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: WSJ (2-8-11)
'I'd read other folks' books about things I'd been involved in . . . and I'd think, 'My goodness, that's not my perspective,'" chuckles former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in an interview last Friday. "I remember talking to [former Secretary of State] George Shultz and he said, 'Don, that's the way it is. Everyone has their slice of history and you need to write yours one day so that it is part of the records.'"
History, meet Mr. Rumsfeld's view. With today's release of "Known and Unknown"—the 78-year-old's memoir of his tenure as defense secretary under George W. Bush and Gerald Ford, his years in the Nixon administration and his three terms as an Illinois congressman—"Rummy" is offering his slice of history. As befits a man who has spent decades provoking Washington debate, his chronicle is direct and likely to inspire some shouting.
SOURCE: Foreign Policy (2-7-11)
There are, of course, many different ways of categorizing historical revolutions. But for the purposes of understanding what is happening in Egypt -- and the challenges it may pose for the United States -- one simple, rough distinction may be especially useful. This is the distinction between revolutions that look more like 1688 and revolutions that look more like 1789. The first date refers to England's "Glorious Revolution," in which the Catholic, would-be absolute monarch James II was overthrown and replaced by the Protestant William and Mary and the English Parliament claimed powerful and enduring new forms of authority. The second is, of course, the date of the French Revolution, which began as an attempt to create a constitutional monarchy but ultimately led to the execution of King Louis XVI, the proclamation of the First French...
SOURCE: Jewish Daily Forward (2-3-11)
As America marks the 100th anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s birth, we will be remembering one of our country’s greatest leaders with speeches, tributes and television specials. Friends of Israel will have a special reason to celebrate: Reagan made the Republican Party into the unambiguously pro-Israel party that it is today.
Indeed, before the Reagan era, the Republican Party had a decidedly mixed record on Israel. In the 1940s and early 1950s, the conservative movement had strong isolationist and even anti-Semitic tendencies. Later, Republican presidents, such as Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon — while by no means isolationists — had complicated relations with the Jewish state. Eisenhower forced Israel...
SOURCE: Special to HNN (2-7-11)
[Arnold Reisman is an engineer and a retired professor of operations research at Case Western Reserve University. Born in Lodz in 1934, he came to the United States after World War II and is the author of numerous books about Holocaust refugees in Turkey, including Turkey's Modernization: Refugees from Nazism and Ataturk's Vision (New Academia, 2006).]
Hovannes Katchaznouni, 1923
As the title implies this is the third article in a series published by HNN bearing the title: “On an Armenian Manifesto Circa 1923.” The first appeared on December 6, 2010 (1), in Roundup: Talking About Historysection, and the second on January 5, 2011 2. In both articles I wrote “about a booklet which I found to be “a most interesting and incisive account of what had been happening among, and to,...
SOURCE: CHE (2-6-11)
On August 4, 1922, about a year before he published his first book, Cane, Jean Toomer, age 27, wrote to his first love, a black teenager named Mae Wright, confessing his ambivalence about the dogged pursuit by African-Americans of Anglo-American cultural ideals: "We who have Negro blood in our veins, who are culturally and emotionally the most removed from Puritan tradition, are its most tenacious supporters." That would be one of the last times he admitted his own Negro ancestry, either publicly or privately. Six years later, Georgia O'Keeffe—Toomer's friend...
SOURCE: The Nation (2-4-11)
As the nation embarks on a celebration this Sunday of the hundredth anniversary of President Ronald Reagan’s birth—with conferences, museum exhibits and lots of speeches—let us not forget that many of the serious problems facing America today began or worsened during Reagan’s presidency.
Why not let Reagan, who died in 2004, rest in peace? Because a growing chorus of journalists, politicians, and pundits are using this hundredth-birthday milestone to rewrite history and bestow on Reagan a Mount Rushmore–like status as one of our greatest presidents.
SOURCE: openDemocracy (2-7-11)
The separation of Armenians and Turks in 1915 is a comparatively recent phenomenon. Both communities often choose to ignore their shared history, to the detriment of efforts at reestablishing ties, the most recent of which appear to have failed. Although the issue has received much attention following the assassination of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink and the failure of the protocols aimed at normalizing the relations between the two states, it still remains misunderstood. Both outside observers and Armenians and Turks themselves are often unaware of the shared history between the two peoples, whose grievances cannot be understood without a greater knowledge of the past.
On Saturday, 20th of November 2010 the Times featured a DVD and an article on the life and works of the...
