Roundup: Talking About History
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: American Thinker (1-31-11)
As we approach the 100th anniversary of the birth of Ronald Reagan, he has been in the news once again. One way he has been used is to boost the image of Barack Obama.
Some presidents have been used to degrade the image of others. Herbert Hoover was a convenient whipping boy to tar various Republicans through the years. Nixon was the epitome of evil in the White House. The fate of Ronald Reagan has been a curious one. The punditry that savaged him before, during, and after his years in office are now trying to burnish Barack Obama's image by comparing the two Presidents.
This is just the latest gambit to try to boost the appeal of Barack Obama. He has gone through many image makeovers over the last couple of years. He has been Lincolnesque (an image he stoked by making his presidential announcement in Springfield); then TIME Magazine morphed his image into the image of Franklin Deland Roosevelt;...
SOURCE: National Review (2-7-11)
The news that President Obama decided to read a biography of Ronald Reagan during his Christmas holiday in Hawaii might be taken as a sign that Reagan's triumph over liberals is complete. Can anyone imagine John F. Kennedy admitting he was reading a biography of Calvin Coolidge, or Jimmy Carter taking in lessons from Dwight Eisenhower? This represents the culmination of a remarkable turnabout in Reagan's reputation, most notably among liberals, who might have been expected to do to Reagan what an earlier generation of partisan historians did to Coolidge. Instead, we have seen a raft of books from liberal grandees such as Richard Reeves and Sean Wilentz giving Reagan his due.
But while conservatives should pocket these unexpected concessions, they should also note that the admiration of Reagan in the media-academic complex is highly qualified and mostly limited to his role in the Cold War. (And even...
SOURCE: LA Times (1-30-11)
In light of our nation's current divisions, and in honor of Thomas Paine's birthday on Jan. 29, let us revisit the great man's extraordinary rhetoric. "These are the times that try men's souls," Paine famously wrote. "The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman."
Those words are from the first of more than a dozen articles in Paine's "Crisis" series, published between 1776 and 1783, each addressing the American Revolution's changing tide.
When that first one was published in December 1776, America was at war, its existence was on the line, and yet the vision of a united republic was beginning to fade.
SOURCE: Clare Spark's Blog (1-25-11)
[Ms. Spark, an independent scholar, is the author of Hunting Captain Ahab: Psychological Warfare and the Melville Revival.]
This blog is not about the Civil War or its causes, but about the hijacking of American history by some leftists, who write like the militant black nationalists I encountered at Pacifica Radio, and that David Horowitz described at length in his Hating Whitey. 2011 will see a huge upsurge in articles about whether that conflict could have been prevented by better statesmanship, the causes and objectives of the war, what exactly happened in the war, and what was the course of Reconstruction. I have already written a research paper on Reconstruction and its interpretation by Herman Melville in his poem on Robert E. Lee. The link is here: http://clarespark.com/2008/05/03/margoth-vs-robert-e-lee/.
Here are two paragraphs from a book review by Miami University...
SOURCE: Commentary Magazine (1-27-11)
While Israel and most Jews commemorate the Holocaust on Yom HaShoah (which this year falls on May 1), which precedes the Jewish state’s Independence Day by a week, the international community has chosen to use the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. So throughout Europe and at UN facilities, there will be ceremonies to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day today. While all efforts to recall the murder of six million Jews are to be welcomed, the fact is many of those doing so in such places will attempt to maroon the Holocaust in history and separate it from the rising tide of anti-Semitism that is largely focused on a hatred of Israel that is currently sweeping Europe and the Middle East. Suffice it to say that those who will today bewail the Holocaust, while not also directly condemning those who seek to isolate and destroy Israel and the efforts of Holocaust-denying Iran to gain nuclear...
SOURCE: Smithsonian Magazine (2-1-11)
On March 23, 1942, the historian Samuel Eliot Morison wrote to his friend President Franklin D. Roosevelt to offer himself as a “sea-going historiographer” to chronicle the activities of the U.S. Navy in World War II. “In order to do it the right way,” he told Roosevelt, “I must have a living, intimate connection with the Navy flagrante bello. An armchair history job after peace is concluded won’t do.” Before April was out, Morison was meeting with Navy officials to accept a commission as a lieutenant commander and discuss the logistics of his globe-spanning assignment.
That July, he boarded a destroyer and pressed into the cold swells of the Atlantic to witness the war against Germany’s U-boats. In ten other ships, over three years, Morison amassed the eyewitness experience that buoyed his 15-volume History of United States Naval Operations in...
SOURCE: Minding the Campus (1-25-11)
[Ronald Radosh, Adjunct Fellow at the Hudson Institute, has written widely on Communism and anti-Communism. He is co-author of Red Star Over Hollywood: The Film Colony's Long Romance with the Left and The Rosenberg File.]
