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The Triumph of Improvisation (Englisch) Gebundene Ausgabe – 9. Januar 2014

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  • Gebundene Ausgabe: 280 Seiten
  • Verlag: Cornell University Press (9. Januar 2014)
  • Sprache: Englisch
  • ISBN-10: 0801452295
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801452291
  • Größe und/oder Gewicht: 1,9 x 16,5 x 24,1 cm
  • Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: 5.0 von 5 Sternen  Alle Rezensionen anzeigen (1 Kundenrezension)
  • Amazon Bestseller-Rang: Nr. 323.655 in Fremdsprachige Bücher (Siehe Top 100 in Fremdsprachige Bücher)

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In The Triumph of Improvisation, James Graham Wilson takes a long view of the end of the Cold War, from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979 to Operation Desert Storm in January 1991. Drawing on deep archival research and recently declassified papers, Wilson argues that adaptation, improvisation, and engagement by individuals in positions of power ended the specter of a nuclear holocaust. Amid ambivalence and uncertainty, Mikhail Gorbachev, Ronald Reagan, George Shultz, George H. W. Bush, and a host of other actors engaged with adversaries and adapted to a rapidly changing international environment and information age in which global capitalism recovered as command economies failed.Eschewing the notion of a coherent grand strategy to end the Cold War, Wilson paints a vivid portrait of how leaders made choices; some made poor choices while others reacted prudently, imaginatively, and courageously to events they did not foresee. A book about the burdens of responsibility, the obstacles of domestic politics, and the human qualities of leadership, The Triumph of Improvisation concludes with a chapter describing how George H. W. Bush oversaw the construction of a new configuration of power after the fall of the Berlin Wall, one that resolved the fundamental components of the Cold War on Washington's terms.


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Format: Kindle Edition Verifizierter Kauf
Everybody engaged in political decision making knows that the strength to react to fast changing situatios on a day-day basis with a feel for the overall picture --that is what characterizes good leadership. This is what this book teaches at a another critical moment in world history.
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Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen auf (beta) 6 Rezensionen
9 von 9 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
The Cold War"s Demise 22. April 2014
Von Joseph Annaruma - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
Wilson has crafted a concise timeline of the events that led to the collapse of Communism, the destruction of the Berlin Wall, and the end of Soviet hegemony in Eastern Europe. New scholarship has been brought to the story, notably, private correspondence, newly declassified documentation, and archival records.
The book was easy to read, and considering that this is a scholarly work, that is quite welcome, as scholarly works often tend to be a bit dry-this book was anything but dry. It also seemed to me to be devoid of much bias, which is a prerequisite for a successful historical work.
The major point being made here is that the events that ended the Cold War were not orchestrated, but took place rather serendipitously, as the title implies. In essence, the author makes a good case for his thesis, which utilizes diary entries (Reagan, Bush, Gorbachev etc), and archival documents to Illustrate how leaders of the U.S. and USSR compromised, and essentially took leaps of faith to get to the ultimate goal of ending the cold war, bringing the Soviets into the fold of the New World Order of economic, and political partnership, relying on a new found mutual trust in drastically cutting nuclear missile proliferation to all-time lows.
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the Cold War, or Post-WWII European politics and social history. The new documents used offer an interesting viewpoint on the American and Soviet cooperation towards ending the Cold War, and the thawing of US-Soviet relations.
4 von 4 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
A good book if you want to understand the winning of the Cold War. 23. August 2014
Von Daune Robinson - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Verifizierter Kauf
I bought this book looking for something that made good use of newly released information on Reagan, Gorbachev and the Cold War that dominated the politics of my generation. I had read another book on this topic and was horribly disappointed - not so with this book. The author clearly did his research, and brought depth, breadth, and good insight to his telling of the long story of the Cold War.

