Way Out There In the Blue: Reagan, Star Wars and the End of the Cold War

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Way Out There in the Blue is a major work of history by the Pulitzer Prize­winning author of Fire in the Lake. Using the Star Wars missile defense program as a magnifying glass on his presidency, Frances FitzGerald gives us a wholly original portrait of Ronald Reagan, the most puzzling president of the last half of the twentieth century.
Reagan's presidency and the man himself have always been difficult to fathom. His influence was enormous, and the few powerful ideas he espoused remain with us still -- yet he seemed nothing more than a charming, simple-minded, inattentive actor. FitzGerald shows us a Reagan far more complex than the man we thought we knew. A master of the American language and of self-presentation, the greatest storyteller ever to occupy the Oval Office, Reagan created a compelling public persona that bore little relationship to himself.
The real Ronald Reagan -- the Reagan who emerges from FitzGerald's book -- was a gifted politician with a deep understanding of the American national psyche and at the same time an executive almost totally disengaged from the policies of his administration and from the people who surrounded him.
The idea that America should have an impregnable shield against nuclear weapons was Reagan's invention. His famous Star Wars speech, in which he promised us such a shield and called upon scientists to produce it, gave rise to the Strategic Defense Initiative. Reagan used his sure understanding of American mythology, history and politics to persuade the country that a perfect defense against Soviet nuclear weapons would be possible, even though the technology did not exist and was not remotely feasible. His idea turned into a multibillion-dollar research program. SDI played a central role in U.S.-Soviet relations at a crucial juncture in the Cold War, and in a different form it survives to this day.
Drawing on prodigious research, including interviews with the participants, FitzGerald offers new insights into American foreign policy in the Reagan era. She gives us revealing portraits of major players in Reagan's administration, including George Shultz, Caspar Weinberger, Donald Regan and Paul Nitze, and she provides a radically new view of what happened at the Reagan-Gorbachev summits in Geneva, Reykjavik, Washington and Moscow.
FitzGerald describes the fierce battles among Reagan's advisers and the frightening increase of Cold War tensions during Reagan's first term. She shows how the president who presided over the greatest peacetime military buildup came to espouse the elimination of nuclear weapons, and how the man who insisted that the Soviet Union was an "evil empire" came to embrace the Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, and to proclaim an end to the Cold War long before most in Washington understood that it had ended.
Way Out There in the Blue is a ground-breaking history of the American side of the end of the Cold War. Both appalling and funny, it is a black comedy in which Reagan, playing the role he wrote for himself, is the hero.
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About the author

Frances FitzGerald is the recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the Bancroft Prize, and a prize from the National Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is the author of The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America; Fire in the Lake: the Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam; America Revised: History School Books in the Twentieth Century; Cities on a Hill: A Journey through Contemporary American Cultures; Way Out in the Blue: Reagan, Star Wars and the End of the Cold War; and Vietnam: Spirits of the Earth. She has written for The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper’s, The New York Review of Books, The Nation, Rolling Stone, and Esquire.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Simon and Schuster
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Published on
Feb 21, 2001
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Pages
592
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ISBN
9780743203777
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Presidents & Heads of State
History / United States / General
Political Science / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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On February 6, 1981, at his first National Security Council meeting, Ronald Reagan told his advisers: “I will make the decisions.” As Reagan’s Secret War reveals, these words provide the touchstone for understanding the extraordinary accomplishments of the Reagan administration, including the decisive events that led to the end of the Cold War.

In penning this book, New York Times bestselling authors Martin Anderson and Annelise Anderson drew upon their unprecedented access to more than eight million highly classified documents housed within the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California—unseen by the public until now. Using his top secret clearances, Martin Anderson was able to access Ronald Reagan’s most privileged exchanges with subordinates and world leaders as well as the tactical record of how Reagan fought to win the Cold War and control nuclear weapons.

The most revelatory of these documents are the minutes of Reagan-chaired National Security Council meetings, the dozens of secret letters sent by Reagan to world leaders, and the eyewitness notes from Reagan-Gorbachev summits. Along with these findings, the authors use Reagan’s speeches, radio addresses, personal diaries, and other correspondence to develop a striking picture of a man whose incisive intelligence, uncanny instincts, and quiet self-confidence changed the course of history.