Many universities have set up centers to examine the history of the Cold War. The Wilson Center for Scholars in Washington D. C., for example, created an offshoot called The Cold War International History Project. That institute has over the years hosted many conferences, with panels of scholars representing all points of view. Two years ago, I was an active participant in a two days
SOURCE: The Week (1-19-11)
We are as far removed in time from the inauguration of John F. Kennedy as that day was from the presidency of William Howard Taft. To those of us who were young in 1961, Taft seemed like ancient history.
Yet as the nation marks the 50th anniversary of JFK's summons to a new generation, his presence and his presidency still speak, at times powerfully, to succeeding generations. In part, this is because the medium constantly gives new life to the message and the man — in film, on television, nowhere more vividly than in the sights and tones of his own speeches and press conferences and almost singularly in the inaugural address.
This resonance is a possibility of modern presidency, but not a certainty. Many of Kennedy’s successors, fairly or unfairly, already exist far more in scholarly precincts than in the popular consciousness....
SOURCE: Salon (1-23-11)
The Gulf War that began 20 years ago this past week ended with America's political class in nearly universal agreement on one point: The Democrats were screwed in 1992.
In the months before the war, as he'd dispatched hundreds of thousands of troops to the Persian Gulf in response to Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, there had been widespread fear among Americans that President George H.W. Bush was leading them into another Vietnam. But as wars go, Operation Desert Storm proved surprisingly tidy: The verdict was quick and decisive and American casualties were low. It was everything Vietnam hadn't been, and when Bush declared a cease-fire on Feb. 28, a months-long national celebration ensued, complete with parades, prime-time television specials -- and, of course, soaring popularity for the commander in chief, whose leadership was hailed by even his harshest critics.
It was in this climate that Bush, his...
SOURCE: LA Times (1-23-11)
A Ronald Reagan boomlet is sweeping the nation, thanks in no small part to an army of conservative admirers who have never missed a chance to buff his image — and then use it for their own ends. Nothing looms larger for Reagan worshippers than the centennial of his birthday on Feb. 6.
Fittingly, Californians were first off the mark to celebrate their local hero: On Jan. 1, the Reagan Presidential Foundation and Jelly Belly, the jelly bean company that filled candy dishes at the Reagan White House, sponsored the first-ever Rose Parade float memorializing a president. It was 26 feet high and 55 feet long and featured 11 poppy-seed pictures highlighting the Great Communicator's life, not to mention 65,000 red roses.
A week later, the National Archives unveiled a yearlong Reagan exhibit, including a bronze replica...
SOURCE: LA Times (1-21-11)
Twenty years ago this week, despite fears of "another Vietnam," the House and Senate voted to authorize the use of force against Iraqi troops occupying Kuwait.
After days of impassioned debate, the House supported President George H.W. Bush's policy by a comfortable margin. The Senate's 52-47 vote was the closest margin for war by a chamber of Congress in U.S. history.
The anniversary of the Persian Gulf War, a watershed event in modern American history, has gone almost entirely unnoticed. This oversight is perplexing given the presence of about 50,000 U.S. troops in Iraq today and the countless connections between the swift liberation of Kuwait in 1991 and the protracted occupation of Iraq, now winding down after eight painful years.
The relationship between the two conflicts,...
SOURCE: Independent (UK) (1-22-11)
"Do you want to see the Israelite graves?" the security guard asked me.
It was pouring down, a cold storm of rain off the sea, and above the Algerian French cemetery of St Eugène, I read again those familiar words: "Me today, you tomorrow." Almost two decades since I last entered these gates, I felt sure the remains of the Jews of Algeria would not have survived. During the 1990s war, this had become a no-go area for the Algerian authorities, let alone the French embassy's hired guards. The great French cemeteries of Tlemcen and other cities were razed by the Islamists, the tombs of the old Algerian Jews and the French Jews and the pieds noirs and the colonisers of 130 years levelled into the earth.
The GIA gunmen had made bombs beneath the eucalyptus trees of St Eugène, they said, amid the tombs. A few cops had blasted open the vaults of 19th-century...
SOURCE: National Interest (1-24-11)
The Cold War began in 1945 when Russian leader Josef Stalin refused to take his troops out of Iran; the fall of the shah in 1979 marked the beginning of the war's end. Yet even today real and imagined ghosts of that war, in the shape of an eclectic history of U.S.-Iran relations, and of the role the United States played in the fall of Mossadegh, continue to haunt some of the diplomatic discourse on Iran. It is even reported that President Barack Obama's hesitancy in offering stronger support for the Iranian democratic opposition has been at least partially rooted in his desire to avoid the mistakes of the past. Clearly, only after a reckoning with the past and exorcising its haunting ghosts can prudent...
