On the Brink: The Dramatic Saga of How the Reagan Administration Changed the Course of History and Won the Cold War.

Author:Spragens, William C.

JAY WINIK (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996), 672 pp. including notes on sources and bibliography, index $30.00 cloth (ISBN 0-684-80982-6).

These books should be read in conjunction with the Institute for Diplomacy's Embassies Under Siege: Personal Accounts by Diplomats on the Front Line, edited by Joseph G. Sullivan, with case studies of Kampala, 1973; Tehran, 1979; Kabul, 1979; Islamabad, 1979; Beirut, 1983; San Salvador, 1989; Kuwait City, 1990; Monrovia, 1990; and Mogadishu, 1991, to get the field operations perspective.

They also fit in with a body of literature typified by Richard Rhodes, Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb, for perspectives on nuclear policy; Nelson D. Lankford, The Last American Diplomat: The Biography of David K. E. Bruce, 1898-1977, another closeup view; Gerard C. Smith, Disarming Diplomat: The Memoirs of Ambassador Gerard C. Smith, Arms Control Negotiator, for background on ACDA and the SALT I negotiations, and James A. Baker III, The Politics of Diplomacy: Revolution, War and Peace, 1989-1992, for Bush-era diplomacy, and for Anglo-American aspects of diplomacy, Sir Robin Renwick, Fighting With Allies: America and Britain at Peace and War.

Professor Winik and former Director Gates provide different perspectives on Cold War events--Winik that of a historian and defense analyst, and Gates that of a former CIA director who spent his entire career with the agency between 1966 and 1993, rising to the directorship during the pivotal period between 1991 and 1993 when the "new world order"--perhaps better described as an age of unsettled global affairs--was emerging.

Winik is a frank advocate of Reagan diplomacy; he feels that many of the people prominent in Reagan's era were eclipsed in the Bush administration--specifically Jeane Kirkpatrick, George Shultz, "Cap" Weinberger, Richard Perle, Max Kampelman (once a Hubert Humphrey intimate) and the controversial Elliott Abrams who became embroiled in the Central American policy disputes of the time. When Abrams left government, his critic, Speaker Jim Wright, was also brought down not long after.

One could wish the book were published a few months later so that the question could be examined of how the Kirkpatrick record might have paved the way for another "first"--Madeleine Albright's accession to the seventh floor at Foggy Bottom.

Winik, as a partisan observer, does not mention the build-up in the last two years...

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