COMMENDABLESnWhat Happened, When & HownKenneth Thompson: Cold WarnTheories, Volume I: WorldnPolarization, 1943-19f 3; LouisiananState University Press; Baton Rouge,nLouisiana.nby Clay ClemensnPopular wisdom has it thatnRonald Reagan will turn thenclock back to the time of thenCold War. Because he purportedlynemploys the rhetoric ofn”confrontation” and has initiatedna “massive arms buildup,”nReagan stands accused ofnpermitting detente to die on thenvine.nThis notion that a U.S. Presidentnsets the thermostat of East-nWest relations by his words andndeeds is testimony to the inanitynof revisionist historians. Leftwingnwriters who explain pastnand present hostility betweennthe superpowers as the productnof “American imperialism”nhave successfully detached thenCold War from its historicalnmoorings; they have transformednit from an era into an attitudenwhich is based on insidiousnand arrogant American assumptionsnabout how the worldnought to be.nA whole genre of popularnwriting and academic textsnspreads this hollow message. Innthe name of evenhandedness,nsuch books offer “competing interpretations”nof why the ColdnWar developed, but, in thenname of concision, they omitnMr. Clemens is a doctoral candidatenat the Fletcher School ofnLaw and Diplomacy, TuftsnUniversity.n42inChronicles of Cttlturenobjective and detailed accountsnof what happened or when ornhow. Ill-equipped to choosenamong the various versions,nstudents of younger generationsnare skeptical of the “orthodox”nCold War story of virtuousnAmerica vs. godless communism.nThus college seniors whoncan’t quite place the MarshallnPlan in time, for example, nonethelessnare quite sure that itnreflected a deliberate expansionnof America’s financial empire.nMr. Thompson’s chosen titlenmight suggest merely one morencontribution to this already-substantialnbody of ahistoricalnwriting. It is pleasantly surprisingnthat he instead refreshes ournmemory of the decade in questionnby presenting and synthesizingnan impressive amount ofnevidence in little more than twonhundred pages. And his evenhandednapproach is not at thenexpense of sound historical analysisnor genuine thoughtful criticismnof works already in print.nThompson does not set out tonvalidate a particular hypothesisnby picking up useful evidence ennroute (the method of so manynrevisionists); his book does notntwist history merely to fit factnand theory together. He insteadnsifts through the relevant evidence,nanalyzes each critical decisionnmade by the West duringnthe Cold War and points outnthat “nuance and humannchoice” explain more aboutnthose events than any underlyingndesign of global hegemony.nA true understanding of thenCold War requires “learning tonlive with amjjiguities,” an admonitionntoo many historiansnare unwilling to accept.nIn this manner, Thompsonnindicts orthodox as well as revisionistnversions of the Cold War,nboth of which attribute the actionsnof most individuals involvednto larger, almost irresistible,nhistorical forces. Suchntheories tell us less about internationalnpolitics during then1940’s than about the prevailingnassumptions of the decade innwhich they were written. Traditionalndepictions of the U.S.nstruggling against an overwhelmingncommunist tide werentypical of the patriotic postwarnAmerican milieu, while revi-nComputer EpicnTracy Kidder: The Soul of a NewnMachine; Little, Brown & Co.; Boston.nby Philip LevynFrom 1979 to 1981 Tracy Kiddernwalked freely in and out of ancomputer lab in the basement ofnthe Data General headquartersnin Westborough, Massachusetts.nHe documented the creation of annew computer by a group ofnthirty engineers and a secretary.nThe computer was faster andnsmarter than any other in thenData General line, and compatiblenwith all. The same might bensaid of the people who built it.nKidder wasn’t posing as anjanitor or a security guard. Hencame to the story as a journalist,nwith a perfect vacuum betweennhis ears, but with complete accessnto the workers on the computernproject and their workplace.nAs a result, this booknemerges as “new journalism” innits most positive form; that is tonsay, it is a tale of productive peoplenwho don’t object to beingnwritten about intimately. ThenMr, Levy is a technical writer innSalem, Massachusetts.nnnsionist accounts characterizednthe self-flagellation so commonnin America of the i960’s. Thenacademy, most news media andnthe popular press still cling to assumptionsnof American venality;nthey provide a harmoniousnsetting for revisionist renditionsnof the original Cold War.nThompson’s work, then, is mostntelling in its challenge to revisionistndogma: he exposes itsn”historical” outlook as littlenmore than gut-level politicalnprejudice: he requires those whonespouse the revisionist line tonthink before he permits them tonchoose. nnnew journalism at its best is alsoninvolved with new technologies,nbecause that is where the pioneersnof the day are gathered.nPioneers make good copy. Kiddernquotes all the participants bynname and at length, enablingnthe personalities of the buildersthen”soul” of the title-to emergenas big as life. He notes in detailnthe unique environment, fromnthe dancing square waves on thenface of an oscilloscope to thenshifting sands of corporate planning.nIf The Soul of a New Machinenis popular among people in thenelectronics industry, it is becausenof Kidder’s respect for the mennand women about whom henwrote, as well as his poignantnview of their work. He learnednenough about computers tonwrite intelligently about them,nand for that he deserves commendation.nBut his real story isnabout people. Indeed, in anotherntime and place the story mightnhave been written about thencreation of cellophane or thenPontiac GTO, because creativenpeople have one common trait:nnamely, they are miles ahead ofneveryone else. The most touch-n