The Foreign Service Journal, June 2020

72 JUNE 2020 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL Diplomacy at the Highest Level To Build a Better World: Choices to End the Cold War and Create a Global Commonwealth Philip Zelikow and Condoleezza Rice, Twelve, 2019, $35/hardcover, $17.99/ ebook, 528 pages. Reviewed by Joseph L. Novak The stakes were high: world peace and the future of the Eurasian land mass hung in the balance. In To Build a Bet- ter World , Philip Zelikow and Condo- leezza Rice probe the steps taken by the administration of President George H.W. Bush in dealing with the fast-changing situation in Central and Eastern Europe in 1989. Few had predicted the onrush of events that year, and Zelikow and Rice readily admit that the Bush administra- tion was playing catch-up. Both authors are well known. Zelikow, a professor at the University of Virginia, was counselor at the State Department and executive director of the 9/11 Commission. Rice, a professor at Stanford University, served as the 66th Secretary of State and as President George W. Bush’s first national security adviser. Some of the material in To Build a Better World was explored in the authors’ previous collaboration, Germany Uni- fied and Europe Transformed: A Study in Statecraft (Harvard University Press, 1995). Yet To Build a Better World offers a wider perspective by linking past events to the current international situation and uses previously unavailable resources. After all, both authors were at the NSC during the 1989-1991 time frame and had a unique opportunity to witness events. They note, for example, that “the crisis in East Germany crept in through the side door,” with East Germans taking advantage of the sudden lifting of travel restrictions and streaming into the West. Massive internal demonstrations placed mounting pressure on the sclerotic East Ger- man regime. Washing- ton’s focus was on mak- ing sure that authorities did not launch a bloody crackdown on peace- ful protesters, as had happened months earlier at Tiananmen Square in Beijing. In this effort, the Bush administration had a true partner in Mikhail Gorbachev, the pro-reform leader of the Soviet Union. Gorbachev’s position at home was shaky, however, and he needed Washington’s support. Zelikow and Rice review in detail how the Bush adminis- tration did its best to “help Gorbachev politically and economically and raise his odds for success; at the same time consolidate the Soviet withdrawal from Eastern Europe and lasting arms control.” The book also highlights Chancel- lor Helmut Kohl’s unswerving focus on German unification (achieved in 1990) and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s misguided efforts to put a brake on that process. As the Soviet Union hurtled toward collapse, Washington was concerned about control of the Soviet nuclear arsenal and the possibility of widespread instability. The Bush administration dem- onstrated diplomatic expertise in devel- oping a comprehensive policy framework to deal with the fluid situation based on its idea of “a Europe whole and free.” It then worked with agility in rallying allies and partners. The Bush adminis- tration also exhib- ited a high level of respect toward its former adver- sary—there was no “spiking the football” over the setbacks the Soviet Union faced. Despite its excel- lent track record, some U.S. moves were poorly executed. These include President Bush’s widely criticized “Chicken Kiev” speech of August 1991. In the speech, Bush seemed to indicate that the United States did not fully embrace the prospect of Soviet constituent states declaring independence fromMoscow. By December 1991, the Soviet Union had disintegrated, and Gorbachev was out of a job. Zelikow and Rice allow that much has happened since 1991 and use the rest of their book to examine what became of the “New World Order” created in the wake of the Cold War. The bad news is that it is splintering. Among other destabilizing develop- ments, they highlight a revisionist Russia led by Putin, the rise of an increasingly powerful China, and a European Union rocked by migrant and financial crises in addition to the 2016 decision by the Brit- ish to exit the bloc. Because the United States has been wearied by “endless wars” in Afghanistan and Iraq, its confidence and commitment to international engagement have ebbed in recent years. The authors note: “For all of those who had chafed under what they sometimes called American unilateral- ism, it was suddenly a real possibility that America would simply stay home.” BOOKS