SOURCE: Weekly Standard (2-7-11)
The debate about Ronald Reagan has never shown any sign of ending, but it is less and less about whether his presidency was consequential. As has happened with a few other high-impact presidencies​—​see historian Merrill Peterson’s classic The Jeffersonian Image in the American Mind​ —​the debate over Reagan’s presidency has morphed into a battle over ideas, centering on Reaganism and its relevance, if any, to the future of politics.
For some years following his presidency, the narrative of elite opinion boiled down to something like this: In the early 1980s the Reagan administration radically changed U.S. policy on economics, defense, and Cold War strategy. In unrelated developments later in that decade, the stagflation of the 1970s...
SOURCE: Weekly Standard (2-7-11)
...“There wouldn’t have been a President Reagan without his upbringing in the Midwest,” says Craig Shirley, who’s written books about Reagan’s presidential campaigns in 1976 and 1980. Somewhere around 1,000 books about Reagan have been published, and several of his biographers, especially Lou Cannon and Anne Edwards, have emphasized the Midwestern influence. The academic community, however, has been slow to catch on.
For a “Reagan and the Midwest” seminar in January, Eureka College put out a call for scholarly papers on the subject. The response was underwhelming. Only seven academics submitted proposals. All seven were accepted, and the authors discussed them at the Eureka seminar. One dealt, interestingly enough, with Reagan’s experience at Eureka. “I don’t think it is stretching things to say that Eureka made Reagan and, in turn, Reagan made Eureka,” wrote James H. Capshew of Indiana University....
...[T]he absence of doubt in so much of Reagan's repertoire -- the Manichaean streak he routinely displayed -- applied to other, darker aspects of his rhetorical legacy. Perhaps Reagan "delivered America from fear and loathing," as historian John Patrick Diggins once said. But it's also fair to point out that he sometimes adopted a raw, vitriolic approach to politics, and his capacity for tapping people's anger should be remembered as an aspect of his legacy, too.
He skillfully channeled the surging 1960s-to-1980s-era national antipathy toward liberal reformers, the welfare state and student protesters, among other demons. He had an uncanny, almost instinctual feel for the electorate's mood. Throughout his three decades in political life, he repeatedly seized on people's hopes, but also found their...
On Nov. 13, 1986, President Reagan declared in a national address, "We did not -- repeat -- did not trade weapons or anything else for hostages -- nor will we." His assertion ran counter to covert operations that had been ongoing for several years. Reagan was faced with an uncomfortable question, transposed from the Watergate scandal, which threatened to strike at his credibility. What did the president know and when did he know it? Having secured a landslide win against Walter Mondale in 1984, Reagan’s second term appeared to be one in which the Cold War, arms control and relations with the Soviet Union would dominate the presidential agenda. Instead, Reagan found himself in the midst of a crisis that threatened his presidency.
Covert arms transactions with Iran and the diversion of profits of the sales to the Contra guerrilla force in Nicaragua lay at the...
Democrats thought they had solved their Southern problem in 1976, when a peanut farmer-turned-Georgia governor named Jimmy Carter swept through the old Confederacy, winning every state except Virginia en route to a narrow electoral college victory over President Gerald Ford. For the first time in 12 years, the Democrats had won a national election -- and Dixie was the reason why.
This resurgence, though, was little more than a mirage -- a brief interruption in the South's steady march away from the Democratic Party, which in many ways culminated in Carter's defeat four years later at the hands of Ronald Reagan.
The story of why Reagan was in position to run against Carter in 1980 -- and how he managed to turn Carter's prideful home region against its native son -- really begins in 1964, when regional tensions within the Democratic Party finally reached a breaking point. Since Reconstruction, when white...
SOURCE: CS Monitor (2-4-11)
In the midst of the many events marking the 100th birthday celebration of President Ronald Reagan on February 6, 2011, a bust of the 40th president will be unveiled at the Ronald Reagan Airport. However good the likeness, it will only be able to hint at what made Reagan the kind of president he was – and indeed what makes any man the kind of leader he becomes: his character.
We may not be able to see such character cast in bronze, but I had a glimpse of it in the 1980s, when I served as US ambassdor to NATO and then as special counselor during the Iran-Contra affair.
In 1986, when Reagan met Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev alone at their summit in Reykjavik, Iceland, it was a critical time in NATO history. As ambassador, I was trying to reenergize...
SOURCE: WaPo (2-7-11)
It was audacious to suggest two decades ago that Vladimir Lenin's body be moved from its mausoleum in Red Square. But by the time Vladimir Medinsky, a member of the chief pro-Kremlin force in the lower house of parliament, made the same suggestion last month, the proposal had become politically meaningless. Regardless of whether Lenin's body is moved, Russia remains tied to its Soviet past and practices.
