The good guys win : Ronald Reagan, fiction, and the transformation of national security




Griffin, Benjamin, Ph. D.

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The dissertation examines how Ronald Reagan made use of fiction in developing his world view and grand strategy. It argues his use of narrative played an essential role in shaping his vision and in how he communicated with the American public. In particular, the works of Tom Clancy, westerns, and science-fiction novels provided synthetic experiences and creative space that helped Reagan contextualize information and imagine the near-future. Fiction also helped Reagan develop empathy for peoples behind the Iron Curtain leading to a nuanced policy that clearly distinguished the people from their government. The creativity and imagination of Reagan’s vision caused him to break with orthodox conservative positions and hastened the end of the Cold War. The dissertation will also examine how Reagan’s use of fiction proved damaging in the developing world as his narrow reading reinforced tropes and stereotypes leading to ineffective policies that contributed to great suffering in Latin America, South Africa, and the Middle East. The dissertation argues that policy makers read a broad amount of fiction from diverse sources and actively seek to incorporate it into their strategies.



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