because the Korean War had demolished his administration (according to Acheson)and so Truman decided not to run again. In the end, though, this is a very well judged account. Westad is right that the Cold War ended because of the Gorbachev withdrawal (American fantasies of vanquishing the Soviets notwithstanding); unfortunately, that did not end Third World interventions. Readers of this book will nd multiple lessons that might have warned against the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the catastrophic consequences of the American occupation, or the ongoing attempts to stabilize this disaster. Soviet leaders were not better at understanding the Third World: one of Gorbachevs advisers wrote that no one in Latin America takes Cuba seriously, yet with the rise of leftist leaders throughout the region, Fidel Castro appears to have as much inuence in his eighties as he did in the 1960s. Perhaps one day Americans and Russians will have leaders with a sense of history and its lessons. Ambitious aspirants could begin by digesting this truly important book, which nds the biggest lesson of the Cold War to be that unilateral military intervention does not work to anyones advantage, while open borders, cultural interaction, and fair economic change benet all.