Roundup: Talking About HistoryFollow RU: Talking About History on RSS and Twitter
This is where we excerpt articles about history that appear in the media. Among the subjects included on this page are: anniversaries of historical events, legacies of presidents, cutting-edge research, and historical disputes.
SOURCE: Foreign Policy (1-24-13)
David Kenner is an associate editor at Foreign Policy.
SOURCE: WSJ (1-24-13)
Mr. Asadi is an Iranian journalist living in France. He is the winner of the 2011 Human Rights Book Award for Letters to My Torturer: Love, Revolution, and Imprisonment in Iran. He spent time imprisoned in Iran both before and after the 1979 revolution.
SOURCE: WSJ (1-18-13)
Mr. Boot is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present.
SOURCE: LA Times (1-18-13)
Bill Guttentag is a lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. He and Dan Sturman directed the documentary film "Nanking", which won a Peabody Award in 2009.
SOURCE: American Spectator (1-21-13)
Paul Kengor is professor of political science and executive director of The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College.
SOURCE: WaPo (1-20-13)
Robert J. Samuelson is a columnist for The Washington Post.
SOURCE: LA Times (1-22-13)
Michael McGough is senior editorial writer for The Times.
SOURCE: OUPblog (1-14-13)
Louis René Beres, Professor of Political Science and International Law at Purdue, was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971). He is currently examining previously unexplored connections between human death fears and world politics. Born in Zürich, Switzerland, at the end of World War II, Professor Beres is the author of ten books, and several hundred articles, on international relations and international law. He is a regular contributor to the OUPblog.
Oddly, perhaps, there are striking similarities between Western Epicureanism and Eastern Buddhism. Even a cursory glance at Lucretius, On The Nature of Things, reveals a characteristically “Buddhist” position on human oneness and human transience. Greek and Roman Stoicism, too, share this animating concept, a revealing vision of both interpersonal connectedness and civilizational impermanence.
But what has this understanding to do with current world affairs, especially patterns of globalization and interdependence? Consider that in their common passage from the ethereal to the corporeal, Epicureanism, Stoicism and Buddhism all acknowledge one great and indissoluble bond of everlasting being, an essential and harmonious conflation of self and world. While each instructs that the death of self is meaningless, even a delusion, all also agree that the commonality of death can overcome corrosive divisions. This recognized commonality can provide humankind with authentically optimal sources of global cooperation. Whether or not we can ever get beyond our fear of death, it is only this commonality that can ultimately lift us above planetary fragmentation and explosive disunity.
For political scientists, economists, and other world affairs specialists, such a “molecular” view can open new opportunities for the expanding study of globalization and international relations. Rather than focus narrowly on more traditional institutions and norms, this neglected perspective can now offer scholars a chance to look more penetratingly behind the news. The outer world of politics and statecraft is often a reflection of our innermost private selves....
SOURCE: NYT (1-21-13)
FIFTY years ago, Birmingham, Ala., provided the enduring iconography of the civil rights era, testing the mettle of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. so dramatically that he was awarded the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize.
During his protest there in May 1963, the biblical spectacle of black children facing down Public Safety Commissioner Eugene (Bull) Connor’s fire hoses and police dogs set the stage for King’s Sermon on the Mount some four months later at the Lincoln Memorial. And the civil rights movement’s “Year of Birmingham” passed into history as an epic narrative of good versus evil.
Our understanding of the “good” has expanded beyond the lone-dreamer theory to embrace other activists, like King’s partner in Birmingham, the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth. Yet the evil segregationist archetype is fixed in the popular mind as the villainous housewife of “The Help” or the cretinous mob of “Django Unchained” — nobody we’d ever know, or certainly ever be....
SOURCE: Salon (1-19-13)
Excerpted from “Ike and Dick: Portrait of a Strange Political Marriage” by Jeffrey Frank. Copyright © 2013 by Jeffrey Frank. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Richard Nixon’s Checkers speech — delivered just five days after the New York Post reported wealthy backers had set up a fund for his day-to-day expenses — was seen by some 58 million people, or about a third of the population of the United States. It lasted thirty minutes and was to be forever identified by its reference to a cocker spaniel named Checkers. It was like nothing ever seen in American politics, set apart by its intimacy, its pathos, the apparent revelation of a private life from a public man, and its use of television. Its structure was a trial lawyer’s closing (or, perhaps, opening) argument, which ranged from the explanatory to the exculpatory to the defiant; buried within it was not only Nixon’s defense of himself, but occasional jabs at his opponents and probably at General Dwight Eisenhower, his running mate. It is still a remarkable document....
