This banal Michael Beschloss review of John Lewis Gaddiss The Cold War reminds me to suggest that you read Gaddis; I have been at it, off and on, for a few weeks. First, it is a good read. Well written, clear, flowing. Not the standard dry-as-dust volume on the period (arguably, as some of even Gaddiss previous books have been). It is a well told tale of a dangerous time. Second, he sees (almost perfectly clearly?) in this retrospective verdict on the Cold War, that the "visionaries" (or, "saboteurs of the status quo") were John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and Margaret Thatcher. How shall I put this? Not everyone at the time thought these three were statesmen. Third, I believe our great-grand children will study this severe period and will conclude that the three greats merited the honor that they will have already received. They will see that the utter darkness that could have been, was prevented by the purpose and the prudence of the two men and the lady. This is an fine tale, told by a convert, and while you or I might have told it differently, it is an excellent start. Gaddis also sees the horror (evil empire) of the regimes that died, and knows that they justly died. He notes at the end of his book that "there was no trial for crimes against humanity." Pol Pot died in 1998, "and was unceremoniously cremated on a heap of junk and old tires." No mausoleum for this devil. This was a man who had a fifth of his own people executed in the 1970s, and "hardly anyone outside of Cambodia noticed at the time." But human beings act, facts are stubborn, historians work, Gaddis re-thinks, and now we know.
Although Beschloss obviously has disdain for anyone who praises those who recognized the spiritual bankruptcy of Communism against the human person and fought against it through various means, there is a fundamental historical problem with his review. He attacks Gaddis for writing a history after the fact and providing perspective on the Cold War. Beschloss seems to prefer the murky waters of writing history during the event as if that would make it somehow more legitimate.