Lenin presided over one of the most ambitious sociopolitical transformations in history. To build a new society based on proletarian internationalism, he created a Bolshevik state; launched the gulag; and evicted or exterminated Russian nobility, property owners, clerics and other "old world" classes. After his death in 1924, his body was displayed in a downtown mausoleum where generations paid homage to the communist idol.
SOURCE: The Root (2-5-11)
Like most African Americans old enough to shudder with revulsion when they remember Ronald Reagan's presidency, I won't be joining the hagiographical celebration of the late conservative saint's 100th birthday that is scheduled to take place this weekend. There will simply be too many lies.
The celebrations won't be talking about it, but neither the passage of time nor President Barack Obama's oft-stated admiration for Reagan's transformational politics can make me forget how the Gipper used the fears and resentments of angry white people to get elected.
I could make a long, long list of the signals Reagan sent to let racists know that they would have a friend in the White House. Among them was his decision -- urged by, among others, the affably bigoted former Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott -- to deliver the first major speech of his 1980 campaign in Philadelphia, Miss., where three civil rights...
SOURCE: Politico (2-6-11)
Politics is a dirty word in Washington. Movement activists, on the left and the right, hate when their party negotiates with the opposition and compromises on key issues.
Over the past year, tea party Republicans leveled this charge against the GOP. They complained that Republicans had become too comfortable with the wheeling and dealing so characteristic of Capitol Hill. They promise not to do the same.
But movements need leaders who are good at politics if they want to succeed. Nobody understood this more than Ronald Reagan.
While there are extensive discussions about Reagan as an actor, as a movement leader and as a diplomat, fewer observers recall that much of his career revolved around working as a politician. Indeed, this might be one of his most important contributions to the history...
SOURCE: NYT (2-5-11)
BACK in 1992, when Ronald Reagan first began to be strange (a bewilderment in his amethyst gaze, a hesitancy in speech and step), he impulsively said that he wanted to visit his birthplace. This desire was a surprise to those around the former president. He had never shown any interest in Tampico, Ill....
In 1992, I found myself returning there with him, pointing out landmarks along Main Street and telling him about a commotion he may have heard as he lay kicking and gurgling upstairs at No. 111: the team of creamery horses that bolted and dropped a cartload of barrels in the dust.
Biographers of old people often find themselves instructing their subjects about things long forgotten. Of course, Reagan could not have cared less about 60 gallons of spilled buttermilk. But his heavy silence was so disturbing, as we strolled along the sidewalk to...
SOURCE: NYRB (1-27-11)
As we recall the Red Army’s liberation of Auschwitz on January 27, 1945, sixty-six years ago today, we might ask: who was worse, Hitler or Stalin?
In the second half of the twentieth century, Americans were taught to see both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union as the greatest of evils. Hitler was worse, because his regime propagated the unprecedented horror of the Holocaust, the attempt to eradicate an entire people on racial grounds. Yet Stalin was also worse, because his regime killed far, far more people—tens of millions, it was often claimed—in the endless wastes of the Gulag. For decades, and even today, this confidence about the difference between the two regimes—quality versus quantity—has set the ground rules for the politics of memory. Even historians of the Holocaust generally take for granted that...
SOURCE: American Spectator (2-1-11)
With every passing minute of every passing day, the truth Ronald Reagan long ago understood is once more emerging from the political fog.
"Somewhere a perversion has taken place," Reagan said in discussing his former political faith as a Democrat and a "near hopeless hemophilic liberal." The party of Jefferson and Jackson had headed down a different road altogether "under the banners of Marx, Lenin and Stalin." Or, as he was also unafraid to say and in words that resonate vividly today in the Obama era, the objective of the modern liberal was "to impose socialism" on the American people.
Reagan would have none of it.
He had spent decades carefully studying what was happening, leading the Hollywood branch of the fight as the president of the...
SOURCE: National Interest (2-1-11)
With the recent Tunisian uprisings—now termed the “Jasmine Revolution”—and the ensuing giddiness about some impending copycat revolutions soon to be sweeping the “Arab World,” very few voices of reason are being heard. Troubling as this may sound, one is on solid ground suggesting that there are no “coming revolutions” on the Arab World’s horizons, and that there isn't even a distinct uniform "Arab World" to begin with, let alone one gearing up for en masse popular uprisings and regime changes.
Despite many religious, cultural and linguistic similarities among Middle Easterners, the modern Middle East, like the ancient Near East, lacks the requisite historical uniformity or continuity to warrant the reductive appellation “Arab World”—and...