Nixon at first had no real sense of what he’d just done, because no one had ever done it before, but it did not take long for him to realize that perhaps he needn’t despair; as he left the El Capitan, he was cheered by people who’d been waiting outside. And even without a proper address for the Republican National Committee, telegrams were already coming in at the rate of about four thousand an hour. Loie Gaunt, who worked on Nixon’s Senate staff, was helping out at the Washington Hotel and, after the speech, she stayed put, answering calls from people who told her that they’d been moved.
A positive consensus quickly appeared, much of it close to the somewhat conditional view of the Herald Tribune, whose editorial insisted that the final decision rested with General Eisenhower and, while not affirming full support of Nixon, now said that he “will emerge from this ordeal … not only as a better known but as a bigger man than before.” But there were dissenters — “this mawkish ooze ill became the role of a man who might become President,” one paper said — and even Nixon’s allies found something unsettling about the performance. One might have said of him, as Trollope wrote of the lawyer Mr. Samuel Dockwrath, “He talked well and to the point, and with a tone of voice that could command where command was possible, persuade where persuasion was required, mystify when mystification was needed, and express with accuracy the tone of an obedient humble servant when servility was thought to be expedient.”...
SOURCE: WSJ (1-16-13)
Mr. Wilson is co-director of the Lincoln Studies Center at Knox College and author of "Lincoln's Sword: The Presidency and the Power of Words." This essay is adapted from an article scheduled to appear in the forthcoming issue of the Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association.
Now that Steven Spielberg's new film, "Lincoln," has sparked extraordinary interest in Abraham Lincoln as a behind-the-scenes persuader, it may be a good time to take a look at an aspect of his most persuasive writing. In virtually all the most memorable passages of Lincoln's writings, there is a feature that plays a critical role—namely, the rhetorical use of the negative. This is not to say that Lincoln was a naysayer or negative thinker, but rather that he demonstrated an acute understanding of the power of negation in language and was unusually adept at putting that force to use.
Philosopher and literary critic Kenneth Burke argues that the negative is intimately connected to our sense of morality, if not actually responsible for it. Law, ethics and religion, he contends, are all built around the "thou-shalt-nots." This is one way of accounting for the power that the negative has in language and human affairs.
It is this power that Lincoln tapped into. As with Shakespeare and Emily Dickinson, both of whom had a comparable gift, this may be an aspect of Lincoln's literary genius, but it may also owe something to the fact that dogged opposition was his lot in the major political struggles of his life: Jacksonian political rule, the hegemony of the Democratic Party, the Mexican War, the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the Dred Scott Decision, the expansion of slavery, and the dissolution of the Union....
SOURCE: Jerusalem Post (1-16-13)
The writer is the director of the Yad Vashem Libraries, author of Approaching the Holocaust, Texts and Contexts, Vallentine Mitchell, 2005 and Conscripted Slaves: Hungarian Jewish Forced Laborers on the Eastern Front, soon to be published by Yad Vashem and University of Nebraska Press.
In January 1943 there were only 60,000 Jews left in the Warsaw Ghetto.
They were what remained of the approximately 440,000 Jews who had been confined there. One-fifth had died of disease and starvation during the past two years, and the previous summer some 265,000 had been deported to the Treblinka extermination camp, and over 30,000 to other camps.
At the start of the great deportation, the head of the Jewish Council, Adam Czerniakow, had committed suicide rather than comply with German demands to provide census information about the ghetto, realizing the Germans would use it for the coming Aktion. His death, however, did nothing to stop the trains from rolling out of Warsaw.
With Czerniakow dead, in the wake of the deportations a new de facto leadership emerged in the ghetto – the Jewish Fighting Organization (ZOB), headed by Mordecai Anielewicz. The ZOB was a coalition primarily of various Zionist youth movements and the Jewish socialist Bund.
Alongside it there was a smaller armed underground group, the Jewish Military Union (ZZW) which represented the Revisionist Zionists.
ON MONDAY, January 18, 1943, 70 years ago, German forces entered the ghetto to round up Jews for transport...
SOURCE: Spiegel Online (1-17-13)
Ronen Bergman is an Israeli journalist and security policy analyst.
"You are part of the anti-Semitic propaganda yourself, and you don't even know it. You don't speak German and you don't understand the nuances of the text, yet you sign it as one of the authors."
