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13A Nuclear Game of Chicken: Reagan Leads the Cold War

One should be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise.—F. SCOTT FITZGERALD

THE COMPLEX DIALECTIC of human existence often generates unintended consequences. Despite President Reagan’s popularity and the appeal of his Cold War rhetoric to millions, he helped turn many Americans against the nuclear arms race. There was something quite frightening about a president who played a provocative game of chicken with a paranoid nuclear-armed adversary.

Reagan’s infamous joke about bombing the Soviet Union “in five minutes,” accidentally uttered into a live radio microphone, sent a chill around the world. It made people wonder just how seriously he took ...

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