A brilliant and revealing biography of the two most important Americans during the Cold War erawritten by the grandson of one of them
Only two Americans held positions of great influence throughout the Cold War; ironically, they were the chief advocates for the opposing strategies for winningand survivingthat harrowing conflict. Both men came to power during World War II, reached their professional peaks during the Cold Wars most frightening moments, and fought epic political battles that spanned decades. Yet despite their very different views, Paul Nitze and George Kennan dined together, attended the weddings of each others children, and remained good friends all their lives.
In this masterly double biography, Nicholas Thompson brings Nitze and Kennan to vivid life. Nitzethe hawkwas a consummate insider who believed that the best way to avoid a nuclear clash was to prepare to win one. More than any other American, he was responsible for the arms race. Kennanthe dovewas a diplomat turned academic whose famous X article persuasively argued that we should contain the Soviet Union while waiting for it to collapse from within. For forty years, he exercised more influence on foreign affairs than any other private citizen.
As he weaves a fascinating narrative that follows these two rivals and friends from the beginning of the Cold War to its end, Thompson accomplishes something remarkable: he tells the story of our nation during the most dangerous half century in history.