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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: BillMoyers.com (5-13-13)
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SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Ed. (5-20-13)
Sir David Cannadine, a professor of history at Princeton University, has taught at the University of Cambridge and Columbia University. His most recent book, The Undivided Past: Humanity Beyond Our Differences, has just been published by Alfred A. Knopf.
When Saul Bellow was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, in 1976, he concluded his acceptance speech with these wise, generous, and tolerant words: "There is no simple choice between the children of light and the children of darkness." But a quarter of a century later, Bellow's fellow American, President George W. Bush, took a very different view, insisting that there was, indeed, such a straightforward choice between good and evil. "When I was coming up," he opined, "it was a dangerous world, and you knew exactly who they were. It was us versus them. Today we're not so sure who the they are, but we know they're still there." Here was a view of the world, of human association and of human nature, that assumes a polarized, Manichean division, built around collective identities that are internally coherent and homogeneous, and that are always latently or actually in conflict. The choice between them is, therefore, very simple and very clear.
Such a vision of a deeply sundered humanity has been urged and advocated throughout much of human history, by political leaders and public figures, clerics and religious leaders, pundits and commentators, and academics in many disciplines wedded to the importance of "difference," the significance of "identity," and the enduring existence of conflict. From this perspective, collective identities and confrontations are the key to understanding the past, explaining the present, and predicting the future.
In such claims, one particular collective identity—be it religion, nation, class, gender, race, civilization—is deemed more important than any or all others, and the construction of an affirming historical narrative of victimhood, struggle, and eventual triumph is seen as essential to constructing that identity. But the result is a view of the human condition that is partial and pessimistic, and more than a touch paranoid, and that gives insufficient attention to how people actually live out their lives, and what they have in common....
SOURCE: Tablet Magazine (5-6-13)
Allan Metcalf is a professor at MacMurray College in Illinois, executive secretary of the American Dialect Society, and author of OK: The Improbable Story of America’s Greatest Word.
Out in the wilds of western Missouri, in Rolla, which is not far from the tornado-devastated town of Joplin, lives a scholar who has made etymology his life’s work. He is Gerald Leonard Cohen, professor in the department of arts, languages, and philosophy at the Missouri University of Science and Technology, and grand impresario of American etymologists—as well as the world’s leading corraler of language historians, who often join him in tackling some of the most challenging puzzles of word origins.
Cohen does this through his unique self-published journal, Comments on Etymology. For more than four decades this journal has brought etymologists worldwide together in its pages, searching for the origins of everything from shyster to the Big Apple, from hot dog to hamentaschen, from gung ho to jazz. He also started a supplement called Comments on Judaica in order to preserve and present the linguistic notes of a single scholar, Nathan Süsskind.
Cohen named his journals Comments for good reason. “Comments on Etymology is a series of working papers,” he recently told me “And anyone who thinks that even the most careful research in etymology can eliminate errors simply doesn’t understand etymology. Errors are an integral part of work in the field and, I suspect, all other fields of research.”...
SOURCE: The Atlantic (5-23-13)
Last week, Russia expelled an American diplomat, accusing him of being a spy for the CIA. Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) said that U.S. Embassy Third Secretary Ryan Fogle had been caught red-handed with disguises, spy equipment, and wads of cash, trying to recruit a Russian agent.
The episode -- complete with cheap looking wigs, fake glasses, a compass, a street map, and a laughable "Dear Friend" letter -- seemed straight out of the Cold War.
For me, it caused a wave of nostalgia and catapulted me back to the 1980s when I was an expat child in Soviet Russia.
Our family moved to Moscow in 1980, at the height of the Cold War, when President Ronald Reagan and General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev faced off across a great iron divide. My father was an American reporter, a fluent Russian speaker, the son of a Russian Orthodox priest, and the grandson of White Russian refugees, and he was instantly considered highly suspicious.
We were constantly watched. A small Lada would follow our car around the city and a man in a dark suit would keep an eye on us as we walked about. Our phones were tapped, our apartment bugged, our mail opened, and we assumed that our government-provided housekeeper filed frequent reports on us. Even our dog was enlisted -- when we took him for walks he would run happily to our mortified minder, seeking the treats he was obviously used to getting....
SOURCE: The Nation (5-15-13)
Thomas Meaney is a doctoral candidate in history at Columbia University and an editor of The Utopian.
