Monday, July 9, 2018

Paul Thomas Chamberlin's "The Cold War’s Killing Fields"

Paul Chamberlin is Associate Professor of History at Columbia University. He specializes in twentieth century international history with a focus on U.S. foreign relations and the Middle East. His first book, The Global Offensive: The United States, the Palestine Liberation Organization, and the Making of the Post-Cold War Order, is an international history of the Palestinian liberation struggle.

Chamberlin applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Cold War's Killing Fields: Rethinking the Long Peace, and reported the following:
Page 99 does indeed prove to be surprisingly representative of many of the ideas present throughout The Cold War’s Killing Fields. In particular, the prevalence of mass violence, the interconnected nature of Cold War geopolitics, and the potential for local revolutionary conflicts to spark larger conflagrations all appear. Likewise, the three key forces of postcolonial revolution, the United States, and the Soviet Union all appear.

The section begins with a 1949 exchange between Mao Zedong and Joseph Stalin in which the former brags that his army has killed over 5.5 million people in the last three years and predicts the consequent inevitability of a communist victory in the Chinese Civil War. This is very much in keeping with one broader argument of the book, which is focused on the role of mass violence in shaping post-1945 geopolitics. I maintain that the theme of body counts remains underappreciated in the history of the Cold War. Many leaders across the East-West and North-South divides were very much interested in killing large numbers of people as a means to secure and maintain political power.

Page 99 then turns to a cable from the American CIA explaining that Mao’s coming victory was a matter of grave concern. Many U.S. officials worried that China would become an “advance base for Soviet penetration” into Southeast Asia, India, and the Middle East. This hits on another key theme of the book, which examines the ways that Cold War leaders tended to view their adversaries as monolithic: Mao’s victory, in the eyes of many U.S. officials, represented a key setback in what was truly a global struggle against the Kremlin-backed forces of communism.

But the impending collapse of Nationalist China presented an array of dangers for Mao and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) – as the following paragraph explains. Mao would now be faced with the challenge of transforming a revolutionary party and its forces into the governing regime of a massive country. Even more worrisome was the possibility that the United States might intervene to save Chiang Kai-shek’s regime, sparking a direct confrontation between the world’s greatest superpower and the CCP, which might, in turn, lead spark World War III between Washington and Moscow.
Learn more about The Cold War's Killing Fields at the publisher's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Global Offensive.

--Marshal Zeringue