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  • Power and Protest: Global Revolution and the Rise of Détente
  • Carole K. Fink
Jeremi Suri , Power and Protest: Global Revolution and the Rise of Détente. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003. 355 pp. $29.95.

Because all the major years of revolutionary ferment—1789, 1848, 1917, 1968, and, of course, 1989—have had echoes in international politics, diplomatic historians have long been accustomed to investigating how the "forces of order," whether monarchical or republican, capitalist or Communist, adapted themselves to the tremors from below. Jeremi Suri's Power and Protest: Global Revolution and the Rise of Détente thus falls into an old tradition but offers a compelling new voice.

Power and Protest is divided into six thematic chapters based largely on the author's research in U.S., Soviet, British, French, and German archives as well as in the records assembled by the Cold War International History Project, supplemented by a good selection of published primary and secondary materials. In the first four chapters Suri presents what he considers the main characteristics of the 1960s: a global Cold [End Page 155] War marked by nuclear stalemate between the two superpowers; the challenges to the bipolar system by the charismatic French and Chinese leaders Charles de Gaulle and Mao Zedong; the emerging New Left dissent within a burgeoning university population; and the "Vietnam factor," which exposed the limits of American global ambitions and power. Chapters five and six set up action and reaction in 1968: the "global disruption" on the world's streets and campuses followed by the initiation of détente and Ostpolitik, two parallel strategies aimed at containing the threats from below. According to Suri, the world's leaders, whether Communist or capitalist, were frightened of disorder, and in joining ranks against it they ended up prolonging the Cold War divide, burying their own as well as their critics' ideals under new ground rules of mutual accommodation.

There is much to praise in this well-written book. Suri presents insightful comments on the Texas roots of Lyndon Johnson's engagement in Vietnam, writes eloquently about Berkeley and the burning of Washington, draws intriguing comparisons between France and China, and makes deft use of literary sources to discuss Soviet leaders and policies.

However, because of the book's selective framework, Suri omits at least four important locales: the Middle East, where the war in 1967 shook the entire world; Japan, which was at the peak of its economic boom but was also beginning to experience domestic violence; Mexico, where student demonstrations were crushed on the eve of the Olympic Games; and South Africa, which stirred the world to work for human rights.

Even the streets Suri explores are narrow. Power and Protest ignores the masses who did not attend university in the 1960s and fails to explain why the "Old Left," the labor unions, the "hard hats," and the churches embraced values different from those of the student protesters. He ignores the gender disparities among the protesters. Although Suri alludes to the power of the media and of slogans and visual symbols, he does not explain why a vocal minority came to represent entire populations. Curiously, he also omits the explosive events in Chicago in August 1968. Finally, although Suri several times alludes to the end of the postwar global economic feast, he fails to give specific details on the dramatic slowdown of economic expansion in the capitalist, Communist, and non-Western worlds.

At the heart of Suri's book is a powerful moral critique of détente and Ostpolitik. Going further than Timothy Garton Ash does in In Europe's Name: Germany and the Divided Continent (New York: Viking, 1994), Suri views Washington's and Bonn's policies, accepted by Moscow, Beijing, and Paris alike (Britain is largely ignored), as limiting the role of moral "principles" in international behavior (p. 257). Under this approach, he argues, the leaders of these countries "ignore[ed] concerns about national self-determination, human rights, economic fairness, and racial and gender equality" (p. 258) and sought to "protect stability at the cost of liberty" (p. 264). The results, according to Suri, were dire for the world's future. Left...