In the fun-house mirror of the present, the contours of the twentieth century have assumed a strange symmetry. It begins and ends with imperialism. The century opens with the West plundering the Rest, until one Asian nation, Japan, joins the action and becomes an empire itself. In the century’s last decade, the pattern repeats: the forces of liberal capitalism are again as dominant as ever, only this time China is the apt pupil of Western rapacity. The way historians speak of the present in terms of “imperialism,” ”anti-imperialism” and “the rise of Asia” makes the burst of decolonization after World War II seem like an interlude in a perpetual age of empire. The temptation to see Western colonials still lording it over hapless subalterns continues to guide our understanding of the relations between the “North” and “South” since the end of formal imperialism in the 1960s. But this perspective passes over the major structural changes in the history of the postwar decades, when the United States reconceived its mission in the world and new nations were no longer willing to support it on the same terms. Without grasping how this new configuration of forces reshaped the world order, we will continue to misidentify ways to change it.
It does not help that the best-known attempt in the twentieth century to forge a more equitable international arrangement without the blessing of the West remains mired in nostalgia. In 1955, a group of Asian and African leaders met in the city of Bandung in West Java, with the aim of strengthening economic and cultural cooperation. Though many of the participating states were aligned with the United States or the Soviet Union, their leaders made a show of rejecting the polarities of the Cold War and ending colonialism and racism. They declared their right to have their voices heard in the UN Security Council and to pursue collective defense.
But there was another agenda at Bandung, less publicized and less savory. Anti-colonial lions like Jawaharlal Nehru, Achmed Sukarno, Zhou Enlai and Gamal Abdel Nasser were also intent on licensing each other’s expansionary initiatives within and around their rapidly modernizing states. Nehru was determined to crush the peoples of highland Southeast Asia and absorb them into India; Nasser sought to extend the influence of Egypt into Syria and Yemen; Zhou Enlai wanted all parties to accept that Tibet, conquered six years before Bandung, was Chinese; and everyone agreed that West Papua belonged to Sukarno, who later declared that Greater Indonesia would “gobble Malaysia raw.” But the third world’s designs for internal harmony faltered quickly. Less than a decade after Bandung, China was fighting India in the Himalayas, while Nasser had Egypt on an uneasy footing with Algeria and Ghana. In retrospect, Bandung was not the birth of the Non-Aligned Movement founded in Belgrade six years later, but rather, as the anthropologist John Kelly has argued, the point where the third world accelerated its long march into the US-designed global system predicated on the consolidated nation-state. What remains of the Non-Aligned Movement’s public ideals is today in tatters. Last year, Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi embarrassed Iran by using his speech at the Non-Aligned Movement conference in Tehran to point to Syria’s growing isolation. In March, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad upset his own clerics by embracing Hugo Chávez’s grieving mother in public, as if it needed to be underscored that Venezuela and Iran do not make good partners....
SOURCE: Bloomberg Echoes (5-16-13)
Amy Reading is the author of “The Mark Inside: A Perfect Swindle, a Cunning Revenge and a Small History of the Big Con,” recently published in paperback by Vintage.
Billie Sol Estes, the Texan con man whose exploits rattled the administrations of Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, died in his sleep May 14. From a penniless background, Estes built up a $40 million West Texas empire of cotton, grain, real estate and fertilizers, and then lost it all when a series of newspaper articles in 1962 revealed that many of his dealings were fraudulent.
Estes once wrote that “Everything I touched made money.” The truth was that everything he touched was tainted. His downfall toppled five federal officials, was linked to seven mysterious deaths and was rumored to have almost cost Johnson his spot on the 1964 presidential ticket (though you won’t read a word about Estes in Robert A. Caro’s four-volume biography, “The Years of Lyndon Johnson”). As it turns out, even the story behind the story that brought down Estes has a shady element.
On Feb. 12, 1962, the Pecos Independent published the first of four unsigned articles that referred to Estes only as a “Pecosite.” They detailed a huge swindle in 11 West Texas counties. The paper’s editor, Oscar Griffin, wrote that farmers had been approached by a businessman who offered to pay a 10 percent commission if they would take out a mortgage to buy anhydrous ammonia tanks, used to store fertilizer for growing cotton on the alkalized Texas soil. The tanks would then be leased back to the businessman for the exact amount of the monthly mortgage payments....
