Friday, 14 November 2008

This is Obama's chance to end the Star Wars fantasy

Another well written and thought provoking article from the Independent's Johann Hari:

The US has spent $160bn, only to increase the nuclear danger to itself and the rest of us. 

The world is still pleasurably suffering from Woah-bama whiplash. Did he really win? Are we all awake? And would anybody mind if he starts a few months early? The need for decisions is rapidly piling up – and one of President-Elect Obama’s first choices is whether to bring to an end the strangest story ever told in American politics. 

It is the tale of how a man with Alzheimer’s Disease came up with a physically impossible fantasy based on a B-movie he once starred in – and how the US spent $160bn trying to make it come true. These billions succeeded only in making some defence companies very rich, and making Russia point its nukes at Poland and Britain once more. Oh, and if Obama doesn’t decide to close this long-running farce now, it will make one more contribution to world history: the number of Weapons of Mass Destruction in the world will dramatically increase.

Read the rest here.


  1. So rarely are the words "thought provoking" and Johann Hari included in the same sentence.

    Reagan won the Cold War. SDI played its part.

  2. A few things:

    1.The Cold War was "ended" by a vast array of factors not limited to, massive Soviet overspending on arms, political unrest in the Soviet Union etc, and I'm sure a History student could reel off a dozen more. Reagan did not end it by himself by any stretch of the imagination.

    2.What part? How exactly did an embryonic missile defense shield play a part in the collapse of the Soviet Union? How?

    3.Reagan style laissez-faire economics has led to the nationalisation of US banks with a large amount of the money to do so has been borrowed from China. So hooray for Reagan.

    4.As for Johann Hari; he puts more thoughtfulness into any one word that he speaks than you put into this comment.

    5.If you can't even bothered to think up a name then you obviously aren't interested in conversation, and that fact does not say anything positive about you as a person.

  3. Alan Partridge, a-ha.21 November 2008 at 19:28

    Ronald Reagan was the supreme architect of the West's Cold War victory. I suppose that the old Soviet apologists in the Labour Party will never recognise his massive achievement.

    Interestingly, Reagan predicted that Communism would end up on the ash heap of history well before 1989. Political scientists and Sovietologists scoffed at the very notion. And left wing intellectuals, such as J.K. Galbraith, were still talking of "great material progress" in the Soviet system as late as 1984. These people were blind because they did not want to see, and because they were intoxicated with the classic socialist fantasy of believing that state power offers a short cut to progress.

    In regard to Reagan's role, let us look to the remarks of the last Soviet foreign minister Alexandr Bessmertykh at a conference reflecting on American-Soviet relations in the 1980s:

    "...I would say that one of the major moments when the strategists in the Soviet Union started maybe even to reconsider its positions was when the programme of SDI was pronounced in March of 1983. It started to the minds of the [Soviet] leaders that there might be something very, very dangerous in that...

    ...When Gorbachev came to power in Moscow, the economic statistics already indicated that the economy was not doing so good. So when you were talking about SDI and arms control, the economic element...was sometimes the number one preoccupation of Gorbachev, especially when we were preparing ourselves for Reykjavik..."

    Thank God for Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.

  4. My reticence when it comes to Reagan has nothing to do with any apologism on my part for the Soviet Union. It was one of the most despicable and self-harming regimes in history and I think Reagan's opposition to it should be acknowledged.

    The quotes you give are very interesting, they would seem to suggest that SDI had a larger part (in the eyes of this foreign minister at least) than I had thought.

    However, I see no place for an SDI program which has achieved little success in achieving its military goals in the modern world. What purpose does it serve?

    As for Thatcher; I will never say "Thank God" for that person. She hacked away at the social support provided to the unemployed and treated the miners as if she were at war and they an opposing army. That is absolutely no way for a Prime Minister to treat citizens of their own country.

  5. And of course the doomsday devices that have been talked about including SDI are nothing new. It's an aspect of the arms race to 'surrender control' to something else in order to continue along a path so as not to lose face with the other side. But even in the quote there was the notion that continuing along with the arms race for the soviets was economically untenable, SDI or not.
    In terms of who won the Cold war. I think Nahautl was right to suggest that there was a vast array of different factors I think Gorbachev deserves a mention at least for perestroika and Glasnost that gave way to some unintended consequences.

  6. Margaret Thatcher24 November 2008 at 22:17

    Ronald Reagan won the Cold War, in effect, without firing a shot.

    In Dec 87', the Soviet Union dropped their demands for the abandonment of SDI and agreed to the American proposals for arms reduction, notably, the removal of all intermediate range missiles from Europe.

    Gorbachev had crossed his Rubicon. The Soviets had been forced to accept that the strategy they had pursued since the 1960s - of using weaponry, subversion and propaganda to make up for their internal weaknesses and so retain superpower status - had finally failed.

    In desperation to find someone else to credit for the end to the Cold War, the left always summon up Gorbachev as a kind of deus ex machina who transformed everything. But what many fail to explain is (to use of the words of the excellent Soviet historian Richard Pipes):

    "why, after four years of Reagan's relentlessly confrontational policies the Soviet Union did not respond in any appointing a similarly hard line, beligerent First Secretary, but settled on a man of compromise." ('Misinterpreting the Cold War: The Hard-Liners had it Right', Foreign Affairs, Winter 1995).

    In the end, Reagan's values of liberty, democracy and the free market triumphed over the clunking fist of marxist-socialism.