(p. 9) Failure is in fashion these days. We read about failing fast and failing well, about grit incubated by repeated failure in school and innovation by repeated failure in business. So it may be a good time to consider the hidden virtues of failure in foreign policy. And who better to demonstrate those virtues than one of modern America’s great optimists?
On a Sunday evening in October 1986, Ronald Reagan returned to the White House after what he called “one of the longest, most disappointing — and ultimately angriest — days of my presidency.” He had spent more than 10 hours in discussions with Mikhail Gorbachev, in Reykjavik, Iceland, coming gut-wrenchingly close to a breakthrough in United States-Soviet nuclear talks before everything fell apart. He was, in his personal assistant’s judgment, “borderline distraught.” Network news pronounced “the magic of the Reagan persona gone,” Gorbachev called him a “feebleminded cave man,” and even his own generals told him that his ideas “pose high risks to the security of the nation.” Soon, the Democrats would retake Congress, and the revelations of Iran-contra would spur talk of impeachment.
. . .
. . . foreign policy “failure” turned out to be the foundation of future accomplishment.
For the full review, see:
DANIEL KURTZ-PHELAN. “A Thawing in Iceland.” The New York Times Book Review (Sun., Aug. 3, 2014): 9.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date Aug. 1, 2014.)
The book being reviewed is:
Adelman, Ken. Reagan at Reykjavik: Forty-Eight Hours That Ended the Cold War. New York: Broadside Books, 2014.