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Strategies of Containment: A Critical Appraisal of American National Security Policy During the Cold War

3.95  ·  Rating Details ·  451 Ratings  ·  25 Reviews
When Strategies of Containment was first published, the Soviet Union was still a superpower, Ronald Reagan was president of the United States, and the Berlin Wall was still standing. This updated edition of Gaddis' classic carries the history of containment through the end of the Cold War. Beginning with Franklin D. Roosevelt's postwar plans, Gaddis provides a thorough ...more
Paperback, 484 pages
Published July 1st 2005 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 1982)
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Mike Hankins
Oct 29, 2013 Mike Hankins rated it it was amazing
Strategies of Containment is an ambitious work that attempts to synthesize United States foreign policy throughout the entire Cold War into a unified whole. John Lewis Gaddis succeeds in this by asserting that the ideas set forth by George Kennan as head of the Policy Planning Staff defined the terms of containment that lasted throughout the period. Dividing the war into five stages (the expanded edition identifies a sixth), Gaddis demonstrates that each shift in National Security policy was ...more
Joseph Stieb
May 01, 2016 Joseph Stieb rated it it was amazing
This is the best account of US foreign policy during the Cold War that I know of. It is also one of the best books about strategy I've ever read. Gaddis argues that USFP consistently and, ultimately, successfully pursued a policy of containment towards the USSR during the Cold War. However, there was a broad range of options and emphases within containment in terms of how to see and address the Soviet threat. Most of the books is devoted to explaining these shifts.

Gaddis mainly argues that the
Brad Trefz
Dec 29, 2015 Brad Trefz rated it liked it
While Gaddis's early 80s account (and the revised version of this book published in 2005) is now "the" book on the subject it is not without its problems, especially for a critical reader familiar with the topics under consideration. Gaddis was the official biographer of George Kennan (author of the Long Telegram), handpicked by him for the purpose. That book, George Kennan: An American Life, won a Pulitzer in 2012. That is why Kennan plays such a central role in this book. Gaddis was a close ...more
Mark Bowles
Aug 30, 2014 Mark Bowles rated it it was amazing
A. Synopsis:
1. This is a “lumper” account of US security policy during the Cold War (since WWII). IT looks at the evidence not though a window of economic, diplomatic, ideological, or a military perspective. Instead it focuses on strategy. Gaddis employs this “strategic” perspective on the central preoccupation postwar national security policy--the idea of containment.
B. There are five specific “strategic” or “geopolitical” codes in the postwar era that correspond to each presidential administr
Jan 15, 2015 Greg rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent analysis of the US national security policies beginning with Truman and ending with Reagan. The author evaluates the various strategies of successive administrations according to the criteria of whether ends and means are distinguished, on the axis of symmetrical and asymmetrical responses to provocation and the prevailing political climate (politics are the art of the possible). Truman is evaluated as a pioneer. Ike gets a very negative appraisal as does Johnson. Nixon gets ...more
Aug 15, 2015 Frederick rated it it was amazing
This is an essential book for students of American history. It covers the time from Kennan's 'Long Telegram' in 1946 outlining the grand strategy of containment and how that was fleshed out through different presidential administrations. It is an excellent and clearly written book that discusses policy at the highest levels, and both it's successes and failures. It is a very important work of scholarship and one of the handful of books for which I bought a physical copy AND a Kindle copy. My ...more
Aug 21, 2015 Maciek rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, english
Strategies of Containment should not be categorized as good supplement reading in a Cold War history course: it should be considered essential reading. The book can be considered dense with the information it imparts, but Gaddis's lucid penmanship makes it a surprisingly easy read, even to people without previous background in U.S. foreign policy. Gaddis is the best American historian of the Cold War and, from all his books, this one constitutes the backbone of the best Cold War history ...more
Aug 03, 2011 Jesse added it
Probably one of the best texts on the construction and execution of the policies of containment. Gaddis' approach of breaking down how each administration and leader saw the requirements of containment and then how they executed the policy based on those perceptions is outstanding. highly recommended for any serious student of the Cold War.
Rosie Tighe
Mar 29, 2012 Rosie Tighe rated it it was amazing
One of the key texts to read if/when trying to understand the cold war period and US attitudes and policies during this period. For those for whom this is "history", it is essential to understand the mindset that framed policy in the Cold War Era. Dismissing this as dated or irrelevant is a huge mistake. There are lessons to be learned here that should not be forgotten.
Nov 23, 2013 Mina rated it really liked it
Very cogent and perceptive analysis of American foreign policy throughout the Cold War years, demarcated clearly by each president's administration. Gaddis organized multiple decades' worth of policy within powerful conceptual frameworks that tied every successive administration together and created a very lucid big picture. Tight writing, incredible insights.
Noe Rodriguez
Oct 30, 2012 Noe Rodriguez rated it it was amazing

This is an excellent book on the policies of presidents during the cold war. I will say that I think that there could have been a greater focus on Carter and Reagan, but it was sufficient. Also, this is not a light read, and should be taken with time so that there can be a good grasp of some of the concepts.
Max Nova
Mar 21, 2014 Max Nova rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, politics, winning
This book completely changed the way I look at American history. Gaddis's incredible access to Kennan and other policymakers made this book a really compelling read, and he does a great job of explaining the thought process behind a lot of the decisions made during the Cold War and how the American political system helped shape those decisions.
Feb 04, 2009 Christina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you are a Poli Sci buff and want to know every last Poli Sci-geek detail of the history and politics of the Cold War, this is the perfect, comprehensive history of our side of the beginning, escalation, and strategies of the Cold War (since there isn't too much to say about the abrupt and unanticipated end).
Sep 05, 2014 Eric rated it really liked it
The sections from Truman to Nixon are an excellent analysis of cold war containment strategy; definitely recommended reading if you are into that sort of thing. The sections on the Carter and Reagan administrations are a bit more... biased.
Russia and the US were allies in WWII. However even before the war ended they became competitors and soon morphed into cold war enemies This tells the story.
May 06, 2013 Ben rated it it was amazing
I laughed, I cried! I couldn't put it down!Lovable character from Kennan to Khrushchev. I wish the Cold War would come back so Gaddis can pen another thrill a minute sequel.
For those that want a more comprehensive account than that provided by Gaddis in his other book, The Cold War.
Strategies of Containment: A Critical Appraisal of Postwar American National Security (Galaxy Books) by John Lewis Gaddis (1982)
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“The alternative Kennan described as the “particularized” approach. It was “skeptical of any scheme for compressing international affairs into legalist concepts. It holds that the content is more important than the form, and will force its way through any formal structure which is placed upon it. It considers that the thirst for power is still dominant among so many peoples that it cannot be assuaged or controlled by anything but counter-force.” Particularism would not reject the idea of joining with other governments to preserve world order, but to be effective such alliances would have to be based “upon real community of interest and outlook, which is to be found only among limited groups of governments, and not upon the abstract formalism of universal international law or international organization.” 0 likes
“safety depends,” Kennan told a National War College audience in December 1948, on our ability to establish a balance among the hostile or undependable forces of the world: To put them where necessary one against the other; to see that they spend in conflict with each other, if they must spend it at all, the intolerance and violence and fanaticism which might otherwise be directed against us, that they are thus compelled to cancel each other out and exhaust themselves in internecine conflict in order that the constructive forces, working for world stability, may continue to have the possibility of life.13” 0 likes
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