Top positive review
Liberal Right meets Conservative Left
Reviewed in the United States on October 17, 2015
In 8th grade Social Studies, we had to do Current Events. This was back when news was relatively scarce. You saw it at 6:30 on TV or read it in a newspaper. (You had to do something remotely intellectual to acquire news.) Khadaffi and his frequent misspellings was a common topic as we unwittingly learned that Libya's Muslim Dark Ages were our future. The Challenger blew up; we had to write poems about that. Somebody famous had AIDS, maybe, and there was a War on Drugs. After school, you'd hang out with a big brother or sister who listened to the new Sting or Genesis album, or the new subtle protest inside a song by somebody else who'd made a name during all the Live Aid publicity. Because of his machinations behind all of these "Current Events" scenes, Ronald Reagan was every engaged 8th grader's grandfather. Iran Contra happened too, but I remember that more or less during summer break. "I can't recall" was everybody's punchline about Granddad, but that was independent of the reality that was unfolding by the time we 8th graders were beginning 12th grade Civics class and the Berlin Wall was on the cover of Time magazine with all of those German kids styling their freedom jeans.
Reading this book means taking Matlock as an honest narrator. I can see why many would not, and I can see why Matlock wouldn't really know the difference between objective recollection and triumphant oversights. I will call what he does "triumphant recollection". Nevertheless, I see plenty of credit withheld where withheld credit is due: Reagan failed when Brezhnev failed; Reagan failed when Alexander Haig was Secretary of State. Geneva was a time of Gorbachev finding footing at home, unable to act with any independence from the Pilotburo. I remembered Iceland as some sort of occasion, but in Matlock's account, the course to disarmament was not a foregone conclusion. SDI, always known as Star Wars in Current Events, was Gorbachev's hangup, because the United States would not need defense against weapons that the Soviets were agreeing to limit. Then came Washington, and the pivotal third man for friendly negotiation was Eduard Shevardnadze, the type of guy conjured up when Sting says that "Russians love their children too".
Shevardnadze was also contradicted on page 292, a victim of the bad information fed him about Americans. "Shevardnadze led off with an expression of concern about infringements on rights in the United States, mentioning specifically that the US 'systematically denies women and blacks the opportunity to advance'. Apparently the person who drew up Shevardnadze's talking points did not realize that Rozanne Ridgeway, the assistant secretary of state for European affairs, and Colin Powell ... would be sitting at the table alongside Shultz."
Matlock says many times in the book's concluding passages that "the Cold War is over". He says it so many times it becomes a hypnotic spell. He says those who don't know that are irrational. However, in 2004 and as well as now, the Cold War is not over. Pakistan, Iran, North Korea, and Russians in Syria. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are due up as our next president. Reagan and Gorbachev are needed now, and since those leaders are of our receding past, the Cold War is not over.