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: openDemocracy (12-5-11)
‘The truth is with us! We will be victorious!’ Few people outside Russia will have picked up on the fact that Vladimir Putin chose to end his speech to the ‘United Russia’ Congress on 27 November with an echo of Stalin and Molotov’s famous challenge to Germany at the start of the Second World War.
In the week before the parliamentary elections, St Petersburg felt like a city of smoke and mirrors. Good news was everywhere. The TV announced that the city has the highest standard of living in Russia (not far below Zurich and Vienna). On the pavements, stencilled in big white letters by unknown activists ran the slogan: Peter is our city, Zenit is our team, Putin is our president.
On 29 November, at the opening of an interactive exhibition for schools on childhood in the 1930s (for which has won an award), children were being invited to fly...
SOURCE: National Review (12-7-11)
December 1941: 31 Days That Changed America and Saved the World is Craig Shirley’s reconstruction of just that, based on media coverage from the time. It’s a fascinating way to experience the look and the feel, the reactions and the emotion, the strategy, and the painful surprises of those 31 days. Shirley, author of two books on the Reagan years, including Rendezvous with Destiny, talks to National Review ...
SOURCE: National Review (12-7-11)
Jim Lacey is professor of strategic studies at the Marine Corps War College. He is the author of the recently released The First Clash and Keep from All Thoughtful Men. The opinions in this article are entirely his own and do not represent those of the Department of Defense or any of its members.
Just before 8:00 a.m. on Dec. 7, 1941, the first of two waves of attacking aircraft swept over Pearl Harbor. Barely 15 minutes later the most powerful...
SOURCE: NYT (12-7-11)
Ian W. Toll is the author of “Pacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941-1942.”
ON a bright Hawaiian Sunday morning 70 years ago today, hundreds of Japanese warplanes appeared suddenly over Pearl Harbor and laid waste to the United States Pacific Fleet. The American people boiled over in righteous fury, and America plunged into World War II. The “date which will live in infamy” was the real turning point of the war, which had been raging for more than two years, and it opened an era of American internationalism and global security commitments that continues to this day.
By a peculiar twist of fate, the Japanese admiral who masterminded the attack had persistently warned his government not to fight the United States. Had his countrymen listened, the history of the 20th century might have turned out much differently.
Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto foresaw that the struggle would become a prolonged war of attrition that Japan could not hope to win. For a year...
SOURCE: La Times (12-2-11)
Craig Shirley, the president of Shirley & Banister Public Affairs, is the author of December 1941: 31 Days That Changed America and Saved the World.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt called Dec. 7, 1941, “a date which will live in infamy.” And that day, when the Japanese launched a surprise attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, has lived in infamy for 70 years. Yet even as the memory of the attack has lasted, so have the misperceptions surrounding it. On this anniversary, here are a few myths worth dispelling.
The U.S. government had no knowledge of a potential Japanese attack before Dec. 7.
Beyond the obvious signs of Japan’s increasing aggression — including its sinking of an American naval vessel in the Yangtze Riverand its signing of the Tripartite Pact with fascist Italy and Nazi Germany — various specific war warnings had been sent by Washington to military commanders in the Pacific for some days before Dec. 7.
SOURCE: National Interest (12-2-11)
Paul R Pillar is a former senior CIA counterterrorist officer and now professor at Georgetown University.
The challenge that Nazi Germany posed to the Western powers prior to World War II has been by far the most frequently invoked analogy in discussions of national-security policy in the subsequent three-quarters of a century. No other historical episode gets mentioned as often by pundits and policy makers in arguing that some menace or supposed menace needs to be confronted firmly. As with the use of many other historical analogies, the lesson being drawn has been stripped and dumbed down. What is drawn from the Nazi analogy is an adage that a threat must be stopped forcefully now to avoid a bigger and costlier fight later. The finer points of when it actually is or is not advantageous to utilize force or escalate a confrontation get lost in the dumbing down. Also lost are the details of the real 1930s-era European diplomacy that is the supposed source of the...
SOURCE: Independent (UK) (12-3-11)
Robert Fisk is a multiple award-winning journalist on the Middle East, based in Beirut.
I walked down a Phoenician street the other day, built under Persian rule.
A bit bumpy and uneven underfoot – like many a street in modern day Iranian and Lebanese cities – but this one happened to be about 2,600 years old. It ran down to a small harbour, lined by covered stone sewers and drainage ditches on each side, massive door lintels before private homes and a row of shops and warehouses and possibly a temple, five streets and 18 buildings over an area of 3000sq m.
I should say at once that this street constructed under Persian occupation is scarcely two miles from my home on the Beirut seafront, one of the great excavations which the rebuilding of the post-civil war city opened up for future generations, layer after layer of Paleolithic, Phoenician, Greek, Roman and Ottoman Beirut. The place was originally known as "byrt" – which...
SOURCE: Foreign Policy (12-2-11)
Michael A. Cohen is a regular columnist for Foreign Policy’s Election 2012 channel and is writing a book on the 1968 presidential election.
Forty-four years ago this week, the senior senator from the state of Minnesota, Eugene McCarthy, stepped to a podium in the Senate Caucus Room and transformed the Democratic Party. Angered by the war in Vietnam and his belief that President Lyndon Johnson would "set no limit to the price" he was "willing to pay for a military victory," there McCarthy announced his intention to challenge the incumbent president of his own party in four presidential primaries.
McCarthy didn't even bother to declare he was seeking his party's nomination -- after all, in the fall of 1967 everyone knew that Johnson was practically a shoo-in to be the Democratic presidential nominee in 1968.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the Democratic Convention in Chicago. McCarthy didn'...
SOURCE: New York Magazine (11-28-11)
Thanksgiving week is a milestone for Barack Obama, but not one that many are likely to commemorate. The president who seemed poised to inherit John F. Kennedy’s mantle—in the eyes of Kennedy’s last surviving child and brother as well as many optimistic onlookers (me included) in 2008—will now have served longer than his historical antecedent. Obama, surely, does not want to be judged against any JFK yardstick, longevity included. It’s his rotten luck that he incited such comparisons at the start by being a young and undistinguished legislator before seeking the presidency; by giving great speeches; by breaking a once-insurmountable barrier for African-Americans, as Kennedy did for Roman Catholics; and by arriving in the White House with his own glamorous wife and two adorable young children in tow. He has usually shrugged off these parallels gracefully. These days, with his honeymoon long over, it’s particularly in his interest to do so. But Obama can’t escape JFK’s long shadow,...