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Ed. (5-13-13)
Decades after its conclusion, the U.S. war in Vietnam remains an unsettled part of our collective memory. Members of the military, veterans, scholars, journalists, and artists continue to revisit and reinterpret the war, assessing its historical significance while seeking meaning for wars fought today. Despite the efforts of our political elites to put the ghosts of Vietnam to rest, the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have prolonged these discussions. Books and articles with titles like "Is Afghanistan Another Vietnam?" abound. The economic and political imperatives that drive U.S. foreign policy, the appropriate use of force, the domestic costs of war, the treatment and trauma of veterans, whether today's wars are "winnable" or "worth it"—appropriate or not, those are some of the many points of comparison and concern.
Yet to some observers, the antiwar movement that quickly emerged (and faded) after 9/11 was a different beast from that of the Vietnam era. "The first thing you notice about the antiwar movement is that it isn't your father's," quipped New York magazine in 2005. "It's no longer the good workers of America against the crazy liberal elitists."
To the extent that our memory of Vietnam remains ambiguous, it underscores the nagging uncertainty that the United States was left with after that war. But amid this incomplete accounting, some dominant myths emerged that continue to hold sway. An important one is a narrative about the antiwar movement, which informs our contemporary understandings of class politics as well as of the social sources of support for protest against war in the United States....
SOURCE: RealClearReligion (5-10-13)
SOURCE: Toronto Star (5-13-13)
Clive Doucet is a writer and former Ottawa city councillor. His book Notes From Exile was chosen by McClelland and Stewart to be among their top 100 to celebrate their 100th anniversary of Canadian publishing.
Parliament’s http://www.parl.gc.ca/committeebusiness/CommitteeHome.aspx?Cmte=CHPC&Language=E&Mode=1&Parl=41&Ses=1 has voted to undertake a “comprehensive review of significant aspects of Canadian history. That history would include, but not be limited to, pre-Confederation, Confederation, suffrage, WWI, with an emphasis on battles such as Vimy Ridge, WWII, including the liberation of Holland, the Battle of Ortona. The Battle of the Atlantic, the Korean conflict, peacekeeping missions, constitutional development, the Afghanistan conflict, early 20th century Canada, post-war Canada and the late 20th century.”
I am Canadian. My father fought in the RCAF in the Second World War; my father-in-law, an infantryman, was awarded the Military Cross. In the earlier war, my wife’s grandfather was one of the original Canadian members of the Royal Flying Corps. Both my father-in-law and his father-in-law were shot and lived with the physical and emotional scars of that experience for the rest of their lives. Their history — Canada’s history — lives on through their, and my, extended families.
But had you suggested to them that wars were the defining events of Canadian history, they would have been nonplussed. They fought so that they and others would be free from tyranny — and so that no one else, ever again, would have to fight a war. And when they came home they repatriated their courage, their principles and their ideals and applied these to their civilian lives.
SOURCE: Guardian (UK) (5-12-13)
Tristram Hunt is Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central. He is the author of The English Civil War: At First Hand and the critically acclaimed Building Jerusalem: The Rise and Fall of the Victorian City. A regular history broadcaster, he has authored numerous radio and television series for the BBC and Channel 4. He is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society and a trustee of the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The bullish Harvard historian Niall Ferguson cut an unfamiliar, almost meek figure last week. As reports of his ugly suggestion that John Maynard Keynes's homosexuality had made the great economist indifferent to the prospects of future generations surged across the blogosphere, Ferguson wisely went for a mea culpa.
So, in a cringeing piece for Harvard University's student magazine, the professor, who usually so enjoys confronting political correctness, denied he was homophobic or, indeed, racist and antisemitic for good measure.
Of course, Ferguson is none of those things. He is a brilliant financial historian, albeit with a debilitating weakness for the bon mot. But Ferguson is also part of a worryingly conservative consensus when it comes to framing our national past.
For whether it is David Starkey on Question Time, in a frenzy of misogyny and self-righteousness, denouncing Harriet Harman and Shirley Williams for being well-connected, metropolitan members of the Labour movement, or the reactionary Dominic Sandbrook using the Daily Mail to condemn with Orwellian menace any critical interpretation of Mrs Thatcher's legacy, the historical right has Britain in its grip....
