Letter From thenNorth Polenby William R. HawkinsnCounterrevolution in ToylandnAmong the hottest sehing items in toynstores across the land is the “G.I. Joe”nseries of military action figures. Sincenthe “Star Wars” movies, war toys havenmade a strong comeback from theirndepressed levels during the “antiwar”n1970’s. Model figures based on “StarnWars” characters proved so successfulnthat others quickly entered the marketnof both science fiction and conventionalnconflict—everything from warriornrobots to “Rambo.” However,nG.I. Joe is by far the most ambitiousnline, backed by a syndicated daily TVncartoon series and two monthly Marvelncomic book series.nG.I. Joe is also a survivor. Somentwo decades ago, Joe appeared, lookingnlike Barbie’s boyfriend, Ken, afternbasic training. This was not an entirelynsuccessful format, little boys beingnnone too keen about joining theirnsisters in playing with dolls. But in thenI970’s, Joe’s format changed. He wasnreduced in size to fit the toy rathernthan the doll market. He was alsonreduced in status to fit the politicalnmood. He grew a beard and quit thenmilitary. He undertook peaceful missionsnof exploration or went aboutnrescuing accident victims. But Joenfound, as did the rest of the country,nthat it was difficult to keep fit whilenremaining a pacifist. He seems muchnhappier now that he is back in uniformnpacking an Uzi or driving a tank insteadnof pulling some errant skier outnof a snowbank.nToys can reflect swings in the largernpublic mood. They say also influencenthat mood. This is something thatnliberals, with their constant harpingnagainst war toys, have paid more attentionnto than have conservatives, thentheory being that a sissy at age 10 willnCORRESPONDENCEnbe a wimp at age 30. Yet, war toys arenever popular among youngsters, thusnconfounding the dreams of liberalsnsince Rousseau. On this score, no onenhas improved on Saki’s story “ThenToys of Peace” in depicting a basic traitnof human nature.nG.I. Joe appears on the surface to bensimply a commercial venture. Nonangle has been overlooked that mightnmake money. Not only is there anstaggering array of character figuresnand vehicles running from motorcyclesnto mobile artillery, jet fighters,nand even an aircraft carrier (the latternretailing for around $100 sans aircraftnand crew); there are also lunch boxes,ncoloring books, bars of soap shapednlike hovercraft, and an educationalnmagazine. But embedded in this barragenof products is a message withncultural and political import.nThere are some 60 individual membersnof the G.I. Joe organization,nwhich is billed as an elite multiservicenantiterrorist^special missions unit. Thenunit’s members come from all racialnand ethnic groups. There are evennthree female troopers. But loyalty, notnmere equality, is the point. Whateverntheir background, the Joes are Americannsoldiers first.nEach soldier has a background history,nand it is in these histories that andefinite value pattern is found. “Airborne”nis the son of “oil-rich Nava-nhos.” He earned a law degree but quitnprivate practice to become a paratroopernbecause he would “rather jump outnof airplanes than write legal briefs.”n”Cover Girl” was a successful NewnYork fashion model until she “grewndisillusioned . . . and enlisted to putnnew direction in her life.” Her specialtynnow is armor. “Mainframe” was ancomputer genius from MIT and had anhigh-paying job in Silicon Valley, butnhe chucked it all to join the Marines.n”Footioose” dropped out of college andn”became quite weird for three years”nuntil it hit him that his existence hadnno purpose. He enlisted in the combatninfantry. “Flint” was a Rhodes Scholarnwho became “bored with the Groves ofnAcademe.” And the list goes on.nIn each case, a particular aspect ofnmodern American society is foundnshallow and unfulfilling. Usually, it isnthe identification of success with materialnreward, the plague of the “me”ngeneration, that is rejected. But rejectionnis not enough. “Footioose” findsnin a mere antimaterialism anothernvoid. Only by putting their talents tonwork in the defense of their country donthey find true satisfaction. The disciplinenof military life does not destroyntheir individuality; it only completes itnby enabling them to use their uniquentalents as part of something larger thannthemselves.nThe Joes’ main enemy is Cobra, anBOOKS IN BRIEF—FOREIGN AFFAIRSnPravda: Inside the Soviet News Machine by Angus Roxburgli, New York: George Braziller,nInc.; $19.95. A solid antidote to sufferers of glasnostitis, this compact book provides anninteresting history of the Communist Party newspaper, Pravda. About half the book containsnexcerpts from Pravda over the last five years. These are a collection of boring lies, but so is thennewspaper. The tales of the 10 years of Nikolai Bukharin’s editorship in the 1920’s isnespecially interesting as are the examples of doctored photos.nUSSR Foreign Policies After Detente by Richard F. Staar, Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution;n$13.95. This outstanding updated edition is highly factual and reviews all of the majorndeterminants of USSR foreign policy. Staar includes ideology, government structure,npropaganda, espionage, military strategy, and foreign trade, and he reviews regional policiesnand problems. The book has numerous tables of economic, trade, military, and personnelndata, with a lengthy bibliography.nnnDECEMBER 19871 49n