Toy missiles

October 22 2012

P.T.: Have you ever talked to the real fire-eaters, to any of the Pentagon generals?

A.T.: Well now, I was once invited to give a talk in the Pentagon to a roomful of staff colonels, and the wife of the then Secretary for War got up and attacked me for saying that we ought to recognise China. She was a real fire-eater. She had no business to be there, I suppose, but she didn’t hesitate to throw her – or perhaps it was her husband’s – weight about in the presence of all those distinguished professionals. I got a horrible feeling when I went into the Secretary for War’s office. It was full of little cardboard models of missiles. They were all over the tables and chairs and everywhere, and he was delighting in them – like a child surrounded by its toys. Now that was alarming.

He presumably means Secretary of Defense, who replaced the Secretary of War (office abolished; established 1789) in the US cabinet in 1947.

In Britain a Minister of Defence separate from the prime minister replaced the Secretary of State for War (office established 1794; the “War Office”) in the cabinet in 1946, but the office survived as a non-cabinet post. It was abolished in 1964, along with that of First Lord of the Admiralty and Secretary of State for Air, and the cabinet minister was restyled Secretary of State for Defence.

Nixon visited China in 1972. The US recognised China in 1979. Britain had done so in 1950.

Russia and China had been diverging ideologically since 1956. The Sino-Soviet split came into the open in 1961 and was never repaired.

With Philip Toynbee, Comparing Notes, A Dialogue across a Generation, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1963

One Response to “Toy missiles”

  1. davidderrick Says:

    Afterthought. Fifty years ago today, and close to the time this dialogue was taking place, Kennedy addressed the nation about the buildup of Russian arms on Cuba.


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