SOURCE: Guardian (UK) (5-8-13)
Pankaj Mishra is an Indian author and writer of literary and political essays. His books include Temptations of the West: How to Be Modern in India, Pakistan and Beyond. His new work, From the Ruins of Empire: The Revolt Against the West and the Remaking of Asia, is published in 2012.
Scuttling away from India in 1947, after plunging the jewel in the crown into a catastrophic partition, "the British", the novelist Paul Scott famously wrote, "came to the end of themselves as they were". The legacy of British rule, and the manner of their departures – civil wars and impoverished nation states locked expensively into antagonism, whether in the Middle East, Africa or the Malay Peninsula – was clearer by the time Scott completed his Raj Quartet in the early 1970s. No more, he believed, could the British allow themselves any soothing illusions about the basis and consequences of their power.
Scott had clearly not anticipated the collective need to forget crimes and disasters. The Guardian reports that the British government is paying compensation to the nearly 10,000 Kenyans detained and tortured during the Mau Mau insurgency in the 1950s. In what has been described by the historian Caroline Elkins as Britain's own "Gulag", Africans resisting white settlers were roasted alive in addition to being hanged to death. Barack Obama's own grandfather had pins pushed into his fingers and his testicles squeezed between metal rods....
Fantasies of moral superiority and exceptionalism are not only a sign of intellectual vapidity and moral torpor, they are politically, economically and diplomatically damaging. Japan's insistence on glossing over its brutal invasions and occupations in the first half of the 20th century has isolated it within Asia and kept toxic nationalisms on the boil all around it. In contrast, Germany's clear-eyed reckoning and decisive break with its history of violence has helped it become Europe's pre-eminent country.
Britain's extended imperial hangover can only elicit cold indifference from the US, which is undergoing epochal demographic shifts, isolation within Europe, and derision from its former Asian and African subjects. The revelations of atrocities in Kenya are just the tip of an emerging global history of violence, dispossession and resistance. They provide a new opportunity for the British ruling class and intelligentsia to break with threadbare imperial myths – to come to the end of themselves as they were, and remake Britain for the modern world....
SOURCE: Al Jazeera (5-9-13)
Dr. Manuel Barcia is Deputy Director at the Institute for Colonial and Postcolonial Studies at the University of Leeds.
Over the past few years as gays, lesbians and transsexuals made social gains across the world, they have found themselves at the end of all sorts of accusations from those who see these advances as a threat to their precious status quo. They have been blamed for earthquakes, hurricanes and terrorist attacks. Now, in a very subtle way, the responsibility for the current economic crisis has been blamed on one of them, the famous and well-respected 20th century economist John Maynard Keynes.
This time, however, the gay bashing did not come from some religious extremist in the American Midwest or Indonesia, but from Professor Niall Ferguson, a well-known British historian who plies his trade at Harvard University.
For the sake of disclosure, I have to admit that since I first read Ferguson's work back in the 1990s when I was doing my BA in history at the University of Havana, I have rarely agreed with any of his theses. I have disagreed profoundly with his apologetic studies of emergent imperialisms and, even more, with his opinions about the reasons leading to the crisis we have been plunged into since 2007. Nonetheless, I had respected him as a fellow historian. Now I don't any more.
I cannot respect his "off-the-cuff" remarks blaming Keynes and his sexual orientation for the current economic crisis. I cannot respect either his spurious attempt to backtracking, which seems more of a damage limitation PR exercise than a truly felt explanation. I am not saying that he is not sorry for what he said; only that he has failed to convince many, including me, that he really is....
SOURCE: Guardian (UK) (5-6-13)
Lee Donaghy is an assistant principal at a secondary school in Birmingham in the United Kingdom.
"Why are we doing English in history, sir?" came the question as I asked my year 9 history class what kind of word disarmament was. Having anticipated this kind of reaction I had an answer prepared: "Do we only use language in English lessons?"
The question was anticipated because I have heard it from other classes, and indeed other teachers, since I began to include an explicit focus on language development in my history lessons 18 months ago. And the question goes to the heart of what I believe is a fundamental reason for the attainment gap between children eligible for free school meals and their non-free school meal counterparts in Britain; the misalignment of these pupils' language use with that which is needed for academic success and the need for teachers to explicitly address this misalignment in their teaching.
