Finally, something Trump and Reagan have in common

A couple of months ago I had this exchange on Twitter with a lefty Irishman who I follow mainly because he is so consistently wrong on just about everything. The subject was Ronald Reagan:

I don’t doubt this chap did engage in several years of intensive post-graduate study of Russian history and politics, but I suspect he went in with his mind made up on Reagan and no amount of evidence was going to change it. If his research really did reveal that the Soviet decision-making process which led to the end of the Cold War was based on Carter-era policies while the election of Reagan only made things worse, he’d have written a book on it, and would be lecturing history somewhere. He didn’t, and he isn’t.

The left’s re-writing of history to deny Reagan any credit for ending the Cold War is important in the context of this story:

Friday’s summit between the leaders of North and South Korea was a “historic meeting” paving the way for the start of a new era, North Korea’s media say.

The North’s Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in of South Korea agreed to work to rid the peninsula of nuclear weapons.

In a rare move, state-run TV and the official KCNA news agency hailed the talks and the leaders’ commitment to seek “complete denuclearisation”.

The summit came just months after warlike rhetoric from the North.

It saw Mr Kim become the first North Korean leader to set foot in South Korea since the end of the Korean War in 1953.

The two men warmly shook hands and then stepped symbolically over the military demarcation line to the North Korean side.

Firstly, let’s not get carried away. I don’t believe for one minute that North Korea has given up its nuclear ambitions and so far nothing has been agreed. But in the context of the conflict between North and South Korea, these developments are huge steps forwardYes it might be just theatre but theatre has a certain importance, particularly when North Korea is involved, a country which is as much theatre as anything else. That the North Korean media are reporting this visit is extremely important, meaning this visit is not just for the benefit of western hawks and South Korean doves.

The two leaders said they would pursue talks with the US and China to formally end the Korean War, which ended in 1953 with a truce, not total peace.

If that happens, it will be the biggest diplomatic coup of the century thus far. So how much of this is down to Trump? Well, quite a lot. It was he who refused to bend to North Korean threats, instead responding with threats of his own with a dose of outright mockery thrown in. And it was he, thankfully via mediums other than Twitter, who put pressure on the Chinese to reign in their rogue puppy, convincing them it was in everyone’s interests to do so. Others have played their role for sure, namely the South Koreans, Chinese, and even Kim Jong-un himself, but this would never be happening without Trump. If the Korean War officially ends as a result of this, he will have pulled off a geopolitical triumph orders of magnitudes more important than Obama’s sucking up to Cuba and throwing money at Iran in a desperate attempt to secure his “legacy”.

However, you can be sure the global elites, the media, and Trump’s ideological enemies at home and abroad will do everything in their power to downplay, ignore, or misrepresent Trump’s role in whatever progress is made on the Korean peninsula from hereon. Like those who can’t bring themselves to accept that Reagan’s policies were instrumental in bringing about the end of the Cold War rather than leading to nuclear Armageddon, those who claimed Trump was recklessly endangering the world will be incapable of acknowledging he’s probably made it safer. How much safer remains to be seen, but let’s recall Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for doing absolutely nothing except winning the presidency after George W. Bush. Nobody is ever going to award the Nobel prize to Donald Trump even if he permanently eliminates war and suffering by tomorrow night, but Obama could at least gift him his.

Liked it? Take a second to support Tim Newman on Patreon!
Share

34 thoughts on “Finally, something Trump and Reagan have in common

  1. I’m amused that the BBC is making relatively little of this story with the hapless Amber Rudd getting top billing today.

    I suspect that it’s difficult not to give Trump the credit for the Korean breakthrough so the simple solution is to pull the story down the running order.

  2. “I don’t doubt this chap did engage in several years of intensive post-graduate study of Russian history and politics”

    Erm, so that sounds like a trained “sovietologist” whose purported massive knowledge has been made irrelevant overnight by Reagan’s winning the war. No wonder he is not thrilled with Reagan.

    Luckily, he can thank Putin (and Obama with his “reset” and “more flexible” attitude) for bringing his profession back.

  3. Erm, so that sounds like a trained “sovietologist” whose purported massive knowledge has been made irrelevant overnight by Reagan’s winning the war.

    He’s too young, so he doesn’t even have that excuse. I wrote a post recently about my mate who left Ireland with some pretty idiotic political ideas and exposure to the big wide world made him change them. It seems this doesn’t happen to everyone.

  4. On a second thought, the guy doesn’t look old enough, so it’s probably his teacher’s illustrious sovietologist career that has been brought to an abrupt halt by Reagan. And then Mr McDowell’s “intensive study” was guided accordingly.

  5. His view of the development of PGMs looks a bit off as well. If only there was some sort of internet search function.

  6. “It seems this doesn’t happen to everyone”

    well, at least judging by your discussions of UK politics (and there is no reason I would notice that island opposite of Calais otherwise) this is not likely to happen in today’s London: Mr. McDowell would need a stint in Warsaw for that.