SOURCE: The New Republic (1-21-11)
Rock stars of the 1960s have begun turning 70, and the aging of a generation that defined its culture by its youth has prompted the sucking of veiny thumbs. I did mine last October, right here, on the seventieth anniversary of John Lennon’s birth. Earlier this month, Joan Baez turned 70; Neil Diamond will do the same on January 24; Bob Dylan will have his seventieth birthday in May, followed by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, along with the likes of David Crosby, George Clinton, and Paul Anka. (It’s hard to believe, I know: George Clinton and Paul Anka are the same age.) As susceptible to temptation as the next thumb-sucker, I will probably end up writing more about a group of artists about whom too much has already been written.
Meanwhile, Sam Cooke, the sensational pop and soul singer of the late ’50s and early ’60s, would have turned 80 on January 22, and I...
SOURCE: Foreign Policy (1-17-11)
On Jan. 17, 1991, a broad based coalition, led by the United States, launched Operation DESERT STORM to liberate Kuwait from Iraqi occupation. We know much more of the story now, twenty years later, than we did then, even if we do not yet know how it will turn out. In particular, we know much more about the Iraqi side of the conflict, thanks to the millions of pages of Iraqi government documents captured during the 2003 Iraq war. We also have twenty years of subsequent experience to influence our judgment.
In retrospect, the U.S. conduct of the 1991 Gulf War...
SOURCE: LA Times (1-21-11)
In 1966, my father sent a resume to the Peace Corps. A few days later, he found himself sitting across a table from the agency's director, Sargent Shriver.
"Want to go to India?" Shriver asked.
My dad was 33 years old, he had three kids, and his only overseas experience was two vacations in Europe. But he had also attended Yale Law School, like Shriver, which made both of them "certified smart guys," as Dad liked to say. So Shriver made him director of the Peace Corps in south India, and off we went.
Audacious? Yes. Arrogant? Probably. But it worked. The Peace Corps brought a whole generation of privileged, talented people into public service and global awareness. They may not have known exactly what they were doing, but they learned a great deal along the way....
SOURCE: Truthdig (1-20-11)
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies. Thou anointest my head with oil. My cup runneth over. (Psalms 23:5)
As this, the 43rd anniversary of my wounding in Vietnam approaches, and I once again try to find meaning in that day and the days which were to follow, my thoughts return to the northern bank of the Cua Viet River on January 20, 1968. It is a day that will change my life forever.
I am medevaced from the battlefield to the intensive care ward in Da Nang, Vietnam. For the next several days I struggle with everything inside me to live. The dead and dying are everywhere. I am in and out of morphine every four hours...
SOURCE: National Review (1-20-11)
Almost everyone who was of conscient age at the time remembers the buzz when John F. Kennedy was inaugurated president of the United States 50 years ago today. President Eisenhower was almost universally respected and had succeeded in the great political achievement of presenting himself simultaneously as the smiling, golfing, avuncular man who inspired the vast national consensus expressed in the words “I Like Ike,” and as the five-star general who, as theater commander at the head of 100 divisions, had conducted the greatest military operation in the history of the world and received the unconditional surrender in the West of our Nazi enemies. National security was surely safe with such a man. He was responsible for having Buchenwald, Belsen, Dachau, and other infamous sites filmed so that the world could not disbelieve that the culture of Beethoven and...
SOURCE: The New Republic (1-20-11)
As preparation for President Obama’s 2011 State of the Union address, I’ve reread two noted presidential speeches delivered days apart, half a century ago. I need not dwell on JFK’s inaugural; many of us know its stirring cadences by heart. Its cardinal virtue is courage; its mood, audacity; its ambition, not just global but galactic. It is a young man’s speech, self-consciously so.
Dwight Eisenhower’s farewell address is the surprise. It is remembered, of course, for its warning against the “acquisition of unwarranted influence ... by the military-industrial complex.” But the real point of the speech is moral. Eisenhower cautions against “any failure traceable to arrogance.” He highlights the perennial temptation to believe that “some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties.” Meeting the...
SOURCE: WaPo (1-20-11)
On Jan. 20, 1961, John F. Kennedy began his presidency with a speech at once soaring and solemn. Fifty years on, we have not heard an inaugural address like it. Tethered to its time and place, it still challenges with its ambition to harness realism to idealism, patriotism to service, national interest to universal aspiration.
Theodore Sorensen, the speech's principal architect, was always modest about his own role, less so about the inaugural itself. "It certainly was not as good as Lincoln's second or FDR's first," Sorensen wrote in his memoir, adding that Kennedy thought it not as good as Jefferson's first.
By acknowledging what their joint product was not, Kennedy and Sorensen defined the historical company it still keeps....