My year 9 class are typical of many classes I've taught over the nine years of my teaching career; enthusiastic, bright, of limitless academic potential. But when it came to marking their written work I would be left tearing my hair out at their inability to express their understanding clearly. I wanted my pupils to be able to read, speak and write like historians; to be able to express their knowledge and understanding of history in language. After all, we would cover the material in class, I would check their understanding through various exercises and careful questioning and then I would give them frameworks for writing answers, using sentence starters and model answers. Yet, this had always been something of an elephant in the room for me as a history teacher, an issue whose cause and therefore solution I could never quite unpick: why can't I teach my students to write properly?...
SOURCE: OUPblog (4-23-13)
Dr. David Milne is a Senior Lecturer in American Political History at the University of East Anglia. A historian and analyst of US foreign policy, he is a senior editor of the Oxford Encyclopedia of American Military and Diplomatic History. View the Melbourne launch of the Encyclopedia, or attend the American Military and Diplomatic History conference at Oregon State University on 7 May 2013.
When I was invited to review the second volume of Odd Arne Westad’s and Melvyn Leffler’s The Cambridge History of the Cold War in 2010, I compared the enterprise to Denis Diderot’s Encyclopédie -- which I intended both as a compliment and as a criticism.
Sweeping in its coverage, the Encyclopédie aimed to capture the main currents of Enlightenment thinking. Diderot’s intention in editing the volume was “to change the way people think,” yet it didn’t achieve that grand aim. The collection contains an important introduction by D’Alembert, and carries essays by Rousseau, Voltaire, and Montesquieu. But contemporary scholars don’t spend much time poring over its volumes. Rather, they focus on the seminal single-authored books: Montesquieu’s Spirit of the Laws, Rousseau’s Discourse on the Origins of Inequality, Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations. These books are alive, but the Encyclopédie is locked in a particular place in time. Over the past three years I have served as an editor on the Oxford Encyclopedia of American Military and Diplomatic History. Before accepting the commission, I queried its purpose on similar lines.
Of course, today’s editors face a challenge that did not confront Diderot: how to retain scholarly authority in a Wikified world, to paraphrase the title of William Cronon’s thought-provoking essay in Perspectives published in 2012. Cronon compares the supple and constantly evolving Wikipedia to the ossified Encyclopedia Brittanica, registering a strong conclusion: “I don’t believe there’s much doubt that Wikipedia is the largest, most comprehensive, copiously detailed, stunningly useful encyclopedia in all of human history.”
Perhaps Britannica’s board of directors read Perspectives for they closed the print edition of the Encyclopedia the following month. The Los Angeles Times described it as perhaps the “single most powerful symbol to date of our rapidly changing media world, a world in which hard copies of books could become a quaint thing of the past.” Print aficionados of a conservative disposition, like Jonathan Franzen, were stunned. On this lamentable trend toward digitization, Franzen wrote “Someone worked really hard to make the language just right, just the way they wanted it. They were so sure of it that they printed it in ink, on paper. A screen always feels like we could delete that, change that, move it around.”
In light of the foregoing, then, is there any benefit in having a named, credentialed scholar write an entry for a hardcopy Encyclopedia -- that most old fashioned of enterprises? I’d say yes, and I have a few examples to justify my optimism. Some of the most interesting articles that I commissioned were written by major scholars, forced to condense a huge body of work into two or three thousand words. So to give just a few examples, Thomas Schwartz wrote on LBJ, Richard Immerman on Eisenhower, Jussi Hanhimaki on Kissinger, Geoffrey Stone on Civil Liberties, Andrew Preston on Religion, and Paul Boyer on “War and Peace in Popular Culture.”
What these scholars chose to omit and include was utterly fascinating. Thomas Schwartz’s monograph, Lyndon Johnson and Europe, is a wonderful study. But upon finishing that book, part of me yearned for more reflection on how LBJ’s success in managing relations with Europe slotted into a broader assessment of his foreign policy record. This is exactly what Tom’s succinct and perceptive entry provides.
To refer back to the Enlightenment, if Adam Smith wrote three thousand words on the taproots of economic growth -- combining insight from the entirety of his career -- the emphasis might be rather different to that presented in The Wealth of Nations. And it is certain that such a hypothetical essay would be read and studied closely today. Brevity can sometimes deepen the profundity of a particular conclusion. Each contributor has been remarkably successful in distilling the essence of their chosen subjects. It is for this reason, and others, that the Oxford Encyclopedia of American Military and Diplomatic History will stay close to my desk.