  7. it’s probably his teacher’s illustrious sovietologist career that has been brought to an abrupt halt by Reagan. And then Mr McDowell’s “intensive study” was guided accordingly.

    Heh.

    this is not likely to happen in today’s London: Mr. McDowell would need a stint in Warsaw for that.

    Indeed. I’d also venture to suggest academia in Moscow is not the best place to understand Russia, too.

  8. I’m sure that Trump is largely responsible for the recent welcome changes regarding Korea. But even if he wasn’t responsible – let’s say, for the sake of argument, it was all China or South Korea or even internal North Korean politics – it is still interesting to look at the news from a few months ago. The BBC and the Guardian seemed convinced that Trump’s rhetoric had brought us to the brink of armageddon. However things stood, the article of faith is that belligerence always makes things worse. So how much better would it have been if Trump had stayed silent?

    Some people are just wedded to the idea that appeasement is always right. It’s inculcated early on – feminised boys, and all that – and nothing will convince such people otherwise.

  9. Carter does deserve some credit. By getting NATO to increase its military expenditure by 3% annually he prompted the Soviets to do the same- which the West could afford and the Soviets could not.
    I can’t imagine Carter exploiting the advantage thus gained however.

  10. Trump obviously deserves some credit but I think main factor in change of attitude of North Koreans is that they unintentionally collapsed their main nuclear testing site last autumn and they probably don’t have money to rebuild. North Korea has their main nuclear testing site near border with China and last NoKo nuclear test destroyed their facilities and radiation leaks are distinct possibility. Both China and United States have good reason to pressure North Korea to stop nuclear development.

  11. “Lacked basic awareness to realise Soviets would regard ‘evil Empire’ and rollback talk as highly threatening.”

    Um… wasn’t being “highly threatening” the point?

  12. Some people are just wedded to the idea that appeasement is always right. It’s inculcated early on – feminised boys, and all that – and nothing will convince such people otherwise.

    Well, it would be a nicer world if men of good will could sit down at a table together and sort it all out. Unfortunately, that’s not the world we live in.

    Case in point: a friend of mine had two recent encounters with parking inspectors. Both times, he arrived at his car at the same time the parking inspector did; both times, the inspector went to give him a ticket anyway. On the first occasion, my friend begged and pleaded and reasoned politely, to no avail. The second time, he lost his temper. The parking inspector was clearly unhappy at the backtalk (so my friend tells me)… but he didn’t write the ticket.

  13. I watched a YouTube video of the fall of the Berlin Wall. It was an inspiring, exciting story that gave you the chills. In the last 10 seconds, they flashed some text on the screen that said something like “Mr. Gorbachev, thank you for taking the wall down.” Man, I completely lost it.

    In an impasse, you need a force function to break out of it. That’s what Reagan did, and I think what Trump is doing now. It would be fascinating to know what has gone on behind the scenes. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Trump administration has scared the living shit out of Un.

    Lastly, I just took Uber with an old Korean driver. He said, “Sometimes it takes a lunatic to,deal with a lunatic.” Fine by me.

  14. Okay, I’m actually qualified to get on my soapbox about this one, since my MA dissertation was on exactly this subject (and it got a good mark too!) (That may, or may not mean I actually know anything about it, but I am academically qualified…)

    One very significant factor in the end of the Cold War was indeed the proliferation of PGMs, especially the Tomahawk missile. Land-attack Tomahawks (conventional or nuclear flavours available on request) which were suddenly hanging off B-52 bombers, being carried by submarines, being embarked on warships (the main reason the USN reactivated the four Iowa-class battleships was because they could carry 32 Tomahawks each, at a point where other surface platforms could embark eight – that changed a few years later and the BBs retired again) and a few famously based at Greenham Common, meant that the existing Soviet air-defence system was suddenly porous, and restoring coverage was going to cost… much more than the USSR could afford.

    Similarly in Western Europe, the US drive towards the “Assault Breaker” family of systems for destroying massed armour, and the “AirLand Battle” doctrine – backed by evidence of what new Western aircraft could do to Soviet kit, such as the 82-0 score in air-to-air combat over the Bekaa Valley between Israeli F-15s and F-16s and Syrian MiGs – made the balance of power for a land war in and around Germany much less promising for the Soviets, who (arguably) had an advantage in the mid-1970s.

    There was more to it than that, of course, and Carter deserves credit for pushing forward development of some of those capabilities, but it was Reagan who took them from prototype to fielded systems (and took the hit for deficit spending and high defence expenditure)

  15. His attitude regarding PGMs is werid. I don’t recall anyone being confident they would work until the Gulf War (1) was over.

    Secondly Gorbachev dosen’t agree with him. He knew it was up when Star Wars began .

  16. This will belong to Trump in a heartbeat – should it go tits up.

    Otherwise… nothing to do with Trump.