This allegation was hurled at me by Melody Sucharewicz, a communications and strategy consultant in Israel and Germany. I myself am the son of two Holocaust survivors who lost their entire families in the war, and I tried to defend myself against what I thought was a false accusation, but to no avail.
The attack had been triggered by an investigative report published by SPIEGEL last June addressing the German-Israeli cooperation in the building of submarines for the Israeli navy and compiled over several months by a team of journalists that included me. The report revealed that these submarines can carry nuclear missiles that would serve as Israel's second-strike capability in the event of a nuclear confrontation.
The report stirred up considerable controversy in Germany, where the government came under fire for financing the construction of such vessels in German docks. In Israel, I was criticized by many for taking part in an investigative report that served, in their opinion, as "severe anti-Israeli propaganda" in Germany. Sucharewicz's attack was one of the harshest and best articulated...
SOURCE: Daily Beast (1-14-13)
Howard W. French is the author of A Continent for the Taking: The Tragedy and Hope of Africa and Disappearing Shanghai. He is completing a forthcoming book about China and Africa, titled Haphazard Empire. He teaches at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.
When Rwandan-backed rebels recently took Goma, the biggest city in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Paul Kagame had every reason to think the world would give him a pass. That, after all, has been the pattern for years.
Frequently lauded by people such as Bono, Tony Blair, and Pastor Rick, the Rwandan president enjoys some extraordinary backing in the West—support that is particularly remarkable given his alleged hand in ongoing regional conflicts believed to have killed more than 5 million people since the mid-’90s.
On the aid and awards circuit, Kagame is known as the man who led Rwanda from the ashes of the 1994 genocide—one of the late 20th century’s greatest atrocities—to hope and prosperity: a land of fast growth and rare good economic governance with enviable advances in health care, education, and women’s rights. Bestowing his foundation’s Global Citizen Award on Kagame three years ago, Bill Clinton said: "From crisis, President Kagame has forged a strong, unified, and growing nation with the potential to become a model for the rest of Africa and the world."
But that model narrative seems to be shifting in the aftermath of the Goma takeover. After a United Nations report found that Rwanda created and commands the rebel group known as M23, important European friends such as Britain and Belgium partially suspended aid donations to Rwanda, and President Obama called Kagame to warn him against any continued military adventurism.
Leading observers say the reevaluation of Kagame and his legacy is long overdue...
SOURCE: National Interest (1-17-13)
With mounting incredulity and alarm — like, I am sure, many readers — I have watched the exhumation, by Oliver Stone, Peter Kuznick, and other members of a leftist claque of revisionist historians and pseudo-historians, of the putrefied historic corpse of Vice President Henry Agard Wallace. Wallace was the eccentric and impressionable son of the agriculture secretary who served under Presidents Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge, and Wallace himself held the same position under Franklin D. Roosevelt for eight years. When FDR broke a tradition as old as the republic by running for a third term in the war emergency of 1940, he astounded and scandalized his party by choosing Wallace as his running mate.
Even with FDR’s endorsement (and his threat to withdraw from the presidential race if Wallace were not chosen by the Democratic convention), Wallace won by only 628 to 459 against (chiefly) Speaker William Bankhead (actress Tallulah Bankhead’s father). Wallace was not allowed to give an acceptance speech. He had been under the influence of a White Russian mystic agronomist, Nicholas Roerich, and the Republicans got hold of correspondence between them that, as Roosevelt biographer Kenneth Davis wrote, "called into question [Wallace’s] mental and emotional stability." The papers failed to surface only because Roosevelt’s entourage made it clear that it would respond with revelations of Republican presidential nominee Wendell Willkie’s prolonged dalliance in an extramarital affair ("awful nice gal," said FDR gallantly, of his opponent’s paramour, Irita Van Doren).
The legendary Democratic-party chairman, James A. Farley, called Wallace "a wild-eyed fellow." FDR wanted the vice president to be someone who believed more emphatically in what he had been doing for eight years than did the incumbent vice president, former House speaker John Nance Garner of Texas.
Garner was a somewhat conservative Texan who was described by United Mine Workers president John L. Lewis as "a whiskey-drinking, poker-playing, evil old man" when he was in his mid-sixties. (He lived to be almost 99.) It is fair to say that the nomination of Wallace was rivaled only by the appointments of Stalin-bootlicker Joseph Davies as ambassador to Moscow; of fascist sympathizer, appeaser, and defeatist Joseph P. Kennedy to the London embassy; and of anti-Semite Breckinridge Long as under secretary of state for immigration and refugees, as the most disastrous appointment of Roosevelt’s four terms as president.
