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A masterful account of how Ronald Reagan and his national security team confronted the Soviets, reduced the nuclear threat, won the Cold War, and supported the spread of freedom around the world.
“Remarkable… a great read.”—Robert Gates • “Mesmerizing… hard to put down.”—Paul Kennedy • “Full of fresh information… will shape all future studies of the role the United States played in ending the Cold War.”—John Lewis Gaddis • “A major contribution to our understanding of the Reagan presidency and the twilight of the Cold War era.”—David Kennedy
With decades of hindsight, the peaceful end of the Cold War seems a foregone conclusion. But in the early 1980s, most experts believed the Soviet Union was strong, stable, and would last into the next century. Ronald Reagan entered the White House with no certainty of what would happen next, only an overriding faith in democracy and an abiding belief that Soviet communism—and the threat of nuclear war—must end.
The Peacemaker reveals how Reagan’s White House waged the Cold War while managing multiple crises around the globe. From the emergence of global terrorism, wars in the Middle East, the rise of Japan, and the awakening of China to proxy conflicts in Latin America, Africa, and Asia, Reagan’s team oversaw the worldwide expansion of democracy, globalization, free trade, and the information revolution. Yet no issue was greater than the Cold War standoff with the Soviet Union. As president, Reagan remade the four-decades-old policy of containment and challenged the Soviets in an arms race and ideological contest that pushed them toward economic and political collapse, all while extending an olive branch of diplomacy as he sought a peaceful end to the conflict.
Reagan’s revolving team included Secretaries of State Al Haig and George Shultz; Secretaries of Defense Caspar Weinberger and Frank Carlucci; National Security Advisors Bill Clark, John Poindexter, and Bud McFarlane; Chief of Staff James Baker; CIA Director Bill Casey; and United Nations Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick. Talented and devoted to their president, they were often at odds with one another as rivalries and backstabbing led to missteps and crises. But over the course of the presidency, Reagan and his team still developed the strategies that brought about the Cold War’s peaceful conclusion and remade the world.
Based on thousands of pages of newly-declassified documents and interviews with senior Reagan officials, The Peacemaker brims with fresh insights into one of America’s most consequential presidents. Along the way, it shows how the pivotal decade of the 1980s shaped the world today.
About the Author
William Inboden is executive director of the Clements Center for National Security and associate professor of Public Policy and History at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, both at the University of Texas at Austin. Prior to academia, he worked for fifteen years as a policymaker in Washington, DC, and overseas, including senior positions with the State Department and the National Security Council in the George W. Bush administration. A graduate of Stanford University, he earned his doctorate at Yale. He is a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations and his commentary has appeared in numerous outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, The Weekly Standard, World, NPR, CNN, Sky News, and the BBC.
“William Inboden’s masterly diplomatic history The Peacemaker: Ronald Reagan, the Cold War, and the World on the Brink reveals the qualities that made Reagan an extraordinary president who established the conditions for the collapse of Soviet communism… this comprehensive and judicious book shows what is possible when a president understands the symmetry of American interests and American ideals.”—The Wall Street Journal
“[A] rich and superbly crafted narrative. The Peacemaker deserves to take its place among the canon of preeminent Reagan literature.”—The Washington Free Beacon
“Inboden delivers an expert account of the political and diplomatic events of the 1980s… A well-researched study that will produce further debate about the Reagan era and the Cold War.”—Kirkus
“Inboden offers blow-by-blow accounts of foreign-policy crises and melodramatic infighting among Reagan administration officials while shaping a lucid, engrossing narrative from the chaos.… a stimulating case for the 40th president as a serious, far-sighted statesman.”—Publishers Weekly
“A luminous examination of one of the most consequential yet elusive figures in modern U.S. and world history. Years in the making and based on a vast array of sources, The Peacemaker is a richly textured work of broad scope and deep analytical power. Critics no less than supporters of Reagan and his foreign policies should read Inboden’s provocative, absorbing book.”—Fredrik Logevall, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Embers of War
