America Between the Wars

From 11/9 to 9/11

A compelling narrative of how the decisions and debates of the years between the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the World Trade Center towers shaped the events, arguments, and politics of the world we live in today.

Foreign policy analyses written by CFR fellows and published by the trade presses, academic presses, or the Council on Foreign Relations Press.

Read an excerpt of America Between the Wars.

When the Berlin Wall collapsed on November 9, 1989—signaling the end of the Cold War—America and the West declared victory: democracy and free markets had prevailed and the United States emerged as the world's triumphant superpower. The finger-on-the-button tension that had defined a generation was over, and it seemed that peace was at hand.

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But in their new book, America Between the Wars: From 11/9 to 9/11, Center for a New American Security's Derek Chollet and Council Senior Fellow James M. Goldgeier write that it is a mistake to dismiss the twelve years between 1989 and 2001 as a "holiday from history." Just as history did not end on 11/9, it did not begin on 9/11.

America Between the Wars shows that the challenges confronting America today—the struggle with Iraq, tensions with allies, combating extremist forces determined to spread terror, responding to the violent breakdown of states, stemming the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, managing the economy in an era of dramatic technological revolution, and choosing when to send American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines to fight—did not start on 9/11. They began when the Cold War ended more than a decade earlier, and the Democrats and Republicans are still struggling with the consequences—and will continue to do so when a new president takes office in 2009 and beyond.

Drawing on interviews with leaders across the political spectrum, from Colin Powell and Newt Gingrich to Madeleine Albright and Robert Rubin to Pat Buchanan and Ralph Nader, as well as using declassified government documents, America Between the Wars shows how liberals and conservatives reacted to the collapse of communism and tried to refashion themselves to forge a new kind of politics. It also tells the story of how America's leaders grappled with a moment of dramatic change—offering fresh insights on the successes they achieved and the opportunities they missed.

A Council on Foreign Relations Book

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Reviews and Endorsements

With expertise, literary facility, and a degree of narrative talent not normally found in policy wonks, [the authors] explicate all the key issues that emerged after the Cold War ... More impressively, they situate their discussion of these issues within a complicated matrix of newly scrambled partisan politics. It's a significant historical contribution.

David Greenberg, Slate magazine Best Books of 2008

[The authors] have written an astute and highly informed book, lucidly mapping the forces that have been reshaping the post-cold-war world ... insightful.

Michiko Kakutani, New York Times


Matt Bai, New York Times Magazine

Provocative. ... A careful explication of why things are as they are, with all those old arguments continuing to sizzle and pop—suggestive and highly useful for those seeking to reshape policy in the near term.

Kirkus Reviews

An indispensable history to the decade preceding 9/11. You can't understand today's American crisis without understanding how we got there. This book tells us, eloquently and compellingly.

Richard Holbrooke, former U.S. ambassador to the UN

This book will likely stand as the definitive work on the politics, people,and ideas involved in the foreign policy debates of the 1990s. It shows how, in the decade before September 11, both Republicans and Democrats, both liberals and conservatives, struggled to come to grips with post–Cold War issues such as the use of military force, the promotion of democracy, and the proper U.S. role in the world. This is a lucidly written history, devoid of rhetoric and full of invaluable information.

James Mann, author of Rise of the Vulcans

America Between the Wars is a deeply researched, well-written account of U.S. foreign policy in the first post–Cold War decade. Authors Chollet and Goldgeier should be commended for being comprehensive and fair-minded. Truly essential reading.

Douglas Brinkley, professor of history at Rice University and fellow at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy

Here is an excellent account of how the United States and the world changed from the conclusion of the Cold War to the al-Qaeda attacks of 2001. The history of diplomacy and international affairs are inseparable from the history of politics; but it is extremely difficult to do them all justice in a single book. Derek Chollet and James Goldgeier not only succeed, they succeed in style—and they provide a persuasive and entirely original way of understanding America's role in global affairs during a pivotal dozen years.

Sean Wilentz, professor of history at Princeton University and author of The Age of Reagan

In America Between the Wars, Goldgeier and Chollet examine the decade between the collapse of the Soviet Union and the destruction of the Twin Towers and offer illuminating insights into the forces that have reshaped today's world.

Henry Kissinger

This book is a gem of current history, a scrupulously fair and highly readable piece of old-fashioned scholarship. Chollet and Goldgeier, two of the most promising young foreign policy experts, now allow us to argue about the ten-year run-up to 9/11 and know what we're talking about.

Leslie H. Gelb, former New York Times columnist and president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations

Chollet and Goldgeier have written a highly informative, engaging, and accessible account of the period between America's most recent major wars—the Cold War and the War on Terror. In this balanced and well written story, they argue that 9/11 did not change everything and that in order to analyze America's challenges today, one must understand the foreign policy debates and clashes of the 1990s.

Lee H. Hamilton, president and director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and vice chair of the 9/11 Commission

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