Friday, November 21, 2003

The "Amiable Dunce": A fine, balanced, and funny review of Peter Schweizer's Reagan's War over at Reason. Sample:
Yet if there was an eggplant where Reagan’s brain should have been, how did he manage to win the Cold War? How did he bring a victorious end to an ideological and military deadlock that defied Kennedy’s best and brightest, Johnson’s political cunning, Carter’s brilliance (certified not only by his nuclear physics degree but also by an Evelyn Wood speed reading diploma), Eisenhower’s strategic prowess, and even Nixon’s widely acknowledged (if not always admired) skills as a back-alley fighter?

The general response among America’s chattering classes has been that Reagan was the political equivalent of the millionth customer at Bloomingdale’s. He was the guy lucky enough to walk through the door as the prize was handed out, as if everything was pre-ordained and would have happened the same way no matter whether the White House had been occupied by Michael Dukakis or George McGovern or Susan Sarandon. An alternative theory posits that Gorbachev was some sort of Jeffersonian kamikaze pilot, taking his whole nation over the cliff for the thrill of being proclaimed Time’s Man of the Decade.

Reagan, Schweizer says, won the cold war by forcing the USSR into an arms race they couldn't win.
In retrospect, Reagan’s point that the Soviet economy was on life support seems obvious to the point of banality. In fact, that’s one of the arguments his critics use against him: that the Soviet economy would have imploded anyway, even without Reagan’s defense buildup. But that’s not the way foreign policy intellectuals saw it in 1982.
There follows a list of embarrassing statements from the economic likes of Thurow and Galbraith, with a howler from Arthur Schlesinger thrown in for good measure.

As I was arguing yesterday, re: The Day After, it's the ultimate cup of hemlock for liberals to face the mounting evidence that Reagan not only engineered the defeat of the USSR, but that it was a bold and coherent plan he had formulated since even before his governorship:

As early as 1963, Reagan argued that the arms race should be not reined in but accelerated. "If we truly believe that our way of life is best, aren’t the Russians more likely to recognize that fact and modify their stand if we let their economy come unhinged, so the contrast is apparent?" he asked in a speech that year. "In an all-out race our system is strong," said Reagan, "and eventually the enemy gives up the race as a hopeless cause."

He wanted to use American technology to leverage an arms race that would force Moscow’s wheezing command economy into a Hobson’s choice between guns and butter. Either way, Reagan believed, the Soviets would lose: They could never keep up with the United States in an arms race, but abandoning it would be suicidal for a state that conducted all its business at gunpoint.

I have a friend who is very definitely not a Republican; he is, rather, a pretty serious minarchist who happens to think a country as powerful as America shouldn't get pushed around by shithead foreign politicians. Despite his non-conservative leanings, he rarely refers to Reagan as anything other than "that great man." I think we're down to only the kool-aid-drinking left (i.e., the actual socialists) that hasn't recognized that history has Reagan on track for the American political pantheon, once all the boomer historians kick off and a disinterested account is written.

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