What emerges from this treasure trove of material is irrefutable evidence that Reagan intended from his first days in office to bring down the Soviet Union, that he considered eliminating nuclear weapons his paramount objective, and that he—not his subordinates—was the principal architect of the policies that ultimately brought the Soviets to the nuclear-arms negotiating table. The authors also affirm that many of Reagan’s ideas, including his controversial “Star Wars” missile-defense initiative, proved essential in dissolving the Soviet Union and keeping America safe.

Riveting and eye-opening, Reagan’s Secret War provides a front-row seat to history, a journey into the political mind of a remarkable leader, and proof that one man can, through the force of his deep convictions, bring about sweeping global change.
On June 12, 1987, Ronald Reagan addressed a crowd of 20,000 people in West Berlin in the shadow of the Berlin Wall. The words he delivered that afternoon would become among the most famous in presidential history. "Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate," Reagan said. "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this Wall!"

In this riveting and fast-paced book, Romesh Ratnesar provides an account of how Reagan arrived at his defining moment and what followed from it. The book is based on interviews with numerous former Reagan administration officials and American and German eyewitnesses to the speech, as well as recently declassified State Department documents and East German records of the president's trip. Ratnesar provides new details about the origins of Reagan's speech and the debate within the administration about how to issue the fateful challenge to Gorbachev. Tear Down This Wall re-creates the charged atmosphere surrounding Reagan's visit to Berlin and explores the speech's role in bringing about the fall of the Berlin Wall less than two years later.

At the heart of the story is the relationship between two giants of the late twentieth century: Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev. Departing from the view that Reagan "won" the Cold War, Ratnesar demonstrates that both Reagan and Gorbachev played indispensable roles in bringing about the end of the U.S.-Soviet rivalry. It was the trust that Reagan and Gorbachev built in each other that allowed them finally to overcome the suspicions that had held their predecessors back. Calling on Gorbachev to tear down the Wall, in Reagan's mind, might actually encourage him to do it. Reagan's speech in Berlin was more than a good sound bite. Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, we can now see the speech as the event that marked the beginning of the end of the Cold War.

Elegant and dramatic, Tear Down This Wall is the definitive account of one of the most memorable speeches in recent history and a reminder of the power of a president's words to change the world.
* Winner of the 2017 National Book Critics Circle Award
* National Book Award Finalist
* Time magazine Top 10 Nonfiction Book of the Year
* New York Times Notable Book
* Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2017

This “epic history” (The Boston Globe) from Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Frances FitzGerald is the first to tell the powerful, dramatic story of the Evangelical movement in America—from the Puritan era to the 2016 election. “We have long needed a fair-minded overview of this vitally important religious sensibility, and FitzGerald has now provided it” (The New York Times Book Review).

The evangelical movement began in the revivals of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, known in America as the Great Awakenings. A populist rebellion against the established churches, it became the dominant religious force in the country.

During the nineteenth century white evangelicals split apart, first North versus South, and then, modernist versus fundamentalist. After World War II, Billy Graham attracted enormous crowds and tried to gather all Protestants under his big tent, but the civil rights movement and the social revolution of the sixties drove them apart again. By the 1980s Jerry Falwell and other southern televangelists, such as Pat Robertson, had formed the Christian right. Protesting abortion and gay rights, they led the South into the Republican Party, and for thirty-five years they were the sole voice of evangelicals to be heard nationally. Eventually a younger generation proposed a broader agenda of issues, such as climate change, gender equality, and immigration reform.

Evangelicals now constitute twenty-five percent of the American population, but they are no longer monolithic in their politics. They range from Tea Party supporters to social reformers. Still, with the decline of religious faith generally, FitzGerald suggests that evangelical churches must embrace ethnic minorities if they are to survive. “A well-written, thought-provoking, and deeply researched history that is impressive for its scope and level of detail” (The Wall Street Journal). Her “brilliant book could not have been more timely, more well-researched, more well-written, or more necessary” (The American Scholar).
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