Tuesday, June 08, 2004

More on a great man

Ronald Reagan was one of the most important people of the 20th Century. More evaluation of the man and his leadership today.

First lesson for historians and ivory tower types: don't get it wrong and then try to correct yourself 20+ years later because Dinesh D'Sousa does his homework and will call you on your stupidity. This means you, Arthur Schlesinger, Strobe Talbott, Lester Thurow and Seweryn Bialer. Thurow's comment in 1989 takes the DOPE prize: "Can economic command significantly . . . accelerate the growth process? The remarkable performance of the Soviet Union suggests that it can. . . . Today the Soviet Union is a country whose economic achievements bear comparison with those of the United States."

Orwell was right: some concepts are so stupid that only an intellectual could believe them.

Read D'Sousa's whole article. And then read Mark Steyn in today's Daily Telegraph on Reagan, small government and pan-Europeanism. Here's an excerpt:

'We are a nation that has a government - not the other way around.' Of all the marvellous Ronald Reagan lines retailed over the weekend, that's my favourite. He said it in his inaugural address in 1981, and it encapsulates his legacy at home and abroad . . . Reagan made small government a big idea.

* * *

But, in the broader sense, Reagan's line about nations that have governments is a good way to weigh up the world. Across central and eastern Europe, from Slovenia to Lithuania to Bulgaria, governments that had nations have been replaced by nations that have governments - serving at the people's pleasure.

The intelligentsia persist in believing this had nothing to do with Reagan or Thatcher: they maintain that the Soviet empire would have collapsed anyway, their belated belief in the inevitable failure of communism being in no way inconsistent with their previous long-held belief in the inevitable triumph of communism. And anyway, they continue, if anyone was responsible, it was Mikhail Gorbachev.

In fact, it was Reagan who was responsible for Gorbachev. The Politburo would have gone on rotating the same old 1950s waxworks - Brezhnev, Chernenko, Andropov - for another decade or three, had not Washington's military build-up so exposed the old guard's inability to keep up that, in 1985, it turned in desperation to someone new.

No comments: