Reuters blog archive
from The Great Debate:
The most-quoted line from history’s most dangerous confrontation declares, “We were eyeball to eyeball and the other fellow just blinked.” Now, with the opening of Robert F. Kennedy’s personal papers on the 50th anniversary of the Cuban missile crisis, there can be no doubt that before Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev blinked, President John F. Kennedy winked.
In the official narrative, Kennedy stood tall, hung tough and stared his opponent down. What this obscures is the critical role that cunning, craft and willingness to compromise played in resolving this crisis.
This narrative has informed -- and misinformed -- many presidential decisions over the past five decades. In 1964, for example, while choosing to Americanize the war in Vietnam, President Lyndon B. Johnson said, “It required great American firmness and good sense -- first in Berlin and later in the Cuban Missile Crisis -- to turn back [Khrushchev's] threats and actions without war.”
More recently, in 2002, before sending U.S. troops to Iraq, President George W. Bush argued: “We cannot wait for the final proof -- the smoking gun -- that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud. As President Kennedy said in October of 1962...'We no longer live in a world...where only the actual firing of weapons represents a sufficient challenge to a nation’s security to constitute maximum peril.'”
from The Great Debate:
The words “communist” and “socialist” are now used so recklessly in the United States that their meaning has been devalued. But Eric Hobsbawm, the British historian who died Oct. 1, was the real deal.
Born in 1917, the year of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, Hobsbawm used Karl Marx as the inspiration for both his personal politics and his successful transformation of our understanding of history. He was an unabashed and unwavering supporter of communism in theory and practice, who only let his party membership lapse at the final moment, when the Berlin Wall fell.
from Tales from the Trail:
Trying to get the U.S. economy back on track may sometimes seem a bit like reaching for the stars. Well, President Barack Obama today declared that America is facing a "Sputnik moment."
Speaking at a community college in North Carolina, Obama said innovation, training and education were vital to economic recovery, giving clean energy technology as an example of a promising area for job creation. "If this is truly going to be our Sputnik moment we need a commitment to innovation that we haven't seen since President Kennedy challenged us to go to the Moon."
from Afghan Journal:
President Barack Obama's announcement that the United States will begin pulling its troops out Afghanistan in 2011 provides a good opportunity to look back and study history. This will, after all, be the second time Afghans have bid farewell to a superpower, and Nikolai Gvosdev in Foreign Affairs offers an interesting take on what happened the last time, when the Soviets pulled out in 1989.
The man the Soviets left in charge was Mohammad Najibullah, who clung to power for three more years, then sheltered for another four years in the U.N. compound in Kabul, before finally ending up strung up by the Taliban from a Kabul traffic lamp in 1996. Najibullah's grisly end means his career hardly seems like one that President Hamid Karzai would want to emulate. Yet Gvosdev's account is a reminder that Najibullah actually held on to power far longer than most in the West expected. His government in fact actually outlasted the Soviet Union itself, which collapsed in 1991.
In Gvosdev's account, the key to Najibullah's success lay in part in lavishing funds on tribal and provincial chiefs. That tactic became impossible after the Soviet Union disintegrated and the money dried up. Even so, Najibullah might have still hung on had Pakistan not been given free rein by the West to back the Mujahideen that unseated him.
from The Great Debate:
Jack Kemp, who died on May 2 at the age of 73, lived the American dream as the football star who was elected to the House of Representatives. He had the vision to translate his intellectual ideas into the practical tax cuts, housing vouchers, and enterprise zones that sparked not only the Reagan revolution in America but also similar economic revolutions in many countries around the globe.
from Pakistan: Now or Never?:
Holidays tend to be defined as a "silly season" for news and this year's Christmas and New Year festivities are proving no exception when it comes to dealing with Afghanistan.
The Washington Post has a story about how the CIA used Viagra to win the support of an Afghan chieftain. "Take one of these. You'll love it," the CIA officer said, according to the paper. "Compliments of Uncle Sam."