Modern popular interpretation of the end of the Cold War credits Ronald Reagan almost exclusively for the final results, but this author shows the contributions of many of Reagan's cabinet members, Gorbachev and his cohorts, and George Bush and his cabinet. The book spans politics, economics, military strategy, the influence of middle east strategy, and philosophical perspectives of all the players. By the time I was through I had a very clear picture of the many complexities, and while I may not understand all the intricate details I did find the author gave me a much broader understanding of what led to the end of the Soviet Union as the other major world power.

This book did give a good explanation of the internal and external issues that led to Gorbachev's rise to power, and to the confluence of events that led to the amazing arms reduction agreements and the calming of Cold War tensions. The description of the severe economic problems facing the Soviet Union was fascinating and the impact of weapons buildup on those economic issues was made very clear by the author.

I did take issue with some of the interpretations of Reagan's handling of his cabinet members, and his strategy in handling the Soviet Union in general. I'll admit to being a Reagan fan. That said, Mr. Wilson's perspective on Reagan and what he seemed to feel was essentially a rudderless leadership style is, in my opinion, flawed. He makes the case that Reagan didn't provide strong leadership. i would argue from reading this book that Reagan was an amazingly strong leader and that leadership, which included a cabinet full of widely diverse opinions and philosophies, was what enabled him and his staff to navigate the very uncertain waters of the Cold War and the rush to arms based on MAD. I think far too much credit was given to George Bush and his staff for the events already set in place, but I also think that Mr. Wilson did an excellent job of providing credit for the results to Gorbachev and his staff in easing tension and bringing calm to a tense world situation.

Overall - an excellent book - well written, easy to follow, and something anyone who wants a good understanding of the Cold War and the relationship between communism and capitalism should read.
13 von 17 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Deeply researched and highly readable; enlightens without lecturing 19. Februar 2014
Von Scott Whitmore - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Kindle Edition
Highly readable and illuminating, in The Triumph of Improvisation: Gorbachev's Adaptability, Reagan's Engagement, and the End of the Cold War author James Graham Wilson (@jamesgramwilson) rejects current theories explaining the Cold War’s end and instead focuses on the actions of key individuals in both the U.S. and Soviet governments, primarily U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, Secretary of State George Shultz and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev. In different ways, these men eschewed the unproductive rhetoric and actions that defined the relationship of the two superpowers for decades and by doing so changed the world.

Throughout, Mr. Wilson’s prose is crisp and his arguments lucid and quite compelling. The book is the product of deep and thorough research, but at no point does the narrative get bogged down. Before beginning I wondered how well a complex subject like the end of the Cold War could be covered in just seven chapters, but by the end I felt Mr. Wilson had more than met the task, enlightening without lecturing. For those who wish to delve deeper into specific events, the end notes provide a great starting point for further research.

Special emphasis is placed in The Triumph of Improvisation on illuminating the actions of Shultz, who should be remembered as one of this country’s greatest statesmen despite no formal training or prior interest in foreign policy. An economist by trade, Shultz believed the Soviet Union could change and he worked hard to mitigate the efforts of the hardliners surrounding Reagan by emphasizing a Four-Part Framework (bilateral relations, regional matters, arms control and human rights), not letting problems in one area derail the whole relationship.

Often heralded as the paragon of conservative values, Reagan is shown to be more complex. His deep-seated desire to eliminate nuclear weapons meant doing something counter to his beliefs: working with the communists running the Soviet Union and thereby implicitly acknowledging their legitimacy. He truly believed the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), commonly called “Star Wars,” was the key to eliminating the nuclear threat. Most surprising, once functional Reagan was intent on sharing SDI with the Soviets and the world, something the hardliners around him vehemently opposed and the Soviets (somewhat naturally) did not believe.

By preference or political necessity, Reagan surrounded himself with many aides and appointees who did not share his lofty goals, and his lax management style and contradictory statements created turmoil and uncertainty within his staff. By contrast, George W. Bush’s team was cohesive and on message — which proved critical while navigating the turbulent events after the Berlin Wall came down — while their president lacked “the vision thing” his predecessor possessed in abundance. Bush’s prudence provoked criticism from some quarters but given the extraordinary and unprecedented issues he faced caution was more important than boldness.