Roosevelt completely ignored Wallace during his term as vice president...
SOURCE: Foreign Policy (1-17-13)
Robert Zaretsky is professor of history at the Honors College, University of Houston. His most recent books are Albert Camus: Elements of a Life and France and Its Empire Since 1870 (with Alice Conklin and Sarah Fishman).
Words, if not history, are repeating themselves in France. Following the French government's dispatch of planes and troops last week to Mali, whose government is besieged by Islamist rebels, a particular phrase -- l'union sacrée -- has been resurrected. Forged nearly a century ago, those two words nevertheless cast light on the future of France's current military intervention.
When President François Hollande announced last Friday that he had ordered the Mali operation, leading politicians quickly hailed his decision. "Sacred union" immediately became the phrase du jour of the French media. The conservative paper Le Figaro welcomed the "sacred union of the political class" -- a sentiment and wording echoed by the centrist Le Parisien and liberal Le Monde. One of the leaders of the main opposition party, the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), declared that such a union was "not an option, but an absolute necessity and duty for us all." Even Marine Le Pen, leader of the extreme right-wing Front National, rallied to the government's decision.
This orgy of bonding among inveterate enemies happens to be taking place on the eve of the centennial anniversary of the phrase's birth. The occasion, predictably, was an earlier war -- the war, you may recall, meant to end all wars. On Aug. 3, 1914, President Raymond Poincaré declared that France was going to battle against Germany. "Heroically defended by all her sons," he affirmed, the nation's "sacred union will never be shattered in the face of the enemy."
The phrase lives on, in large measure, because the political, social, and ideological contexts that created it never truly died. Sacred Union 2.0, it turns out, looks a lot like Sacred Union 1.0...
SOURCE: Foreign Affairs (1-2-13)
Charles Walton is Associate Professor of History at Yale University.
Before there were blockbuster films, there were blockbuster books. Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, published in 1862, was one of them. Thanks to a market-savvy publisher, this monument of French romanticism, which was serialized in ten installments, became an immediate bestseller across Europe and North America. Demand was so great that other authors, notably Gustave Flaubert, postponed the publications of their own books to avoid being outshined. On days when new installments went on sale in Paris, police were called in to stop impatient crowds from storming the bookstores. Some high-minded critics, not unlike those who spurn sensational Hollywood films today, found the hype distasteful. Edwin Percy Whipple, in a review for The Atlantic, referred to “the system of puffing” surrounding the book’s release in terms worthy of Ebenezer Scrooge: it was “the grossest bookselling humbug,” a spectacle “at which Barnum himself would stare amazed.”
Despite the hoopla, the novel’s reception in France was mixed. Some declared it to be the greatest novel of all time; others found it absurd and sappy. Some even considered it dangerous. Reading it, they feared, was a political act, and Hugo’s detailed description of the barricades provided a how-to manual for insurgency. Hugo never denied his revolutionary sympathies. He was proud of a comment made by one of his readers, a former insurgent, who said, “This book will advance the Revolution by ten years.”
Victor Hugo was no Karl Marx, but he did believe in progress through revolution -- a fact that viewers of Tom Hooper’s new film, Les Misérables, would never guess. Adapted from the immensely popular musical version of Hugo’s classic (first performed in Paris in 1980), Hooper’s cinematic rendering is stunningly staged and brilliantly performed, but it cuts the author in half: it gives us the religious Hugo, not the revolutionary one. It tells the story of individual redemption through an odyssey of Catholic conscience, not of France’s collective redemption through political violence....
SOURCE: National Review (1-11-13)
Mr. Rosen is the chief Washington correspondent of Fox News and the author of The Strong Man: John Mitchell and the Secrets of Watergate.
Either by design or through incompetence, the Obama administration’s war on terror has become indefinable. In fact, to the degree that there are identifiable policies, they seem either internally contradictory or at odds with other administration policies.
THE INHERITED PROTOCOLS
What is the current Obama position on the so-called Bush-era war-on-terror protocols? Are they still useful in stopping terrorists, irrelevant, toxic, or sort of all three? The administration has never given us an explanation of its attitude toward the continued operation of Guantanamo Bay, the use of military tribunals, the exact status of renditions, the use of preventive detention, and the employment of the Patriot Act, especially wiretaps and intercepts.
To the extent that anyone could define the present anti-terrorism policy, it might be paraphrased along the following lines: “We rejected these protocols when, as outside critics, there was partisan advantage in doing so. But after assuming office, we found them useful, embraced most of them and even expanded some, preferred to ignore that about-face, assumed that the global and the domestic Left would not object any longer — given that their opposition was more to Bush than to his policies per se — and wish to continue these measures even as we keep quiet about them.”...
