Now the deification of Reagan is one thing (although there was a little shock on my part in reading the ensuing pablum about Ronnie's supposed prescience), but that deserves a separate post and I've long promised The Governor of Redmonk something on that front. Per Ignatieff, Reagan is supposedly responsible for "the emergence of democracy promotion as a central goal of United States foreign policy". The repeated misadventures in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and almost everywhere else are conveniently skipped over. The dissonance of soaring cowboy rhetoric, garden-variety Iran/Contra criminality, defence industry sinecures, or Savings and Loan cronyism and plain hypocrisy in the Realpolitik that Reagan's cohorts practiced are not commented upon, nor is it anywhere acknowledged that those swarthy developing world types incurred consideral collateral damage when they served as battlegrounds and proxies in that awful Cold War.
Hot damn! That needed to be said. I've been long winding up to a rant on Reagan, and being able to quote Koranteng helps relieve a bit of the pressure.
Why do Americans and some Brits venerate such a despicable character? I suppose they ask why so many others revile him. Never mind Reaganomics. His legacy would never be so awful for merely damaging the macroeconomics of his own country (national leaders, unfortunately, do this all the time). What Reagan did that, I'm convinced, will have him stomped into history's dustbin once people get the right amount of perspective is to set back the development of large swathes of the world by at least two decades. As if that wasn't bad enough, he and his cronies did so with a cowboy cavalier insouciance that is nothing short of breathtaking.
Some of the veneration of Reagan comes from the abject myth that he ended the cold war, made even more laughable by the puerile notion that once The Reagan had flung down the awesome term "Evil Empire" the enemy capital immediately began quaking to its sudden demise. In the real world it was Thatcher who had to whap Reagan upside his head with her handbag before he took any sort of meaningful action against the Soviet Union (he originally preferred to restrict his belligerence to socialist regimes that did not bristle with enough ICBMs to pulverize the moon), and it was the audacious tandem of Walesa and Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II) who truly catalyzed the tumble. And even so, all that would all have been for naught without Gorbachev's even more audacious revolution from within the very Kremlin. Those figures, and not Reagan are rightly associated with the collapse of the USSR, if we insist on pin-pointing individuals. But why do we so insist, anyway? Clearly we saw an inevitable unraveling of the ludicrous economics of communism, stretched thin by the need to manage a huge war machine and an even bigger machine for promotion of communism abroad.
Thatcher is an interesting character. Her economics were brutal, but they were just what Britain needed. People often liken it to Reaganomics, and that boggles my mind. Reaganomics was an entirely capricious beast forged by all the tools of operators such as the Coors family (yes, an embarrassing amount of the poison sprang from this wonderful state of Colorado) towards the establishment of oligarchy. It was and is never necessary and always destructive. At low resolution some of the implements of Thatcher's and Reagan's policies were the same, but even where there was such partial correspondence their impetus and effect were very different. I admire Thatcher as a very resolute figure: she didn't do any favors to the developing world, but she at least was clear and forthright about what she was up to. We could see the blows as they arrived, and respond as best we could. Reagan preferred slinking, cowardly action, with the occasional, strategic sally, such as the incredibly gallant assault on tiny little Grenada.
That same laudable Reagan was for breaking sanctions on the apartheid regime in the name of not encouraging that dastardly communist Nelson Mandela who was busy breaking rocks on Robben Island. Indeed if I remember correctly even the democratic institutions of the US need looking after and some of us are monitoring the situation here with alarm.
That's the sort of point we should never lose sight of. The only thing Reagan means to anyone who has had to live through a thuggish regime in Africa is a redefinition of "freedom" so cynical that I suspect it outdid even the propaganda-driven policy of the "Evil Empire" itself.
Oh. And, as usual, Koranteng's soundtrack to his rant (see the end of his posting) is right on.