Mikhail Gorbachev lost an empire and won the Nobel Peace Prize in the process. He was as determined as Reagan to see nuclear weapons eliminated — all the more so after the Chernobyl disaster — and he wanted to improve the lives of those in his charge. To do that meant changing the status quo, and after cleaning house of those with different views, Gorbachev set out to reform socialism through perestroika. Of all the players involved in the end of the Cold War, Gorbachev had the most to gain and most to lose. Some could argue he had no choice, that the Soviet system was so broken by the time he assumed the party chair that reform was the only viable option, but even if true he must be lauded for making the choice to move forward toward something hopefully better. It says much about the hollowness of the state he inherited that just a year after the Berlin Wall fell, and seven years after Reagan’s “Evil Empire” speech, the Soviet Union was on the margin of world events with Gorbachev begging the U.S. for loans.

A few random thoughts:

• At the beginning of the period covered, each side thought (1) the other side possessed a distinct military advantage and (2) desired the their elimination. Conversely, neither side understood why their opposite numbers constantly insisted they were, in fact, the ones trailing behind.

• Many of the hardliners working for Reagan, notably Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, were unshakeable in their distrust of the Soviets and pursued agendas that were often counter to that of the president. Proven wrong by hindsight, at the time these men and women were so sure of their views that no opposing opinions were entertained and those who espoused such thoughts attacked. I couldn’t help but make a contemporary comparison to the U.S. Tea Party.

• After Reagan and Gorbachev signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty in 1987, some hawks in this country said any treat the Soviets were willing to sign must be bad for the U.S. Conversely, any treaty good for us would be anathema to them. Such is the type of thinking that sustained the Cold War.

• For those who did not live through this period, having some context about the media and flow of information may be helpful. Although CNN was launched in 1980, the “24-hour news cycle” we live with today evolved over time, defined by saturation coverage of events such as the Challenger disaster (1986), Tiananmen Square protest (1989) and Gulf War (1991). One can’t help but wonder how competing cable news outlets, social media, and the Internet’s free flow of information would have affected — for good or bad — the events depicted in The Triumph of Improvisation.

This review is based on a copy of the book provided for that purpose. I must point out that although I am hardly an academic, I lived through the events depicted in The Triumph of Improvisation and was, for much of time covered in the book, serving in the U.S. Navy.

My first birthday was just a month after the Cuban Missile Crisis; I grew up, got married and started a family of my own during the Cold War. In grade school I crawled under my desk during Atomic Attack Drills and as an enlisted Sailor in the U.S. Navy I learned how to don a protective suit and decontaminate nuclear fallout. The Soviets were THEM, we were US. Nuclear war was never not a possibility, although admittedly it wasn’t often at the front of our minds. It was simply accepted as being so.

Then the Berlin Wall came down and suddenly the world was a very different place. A place where my own kids, who were born in that other time but did not experience it, have a hard time understanding what all the fuss was about when my wife and I share stories about growing up in the shadow of Nuclear Armageddon. Still, given the new realities of international terrorism, perhaps there was some benefit to knowing exactly who your adversary was.
4 von 5 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
My respect for Reagan grows the more I read. ... 1. August 2014
Von John - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Kindle Edition Verifizierter Kauf
My respect for Reagan grows the more I read. such a leader is desperately needed in times of crisis.
Thatcher and he were there just as it was possible to create opportunity to lead Gorbachov out of his kremlin hell hole.
1 von 1 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Great insight to two great leaders. 23. Dezember 2014
Von Marilyn DeLuna - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Kindle Edition Verifizierter Kauf
I always enjoy reading anything that has to do with our former President Ronald Reagan. His relationship with Gorbachev was amazing - two very strong-willed leaders who worked together with mutual respect. Enjoyed reading the history of what happened at that very important time in American history.
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