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Ronald Reagan was a odd fellow. Nobody seems to know what to make of him. He started as a Democrat and then became a Republican. Then he broke ranks with his party by running for president against a sitting Republican. As a leader, he appeared to be affably naive; yet he also seemed to be capable of formulating "three-steps-ahead" strategies. Once in office, he came to be known as the "great communicator"; yet it was always hard to figure out what he was really thinking. But the most paradoxical thing about Reagan was his sudden volte-face on the issue of working with the Communists. In 1980, he was the hardest of hardliners on relations with the Soviet Union. By 1986, he was seriously thinking about eliminating the entire American nuclear stockpile in a deal with a little-known Soviet leader named Gorbachev. The U.S. foreign policy establishment and conservative pundits threw a fit. But Reagan knew a good opportunity when he saw one, as James Mann points out in his thought-provoking, important new book The Rebellion of Ronald Reagan. A History of the End of the Cold War (Viking, 2009). Reagan seemed to understand what the "experts" didn't: that Gorbachev really was different, that the Soviet Union's grip on Eastern Europe was slipping, and that Communism itself was on the rocks. Mann does a masterful job of explaining how Reagan came to these "rebellious" views. His path was crooked indeed, twisting and turning through a cast of characters and series of incidents that will be familiar to few readers. Much has been written about the end of the Cold War. But Mann succeeds in telling a new story, one centered on the people who ended it--Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev.
20th Century, Berlin, Berlin Wall, Bolsheviks, CIA, Cold War, Communism, East Germany, Erich Honecker, Foriegn Policy, Helmut Kohl, Henry Kissinger, Mikhail Gorbachev, NATO, Nuclear Disarmament, Politics, Republican Party, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Socialism, Sovietology, Warsaw Pact, West Germany
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