    Unless it does go tits up…. the Trump haters are left with the awkward juxtaposition between:
    “Clumsy Trump is so dumb he’s triggering the Norks & Trump will cause WWIII”

    ….. brief pause…

    “North Korea wants to smoke the peace pipe & talk about burying the hatchet”

  17. TOT: The Professor’s website has been DOA for a week or so. Hopefully he’s ok.

  18. We have seen this before with the overtures between the North and the South although there does seem to be a new level of enthusiasm this time around. The South’s President Moon Jae-in seems like the real deal at long last and he is enjoying an overwhelming majority, Rocket Man is relatively new to this as well and is coming across as if he means it. If we believe that they now have intercontinental range then they are a very real threat to the US and Trump will take the credit for any fence mending on his forthcoming trip. Cant see it happening that quickly though nor the US military moving out from China’s doorstep, the Japs won’t be big on a unified Korea either.

  19. Pingback: Samizdata quote of the day « Samizdata

  20. Benaud,

    US PGMs were demonstrated very successfully on a few occasions in the 1980s, such as during the US-Iranian skirmishes (Op PREYING MANTIS), the raid on Libya (ELDORADO CANYON) and by the Israelis in Lebanon in 1982 (when they thoroughly trashed the Syrian air defence system, which was using fairly up-to-date Soviet kit) though adoption was slow in some quarters: the USAF bought into them with enthusiasm, the USN was more cautious, the UK lagged badly and had to play frantic catch-up for GRANBY in 1991.

    TLAM and the F-117 were the big unknowns, the other guided weapons were fairly proven by 1991.

  21. I think Trump generally and in particular on Korea has discombobulated the Chinese, so they have pressured the fat spaz in Pyongyang to sort it out or else no goodies coming across the Chinese border.

    Trump might not be the biggest direct influence here, but he’s the catalyst.

    Of course foreign policy is an easy win for The Donald as his predecessor’s strategy was an even mix of drone strikes on peasants who couldn’t fight back and offering to deepthroat America’s enemies.

  22. >If his research really did reveal that the Soviet decision-making process which led to the end of the Cold War was based on Carter-era policies while the election of Reagan only made things worse, he’d have written a book on it, and would be lecturing history somewhere. He didn’t, and he isn’t.

    That’s assuming that you can only get a book published and a history lectureship at University these days by writing something that’s true and well-researched. A somewhat old-fashioned view of academia…

  23. “Um… wasn’t being “highly threatening” the point?”

    Yes! What else does this idiot think Reagan said it for? As a sort of international equivalent of tut-tutting?

  24. As Steve at the pub points out, the gap between the two statements “Trump will cause WW3” and “North Korea have had to start talking” is being filled with cognitive dissonance.

    If the good news continues I expect the South Korean leadership’s “progressive” nature will be doing a lot of heavy lifting as people search for a comforting narrative.

  25. The cold war was won by all the Presidents from 1948 to 1990. I believe Reagan struck the blow that finally broke the Soviets. Even Carter had his role to play, and he did quite well. If any one weapon system brought the Soviets to their knees it was the Trident Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile Systems (C-4 and D-5) deployed by both the US and UK. The C-4 was deployed in the late 70’s and the D-5 in the mid 80’s.

    The Soviet Union accused the US and UK of deploying a first strike weapon, and it could have been used as such with it’s accuracy, and they knew the jig was up in the arms race. This pretty much popped the bubble the Kremlin hardliners were living in and the whole thing came crashing down.

    I won’t even go into Afghanistan, and the escalating ethnic warfare in the Soviet Union towards the end. If McDowell represents the state of knowledge on the cold war, then it’s worse than I thought.

  26. What else does this idiot think Reagan said it for?

    I’d bet he thinks Reagan was kowtowing to (or bamboozled by) evil silly rightwinger know-nothings.

  27. TOT: The Professor’s website has been DOA for a week or so. Hopefully he’s ok.

    He’s fine, it’s just his website that’s got issues! DDoS attack, most probably.

  28. Sometimes I get a sneaking suspicion that it really was not Reagan: maybe the Berlin wall came down bacause there was nobody left on the western side of it really opposing the USSR.

    https://mobile.twitter.com/PolandDaily/status/990378022619541509

    The President of the #EuropeanCommission, Jean-Claude #Juncker, has decided to attend the 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx.

    https://www.politico.eu/article/juncker-putin-russia-no-european-security-agenda-without/

    “My friend Vladimir Putin — because we have been friends for years, even though nowadays you cannot say that Putin is your friend — was at the time very unpleasantly affected by that one sentence of President Obama when he said [in 2014 in The Hague] that Russia is only a regional power,” Juncker told Dutch outlet Trouw.

    If Trump colluded with Russia, how do you call this?

  29. He’s fine, it’s just his website that’s got issues! DDoS attack, most probably.

    Those pesky Russians again?

  30. You can tell when Trump has done something right when he disappears from the BBC news site.

  31. You can tell when Trump has done something right when he disappears from the BBC news site.

    Heh, I noticed that today when looking for news on Korea!

Comments are closed.