Ronald reagan

‘Liz Truss hasn’t understood a word I wrote’, says PM’s favourite author

As I reported this summer, Liz Truss’s favourite historian is Rick Perlstein, the great chronicler of the rise of the new right in its Nixonian and Reaganite forms between 1960 and 1980. She told journalists that she read ‘anything’ he wrote. Interviewers noticed Perlstein’s books on her shelves. In a strange compliment to the American historian, Truss or sources close to her briefed The Spectator‘s Katy Balls with precise (if unacknowledged) quotes from his account of the rise of Ronald Reagan. I sent Perlstein my piece and asked for his thoughts. Let me put it like this: he may be her favourite historian, but she is not his favourite politician. Not

Has liberalism destroyed itself?

According to Vladimir Putin, liberalism is an ‘obsolete’ doctrine, a worn-out political philosophy no longer fit for purpose. In this well-timed, rather urgent book, Francis Fukuyama attacks that view and puts a vigorous case for the defence. Despite its faults, liberalism is a force for good, he says, and it remains the only political philosophy capable of taking on the authoritarians of Moscow and Beijing. But the despots are not the central focus of his argument. The biggest threats to the liberal society, he writes, come from within. In Fukuyama’s crisp retelling, the liberal ideal emerged in the aftermath of Europe’s wars of religion. The notion that people could only

What would have happened in the Falklands if Thatcher had been a man?

Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands 40 years ago. I had joined the Daily Telegraph as a reporter in 1979 and was by then a leader writer. The Falklands was the first really seismic story I had encountered. What made it so exciting was that it was both genuinely absurd and genuinely important. The absurdity lay in Argentina’s vainglory. It violently claimed a right to the islands which not one single Falklands resident accepted. Its caudillo, General Galtieri, was from the comic-opera school of Latin American dictators, covered with gold braid and frequently drunk. In his invasion broadcast, he invoked the Virgin Mary. But Our Lady wisely ducked the contest, leaving

The quick-witted Russian who saved millions of lives

Spectator contributors were asked: Which moment from history seems most significant or interesting? Here is Dominic Cummings’s answer: In the early morning of 26 September 1983, Stanislav Petrov of the Soviet Union’s Air Defence Force was on duty, monitoring his country’s satellite system, when the siren sounded. His computer indicated that the US had just launched five nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles, and protocol required him to notify superiors immediately. Soviet strategy was to ‘launch on warning’, and many in Moscow believed Ronald Reagan was planning a first strike.  But Petrov had a gut feeling this was a false alarm. Five missiles seemed too few, and the system itself was new.

You’ll keep saying ‘I’m sorry, did I hear that correctly?’: Fiasco reviewed

Kevin Katke was quite a man. He had no military training, no political background and no espionage experience. Nonetheless, his hatred of communists and can-do attitude made him the pre-eminent idiot savant of private American intelligence throughout the Reagan administration. It was a peripatetic career that culminated with him spearheading a bungled plot to oust a leftist regime in Grenada while holding down a full-time job at Macy’s. Call it the American dream. I learnt this — along with dozens of other things to make you say, ‘I’m sorry, did I hear that correctly?’ — listening to Fiasco (Luminary), a political-history podcast whose second season retells the bizarre and shambolic