History’s David C. Engerman says we could still learn from some old Cold War lessons

He chronicles the rise and fall of America’s Soviet experts in 'Know your Enemy'

David C. Engerman

Associate Professor of History David C. Engerman’s new book is attracting attention both for the way its succeeds at its basic mission – chronicling the development of Soviet Studies in the United States following the end of World War II – and also because Engerman finds an important lesson for the future in his exploration of the past.
Know Your Enemy: The Rise and Fall of America’s Soviet Experts” explores the actions of scholars, soldiers, spies and philanthropists who realized America was dangerously ignorant of the rising power of the Soviet Union and, in response, created a new field that brought together some of the best minds of the political left, right and center.
By studying and educating others about Soviet society and culture and Russian history and literature, these individuals helped create knowledge for fighting the Cold War and defining Cold War thinking. Their efforts, Engerman writes, connected the Pentagon with academe in ways that still matter today.
Engerman fervently hopes so, for, he asserts in “Jihadology,” a featured article in the on-line edition of Foreign Affairs that today the United States faces a threat from Islamic fundamentalism that is analogous to that posed by the Soviet Union 60 years ago.
“Much like the Soviet Union,” he writes, “militant Islam represents not just an army but an idea -- and one that fights in novel and highly unorthodox ways.”
Engerman also has written an article based on the book for the History News Network.

“Know Your Enemy” was recently reviewed in the Wall Street Journal. You can read the review here.

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