Thursday, June 27, 2019

Book Review: Three Days in Moscow

book cover for Three Days in MoscowDon't let the title fool you. This book is about far more than that. It covers Reagan's adversarial relationship with the former Soviet Union and communism. There's quite a bit of background biography to explain how Reagan came to be the hardliner he was. It highlights the big four speeches he gave and the summits with Gorbachev.

Baier parked himself in the Reagan library (with Catherine Whitney's help) and interviewed many people who worked with Reagan through his political career. There's a ton of footnotes to back up things that were said and done. While it glosses over the uglier parts of Reagan's foreign policy and his anti-communist crusade (an observation, not a criticism), the book is really good when it focuses on the relationship between Reagan and Gorbachev. I was pleasantly surprised to find Gorbachev treated so well in the text.

As for Baier, it was clear that he was wearing his fanboy pants when he wrote this. That's clear from the introduction when he recalls "being struck by awe" during a visit to the White House for a special event when he was a senior in high school. The press were on the outskirts of the event and Baier remembers being pissed off (my words, his emotion) at Sam Donaldson for rudely interrupting the event. I think if the young Mr. Baier could've bopped him on the nose for it, he would've, not that I could blame him. Sam Donaldson was annoying. But Baier seemed a little obsessed, referencing him three more times, IIRC, each time negatively.

Another negative of the book was the last chapter. I think the effect was intended to bring the US-Russian relationship to the present day. After panning Bush-43 and Obama for their failure to properly address Putin's trouble-making, he went on to compare Trump to Reagan. The text is contorted with attempts to make Trump seem like Reagan while acknowledging some of the glaring differences. For someone who was so enamored of Reagan, I don't see how he could even think about equating the two in a positive context.

I was a teenager while Reagan was President. I had issues with authority back then (Ok, I still do), and Reagan's fiery rhetoric coupled with the cult-like fandom he inspired gave me nightmares. I didn't expect to live to see thirty. I was shocked when the Berlin Wall came down. Surprise! Reagan's strategy worked! Alas, the democratic principles he sought for the Soviet Union didn't survive Putin's thugocracy.

As I've gotten older, I've come to appreciate Reagan. While I still don't see eye-to-eye with plenty of his policies, I miss his congenial disposition, something sorely lacking in today's politics. I wasn't planning on reading this book, but a friend of mine insisted I read it, and I'm glad that I did. Well, most of it anyway.

4 stars.


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