The Peacemaker: Ronald Reagan, the Cold War, and the World on the Brink

Dutton. Nov. 2022. 608p. ISBN 9781524745899. $35. HIST
Twenty-three years after his presidency ended, Ronald Reagan (1911–2004) remains a polarizing figure. How much was he personally responsible for the achievements of his eight years, and how do historians weigh these against his administration’s failures (budget deficit, Strategic Defense Initiative) and scandals (staff infighting, Iran-Contra)? Inboden (exec. dir. and chair, Clements Center for National Security, Univ. of Texas Austin) is emphatically on Reagan’s side. Drawing on the president’s writings, he argues Reagan was more hands on than many accept. The author asserts Reagan’s goal was to bring the Soviets to the bargaining table by building up arms in the U.S. and pressuring their already ailing economy. Once there, he would lead them to a negotiated surrender. Reagan’s remarks support this interpretation but are too general to uphold the thesis that he developed a strategy of his own. Indeed, his frequent disinvolvement in discussion sometimes led observers to wonder if he fully understood what was at stake. This biography is like a photograph that’s been airbrushed to remove the blemishes.
VERDICT Still, history buffs will likely enjoy this conscientiously-researched biography.
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