NEOCONS THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS….Can hardline ideologues really become so consumed with a foreign threat that they find evidence of it everywhere they look regardless of whether it exists? Nick Kristof says sure, it can happen to anyone:

In 1981, we now know, the K.G.B. chairman said at a secret conference that President Ronald Reagan was planning to launch a nuclear strike against the Soviet Union. The Soviets became consumed with the U.S. threat, just as the Bush administration became obsessed with the Iraq threat. The K.G.B. ordered all its offices in NATO countries to seek evidence of Mr. Reagan’s plans for a pre-emptive nuclear strike, and they code-named the effort RYAN.

Once K.G.B. officers knew what Moscow wanted, they found “evidence” everywhere of Mr. Reagan’s secret plans for a nuclear strike ? confirming Moscow’s worst fears.

Then NATO held a nuclear launching exercise in November 1983, playing into the Soviet alarm. The K.G.B. mistakenly reported to Moscow that NATO was on an actual alert. The Soviets put their own forces on alert and braced for a nuclear attack.

That’s an interesting little parallel, isn’t it?

And on a different subject entirely, what’s the deal with New York-based publications and their weird anachronisms? Why is it “K.G.B.” and “C.I.A.” instead of KGB and CIA the way every other living human being refers to them? And why “NATO” instead of “N.A.T.O.”? Is there some kind of 3-letter maximum for dumb anachronisms? And why do they think this is cute anyway?

UPDATE: Obviously my last paragraph needs some clarification:

  • The Times does what it does because it follows its own internal stylebook. So my real question is: why does their stylebook continue to be so archaic?

  • In the same vein, I did indeed mean “anachronism,” not “acronym,” although I probably didn’t use the word quite correctly. I was referring to the fact that usages like “C.I.A.” are kept on long after they have passed from common usage everywhere else.

  • My reference to “New York-based publications” was meant to rope in the New Yorker, which is even more self-consciously quaint than the Times. As several commenters have pointed out, both publications insist on using the diaeresis mark (as in na?ve, for example) even though it hasn’t been in common usage for several decades at least. The New Yorker does much, much more, of course, although they’re now so famous for it that they at least have that excuse going for them.

Basically, I object to stylebooks that perpetuate outdated usages for no good reason except to trumpet their attachment to long and glorious institutional histories. It’s not quaint or cute or anything else. It’s just dumb, and it interrupts the flow of the text by calling attention to itself.

So there.

And I guess I really need to make sure to give these little grammar/style peeves their own posts in the future. Poor Kristof didn’t get much attention in comments…..

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!