Sunday, September 20, 2009

Reading :: The Ayes of Texas

The Ayes of Texas
By Daniel da Cruz

I read perhaps one book of fiction per year. This year, I picked up a piece of Cold War science fiction about which I had always been curious. The premise behind this 1982 book, The Ayes of Texas, is classic Cold War paranoia. In 1994, the Soviet Union is going strong, having taken over most of the world; the United States has gotten bogged down in pouring foreign aid into its own third world client states, including India and China. The Soviets have demonstrated their own strategic defense initiative and shown off their vast underground cities, both of which guarantee their ability to survive a nuclear struggle. An uneasy detente rests over the world. As the author explains, Reagan's attempts to reverse his predecessor's neglect of the military has doomed the US.

In this situation, a Texan millionaire, who happens to be a triple amputee WWII veteran, answers the call of the Texas governor by secretly refurbishing his old WWII ship, the rusting Texas. At the same time, the Soviets have proposed a peace accord that is a transparent Soviet ploy: one that would have the US abandon its industrial base and focus on agriculture. The weary US public buys this, but a few don't, and the Texas millionaire is among them. He riles up sentiment in Texas against a Soviet fleet that is touring US ports; the result is Texas secession and an unlikely battle in which the city of Houston annihilates the entire Soviet 17th Fleet.

The book is interesting mainly as a relic of Cold War paranoia in which Soviet expansion was inevitable, and only a Machiavellian Great Man could save the free world. As we now know, in retrospect this chain of events is not plausible: Carter's military spending had begun an upward trajectory even before Reagan came into office; the Soviet Union had already begun to suffer from overexpansion; and Great Men are overrated. But the book reflects the mindset of its time, and that's really the most interesting thing about it. I don't recommend the book.


Tom King said...

I got a kick out of the book and both its sequels. I own the complete set. There are some things you cite in the book that weren't exactly in there too, but everybody has their own take on it. Personally, I wish DaCruz had kept up with his writing career.

Interesting your take on history too. You seem to be telling us that it wasn't Reagan that brought down the Soviet Union, but that Carter was already on it and the collapse of the Soviet Union was inevitable? Carter? Really?

Clay Spinuzzi said...

Hi, Tom. Heavens no, I am certainly not crediting the fall of the Soviet Union to Carter. Reagan did change the strategic fundamental stance of the US from containment to rollback. John Arquilla's book The Reagan Imprint does a great job of discussing this change. If Carter had continued in office, he most likely would not have executed this strategic change, and things would have played out quite differently.

My point was that even with the strategic change, Reagan simply wouldn't have had enough raw material to work with, had Carter not continued building up the military. Similarly, if the USSR hadn't faced mounting internal problems, it wouldn't have been close enough to collapse by the end of the Bush era. That's what I meant when I said that "Great Men are overrated."