SOURCE: Oxford University Press (5-7-13)
Timothy J. Lynch is an Associate Professor, Director of the Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences, and Associate Dean for Research at the University of Melbourne. He is the editor-in-chief of the Oxford Encyclopedia of American Military and Diplomatic History. View the Melbourne launch of the Encyclopedia, or attend the American Military and Diplomatic History conference at Oregon State University on 7 May 2013.
Despite lying at the intersection of both history and international relations — two of the most popular disciplines in the contemporary arts academy — diplomatic history is seen as old-fashioned. New, trendier, and leftier approaches have risen. Consider that of the 45 historians at the University of Wisconsin in 2009, 13 (or 29%) specialized in gender, race, and ethnicity; only 1 (or 2%) studied diplomatic history or US foreign policy. Between 1972-2009, the Journal of American History published 36 articles that expressed some sympathy for American communism and not a single one which was critical.
The bestselling history textbook remains Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States (1980). Zinn was unabashedly liberal-leftist in his approach. His book is currently the 860th bestselling book in America. Paul Johnson’s A History of the American People, a conservative interpretation, is 19,331st. This is not to argue over the academic merits of both books but to observe that Zinn’s leftism has necessarily affected how many students and their teachers understand US history. Despite over 40% of Americans describing themselves as conservative, less than 16% of academics identify that way. The American academy, no less American historiography, is a liberal hegemony.
Why this imbalance? After all, diplomatic history has hardly been the preserve of conservative scholars. Perhaps the most important 20th century work of diplomatic history was William Appleman Williams’ Tragedy of American Diplomacy (1959) — the inspiration for a wave of left-leaning revisionist histories of US foreign policy. Christopher McKnight Nichols and David Milne, my two associate editors for the Oxford Encyclopedia, would comfortably locate themselves on the progressive wing of modern politics. Liberal historiography is a very broad church.
One possible answers lies in the necessary focus on the ‘great man’ thesis of history — either implicitly or explicitly — in the work of many diplomatic historians. Men, and it largely is men, have been the key foreign policy makers until comparatively recently. They have lead nations, fought wars, and dictated the terms of peace. All the great commanders-in-chief in US history have been men because all 42 presidents have been men.
As a way around this, university students are increasingly presented with impersonal forces and told these are responsible for injustice or are, conversely, the locomotives of progress. Racism, economic deprivation, and gender inequality color the research agendas of a substantial number of historians. Ameliorate these forces and we can enter the sunny uplands of progress and equality. It is not individuals that move history but forces, pressures, classes, sexes, races, even climate. Nations, led by individual leaders, are made to matter less than the United Nations, led by supposedly progressive impulses.
The diplomatic historian, of course, may be in sympathy with some of this. But he or she must also acknowledge the elite nature of much of what he or she studies: the president and his foreign policy principals, ambassadors and military commanders. And that elite, until the era of Condoleezza Rice, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama, was overwhelmingly white and male.
This modern bias against elitism and ‘great men’ and in favor of the explanatory power of impersonal forces is inherent in much contemporary historiography. Diplomatic historians find themselves having to bridge the divide. If only there were more of them — liberal and conservative — doing it.
SOURCE: Foreign Policy (5-2-13)
Rosa Brooks is a law professor at Georgetown University and a Schwartz senior fellow at the New America Foundation. She served as a counselor to the U.S. defense undersecretary for policy from 2009 to 2011 and previously served as a senior advisor at the U.S. State Department. Her weekly column runs every Wednesday and is accompanied by a blog, By Other Means.
In days of yore, diplomats were diplomatic. Or so, at least, I am led to believe by fiction and film: Fictional diplomats are erudite, conniving, and suave, treating allies and enemies alike with the same elegant courtesy, even while arranging the most sophisticated betrayals.
Consider the urbane Chauvelin in The Scarlet Pimpernel, a manipulative flatterer who "strove to read the very souls of those with whom he came in contact." Or take the character of Mr. Dryden in Lawrence of Arabia, who defends diplomatic duplicity by asserting, "A man who tells lies, like me, merely hides the truth. But a man who tells half-lies has forgotten where he's put it." Above all, consider that most infamous of real-life diplomats, Niccolò Machiavelli. Dishonest? Certainly. Amoral? Possibly. But rude and obnoxious? Never.
