What was the Cold War that shook world politics for the second half of the twentieth century? Standard narratives focus on Soviet-American rivalry as if the superpowers were the exclusive driving forces of the international system. Lorenz M. Lüthi, Associate Professor of History at McGill University in his new book Cold Wars: Asia, the Middle East, Europe
(Cambridge UP, 2020), offers a radically different account, restoring agency to regional powers in Asia, the Middle East and Europe and revealing how regional and national developments shaped the course of the global Cold War. Despite their elevated position in 1945, the United States, Soviet Union and United Kingdom quickly realized that their political, economic, and military power had surprisingly tight limits given the challenges of decolonization, Asian-African internationalism, pan-Arabism, pan-Islamism, Arab–Israeli antagonism, and European economic developments. A series of Cold Wars ebbed and flowed as the three world regions underwent structural changes that weakened or even severed their links to the global ideological clash, leaving the superpower Cold War as the only major conflict that remained by the 1980s. While not everyone will necessarily agree with all aspects of this at times hyper-revisionist account of the conflict that we call the Cold War, scholars and lay person alike will be ultra-impressed by the wide range of this narrative history, as well as the breath of research displayed by Professor Luthi. In short this is a book that is required reading for anyone interested in, or specializing in the Cold War.
Charles Coutinho Ph. D. of the Royal Historical Society, received his doctorate from New York University. His area of specialization is 19th and 20th-century European, American diplomatic and political history. He has written recently for Chatham House’s International Affairs.