SOURCE: National Review (1-11-13)
John Fund is a national-affairs columnist for NRO.
January 9 marked what would have been Richard Nixon’s 100th birthday and reignited an old debate among conservatives. Some view him as an underappreciated statesman who is a victim of a liberal double standard. Conrad Black proclaimed in a 2011piece on NRO that Nixon was “halfway to Mount Rushmore.” I have a more negative take: I believe that Richard Nixon governed more as a liberal than anything else, and that the Watergate scandal set back the cause of conservatism. From our failure to control runaway spending to restrictions on campaign finance, we are still dealing with the repercussions of his mistakes.
There is clear evidence that Nixon didn’t really like or trust conservatives, even if he hired a bunch of them. Rather, he used them and freely abandoned their principles when convenient. In a 1983 interview, he told historian Joan Hoff that his many liberal initiatives as president (from the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency to his calls for universal health insurance) reflected his own background and association with the “progressive” wing of the Republican party.
In private, Nixon was scathing about conservatives ranging from Ronald Reagan (he considered him a showy “know-nothing”) to William F. Buckley Jr., the founder of National Review. John C. Whitaker, a top Nixon aide, wrote in Presidential Studies Quarterly that he sat with Nixon on a plane the day after Buckley lost the 1965 race for mayor of New York to liberal Republican John Lindsay....
SOURCE: Weekly Standard (12-31-12)
Max Boot is the author of "Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present."
Everyone still remembers T. E. Lawrence, if only because of David Lean’s magnificent movie Lawrence of Arabia and Lawrence’s own literary masterpiece, Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Yet far fewer remember Lawrence’s distant cousin, the British Army officer Orde Wingate, who was in many ways his World War II counterpart—not least in his eccentricity, his pungent writing style, his flair for publicity, and his tragic, premature death. A partial exception is to be found in Israel, where he is still remembered asHayedid (the Friend) for his Zionist sympathies. But Wingate remains little known in the United States or even in Burma, the land whose freedom he gave his life for. Last summer while visiting Myanmar, as the country is now known, I asked several well-educated Burmese if they were familiar with Wingate. I drew only blank stares. No doubt his name would draw equally blank looks from well-educated Americans, even those with an interest in military history.
That is a shame because Wingate was one of the most interesting, innovative, and influential, if also most aggravating and outrageous, commanders of World War II. He was one of the pioneers in Special Operations. Remember the way that a small number of Green Berets and CIA operatives, with links to indigenous allies and radios to call in airstrikes, helped to overthrow the Taliban in the fall of 2001? Wingate was one of the first to mount such “deep penetration” missions, in his case behind Japanese lines in Burma, Italian lines in Ethiopia, and Arab lines in Palestine. More broadly Wingate was an innovator who helped nascent Special Operations forces win recognition and resources despite skepticism about their utility among conventional soldiers.
Today Special Operations forces are not only an established part of the military; they are, in many ways, more prominent than their conventional brothers in arms. It was not always thus. Although there have always been daredevil soldiers and units sent on hazardous missions, formally organized Special Operations forces date back only to World War II. To come into being they had to overcome the antipathy of regular soldiers such as the British general who reportedly groused that they were “anti-social irresponsible individualists” who contributed “nothing to Allied victory” and “who sought a more personal satisfaction from the war than of standing their chance, like proper soldiers, of being bayoneted in a slit trench or burnt alive in a tank.”
Such skepticism was brushed aside in the dark days of 1940. When Winston Churchill took over as prime minister just as France was falling, he immediately established both the Army Commandos to “develop a reign of terror down the enemy coasts” and an entirely new civilian organization, the Special Operations Executive (SOE), to undertake “subversion and sabotage” in occupied lands—or, in his evocative phrase, to “set Europe ablaze.” So urgent was the situation that the formation of the commandos was approved three days after being proposed, and their first raid on the French coast took place 15 days later. Before long, numerous other British units were set up for operations behind enemy lines. The war in North Africa spawned the Long Range Desert Group, the Special Air Service (SAS), and Popski’s Private Army, all of which used trucks and jeeps to traverse trackless seas of sand, hitting the Germans and Italians where they least expected it. Not to be outdone, the Royal Marines, Royal Air Force, and Royal Navy formed commando-style detachments of their own. When the United States entered the war, it followed suit, forming the Army Rangers, the Marine Raiders, and other such units....