Somewhere along the line, this seems to have changed. Today, many of our senior-most diplomats (and I include the president in that general category) seem to substitute shrillness for suavity, hectoring intransigence for erudition, and prissy pomposity for persuasion.
The examples are too numerous to cite, but take that peculiarly popular word "unacceptable" (as in, "That is unacceptable to the United States"). The number of things the United States finds "unacceptable" is equaled only by the number of things it "will not tolerate." And that is to say nothing of the multitude of "red lines" and "lines in the sand" that U.S. officials draw on a regular basis....
SOURCE: LA Times (5-5-13)
Frank Snepp is a Peabody-award winning investigative journalist and the author of two CIA memoirs.
Thirty-eight years ago last week, I was among the last CIA officers to be choppered off the U.S. Embassy roof in Saigon as the North Vietnamese took the country. Just two years before that chaotic rush for the exits, the Nixon administration had withdrawn the last American troops from the war zone and had declared indigenous forces strong enough, and the government reliable enough, to withstand whatever the enemy might throw into the fray after U.S. forces were gone.
That's the same story we told ourselves in Iraq when we pulled out of that country in 2011. And today, as American troops are being drawn down in Afghanistan, we're hearing variations on the same claims once again. Yet security remains so fragile in both Iraq and Afghanistan, it is impossible not to worry that we are deluding ourselves and that we failed to learn the most important lessons of Vietnam.
One major ingredient of both the Afghanistan and Iraqi experiments was the use of American dollars to buy off insurgents, wean them from their Al Qaeda or Taliban suitors and win the indulgence, however grudging, of the leadership in Kabul or Baghdad. Such payments may help ensure a lull in the violence to allow U.S. forces to withdraw. But the enduring fallacy of such tactics was made clear in Vietnam....
SOURCE: Salon (5-3-13)
Steve Yoder is a frequent contributor to The Crime Report. He writes about criminal justice, immigration, small business and real estate. His work has appeared in The American Prospect, Good, The Fiscal Times and elsewhere.
Spring means that appeals for money are bursting forth from both major political parties. It also means Democratic officials in states and counties around the country are busy getting people out to their major fundraiser, the Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner. And they’re bringing in the big guns: Vice President Joe Biden will keynote the South Carolina Democrats’ dinner tonight.
But after an election in which Democrats rode a wave of minority support to keep the White House and Senate, party activists should wonder about one of the founders for whom that event is named. If branding matters, then the tradition of honoring perhaps the most systematic violator of human rights for America’s nonwhites should finally run its course.
Renowned journalist T.D. Allman’s gripping “Finding Florida: The True History of the Sunshine State” argues that brutality was a habit of mind for party icon Andrew Jackson long before he laid the groundwork, as president, for the Trail of Tears, the thousand-mile death march that killed 4,000 Cherokees in 1838−39.
Allman takes us back to July 1816 at a place called the Negro Fort in Florida’s Panhandle, the site of modern-day Fort Gadsden. Florida then belonged to Spain, and the area around the fort was home to Spanish-speaking black and Choctaw Indian farmers who had settled along the Apalachicola River with permission from the Spanish. Unfortunately for them, then-U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson hated the idea of a free colored community across the border that might serve as a magnet for runaway slaves....
SOURCE: NYT (5-4-13)
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Ed. (4-23-13)
Lincoln Mullen is a PhD candidate at Brandeis University and a historian of religion in early America and the nineteenth century.
Last Thursday at noon the Digital Public Library of America launched its website. The opening festivities, which had been booked solid with a long wait list for weeks, were canceled, since the venue at the main branch of the Boston Public Library was adjacent to the site of the bombing in Boston earlier that week. But the DPLA, which is a website and not a location, went ahead with the launch of the public service anyway....
Here’s to the hardworking DPLA staff–Dan Cohen, Emily Gore, Amy Rudersdorf, Kenny Whitebloom, and probably others–board of directors, committees, partner institutions, and funders. The DPLA is already a useful tool with some amazing functionality, and as more partners join the effort, the DPLA will only become more important to scholars and to the nation.