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Gorbachev's Br'er Rabbit Tactic on 'Star Wars'

March 21, 1987

Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev is using the Br'er Rabbit gambit against President Reagan's "Star Wars" ploy, and Gorbachev will snooker him.

In case you don't remember, when Br'er Rabbit was caught by the fox he pleaded, "Please don't throw me into the brier patch, that's the worst thing you can do to me. Do any terrible thing to me that you want, but please, please don't throw me into the brier patch." And the fox, of course, threw Br'er Rabbit into the brier patch, which was exactly what Br'er Rabbit wanted since it was his natural habitat.

Gorbachev knows that Star Wars can never work, that it can easily be disabled or overwhelmed. Gorbachev would just love for the United States to waste all of its research and engineering effort on Star Wars, and go a trillion dollars further into debt trying to build it. So he used the Br'er Rabbit gambit. He pleaded to Reagan, "Please don't build Star Wars, we'll agree to anything on arms control, but please, please don't build Star Wars." But Reagan, being the staunch right-wing conservative that he is, stood firm on Star Wars, and all his right-wing crazies applauded his courage and determination.

Then Gorbachev finished the gambit. He let some time pass, then he said, "OK, we'll let you have your Star Wars on a middle-range missile agreement, but since we've given you such a tremendous concession on Star Wars, you'll have to give us some things that we want." And, thankfully, the arms control talks continue and may result in a series of treaties that will be a boon for all humankind.

If Reagan continues to cling to his obsession with Star Wars, we may see Gorbachev use the Br'er Rabbit gambit again and again on all the other arms control negotiations in future years. And if these conferences result in widespread arms control treaties, and since the Russians strongly need these treaties to give themselves some economic respite, we may eventually see the hammer and sickle on the red Soviet flag replaced by the smiling face of Br'er Rabbit.

A. JESSE IVANHOE

Venice

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