Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Simple-Minded Genius

Christopher Hitchens goes a little squishy on his one-time nemesis Ronald Reagan:
In a bizarre way...his simple-mindedness turns out to have had a touch of genius to it. His grasp of physics was on a level with Hollywood beam-weapon B-movies, and how we all laughed when he told Mikhail Gorbachev that, in the event of a Martian invasion of Earth, the United States and the Soviet Union would combine to sink their differences. But he had an insight that was denied to the adherents of Mutual Assured Destruction, whose theory was rapidly coming up against diminishing returns.
David Eisenhower, Nixon's son-in-law, told me that Reagan had indeed gotten the Strategic Defense Initiative from an old movie and that his self-confidence during negotiations with the Soviets stemmed from his mistaken belief that the strategic missile-killing system had actually been designed and deployed. This kind of thing can make us goofy with wonderment about that Reagan magic. Or it could help us appreciate the extent to which, during the Reagan years, the Soviet Union was actually crumbling of its own accord, in part because of a reckless expenditure on weaponry that was the consequence of all that MAD thinking and, thus, the effective policies of Reagan's predecessors.

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