“William Inboden’s The Peacemaker makes the strongest case yet for Reagan as a successful grand strategist. Clearly written, thoroughly researched, full of fresh information, this comprehensive account will shape all future studies of the role the United States played in ending the Cold War.”—John Lewis Gaddis, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of George F. Kennan: An American Life and On Grand Strategy
“William Inboden has written a remarkable, singular book on Ronald Reagan's foreign policy and, specifically, on his determination from the outset of his presidency to be a peacemaker even as he pursued the collapse of the Soviet Union. Inboden's careful documentation and analysis of how Reagan developed and implemented this dual and seemingly paradoxical strategy will confound both the left and the right today, just as did Reagan while he was president. Imboden makes a compelling case that Reagan—criticized by the left as a warmonger, by the right as too soft, and by most of the foreign policy establishment as naive, unrealistic and ill-informed—was in fact an extraordinarily successful grand strategist in pursuit of his twin goals. And deeply committed to avoiding a nuclear holocaust. The Peacemaker is an important contribution to understanding Reagan's foreign policy and is, at the same time, a great read.”—Robert M. Gates, CIA deputy director, 1982-1989, Secretary of Defense, 2006-2011, and #1 New York Times bestselling author of Duty: Memoir of a Secretary at War
“[A] mesmerizing book… so easy to pick up and keep reading, so hard to put down…[an] impressive range of the archival, oral and published sources that buttress every chapter.”—Paul Kennedy, New York Times bestselling author of Engineers of Victory
“William Inboden has made a major contribution to our understanding of the Reagan presidency and the twilight of the Cold War era. Meticulously researched, vividly detailed, crisply paced, and judiciously argued, The Peacemaker paints a compelling portrait of a president with deep (often religiously grounded) convictions, steadfast purpose, and surprisingly deft diplomatic skills. Inboden’s account has persuaded even this initially skeptical reader to re-think Reagan’s foreign-policy record and give him his due as a visionary architect of the Cold War’s conclusion. A landmark study in the character and consequence of transformative leadership.”—David M. Kennedy, Professor of History Emeritus, Stanford University, and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Freedom From Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929–1945
“A timely reminder of Ronald Reagan’s strategy for advancing peace through strength in a world where, as he famously said: ‘A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.’”—Graham Allison, Douglas Dillon Professor of Government, Harvard University, and author of Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides Trap?
“President Reagan’s commitment to negotiated surrender of the Soviet Union entailed turning their strengths into liabilities while revivifying America’s economy, military, alliances, and confidence, integrating power and diplomacy. This landmark book provides a long-overdue reconsideration of grand strategy in the Reagan Administration, casting light on the degree of difficulty associated with reviving the geopolitical fortunes of the free world. It also reveals the centrality of religious faith in President Reagan’s worldview. William Inboden has achieved something wonderful in conjuring the past so skillfully with this excellent book.”—Kori Schake, American Enterprise Institute, author of Safe Passage: The Transition from British to American Hegemony
“Ronald Reagan was one of the most consequential presidents in US history. And this is the most consequential book yet written on his foreign policy. There is no better guide than William Inboden to the remarkable turn of events that ended the Cold War—and Reagan’s unique role in bringing them about.”—Hal Brands, author of The Twilight Struggle: What the Cold War Teaches Us about Great-Power Rivalry Today
“William Inboden has given us the definitive account of Ronald Reagan's greatest contribution to world history: his strategy to obtain a negotiated surrender from Soviet leadership that would end the Cold War with a decisive American victory. The Peacemaker is both gripping and meticulously researched. Inboden has dramatically enhanced our understanding of the president who saved America while bringing freedom to millions worldwide.”—Rep. Mike Gallagher
“William Inboden has written the book on Ronald Reagan’s national security policy. As Americans stare down the possibility of a Beijing-led 21st century, we would do well to learn from Ronald Regan. Taking office during a time of anxiety and doubt not unlike our own, Reagan defeated Soviet communism and enlarged the free world. Reagan navigated hard choices, fierce criticism, political divisions, and the constant threat of nuclear destruction to win the Cold War and leave a legacy that endures today. Like no author before, William Inboden rekindles America’s familiar story with deft prose, a gripping narrative, and new insights in every chapter of this definitive account.”—Sen. Ben Sasse