Wrong Turns In Korea

Miscalculations and blunders by world leaders precipitated the Korean War 60 years ago

On its 60th anniversary, the Korean War looks much like Vietnam, a pointless conflict that gained nothing for those who began it: North Korea’s Kim Il-sung and South Korea’s Syngman Rhee, with the consent of the Soviet Union’s Joseph Stalin and China’s Mao Zedong. Yet it was far worse than that: The bloodletting in that corner of northeast Asia was an exercise in human folly that cost all sides in the fighting nearly 4 million lives lost, missing, and wounded, not to mention the devastation of the peninsula from Pusan in the south to the Yalu River in the north. Not a single northern or southern Korean city escaped the ravages wrought by modern warfare. Public buildings and private homes were turned into piles of rubble, while thousands of refugees fled from the scenes of battle.

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The Evil Empire

On the 25th anniversary of two famous Reagan speeches, the former Speaker of the House asks why we haven’t learned more from the 40th president

A quarter century ago, President Ronald Reagan delivered two masterful addresses within two weeks of one another: the so-called “Evil Empire” and “Star Wars” speeches. In them, Reagan laid out two great strategies for dismantling the Soviet Empire. He did it boldly without backing off, not permitting the economy, news media, polling numbers, or the permanent governing elite to intimidate him. Read more »

Over The Wall

A Once-In-A-Lifetime Experience

In the Summer of 1978 my wife, Betts, and I drove through Europe. After touring West Berlin, we decided to visit the eastern part of the city. At Checkpoint Charlie we walked through a complicated network of wire cages. At the end we stood and waited until the guard behind a gate chose to unlock it and let us in. I felt like a trained mouse being lured through a maze, and the sensation was not comfortable. The authorities took their good, sweet time processing our papers: one hour. Read more »

My Years With Ronald Reagan

What a skeptical biographer discovered about a very elusive subject

I first met Ronald Reagan in November of 1967. It was a brief encounter, and I was not impressed. I was a reporter for The New York Times traveling with the mayor of New York, John V. Lindsay, who was then a Republican. There was a lot of talk at the time about a Republican “dream ticket” of Gov. Nelson Rockefeller of New York for President and Governor Reagan of California for Vice President.Read more »

“We Knew That If We Succeeded, We Could At One Blow Destroy A City”

A final interview with the most controversial father of the atomic age, Edward Teller

On October 31, 1952, Halloween was just getting rolling in California when, half a world away on the South Pacific island of Elugelab, the firing circuits closed on Ivy-Mike, the first practical test of the prototype hydrogen bomb. Ghosts and goblins roamed the Berkeley streets as Dr. Edward Teller, the driving force behind the new weapon, sat quietly in a darkened basement, patiently scanning for subtle, indirect evidence that he had irrevocably altered the world yet again.

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The Postwar Years 1945 To 1974

In his kaleidoscopic novel U.S.A., a trilogy published between 1930 and 1936, John Dos Passos offered a descriptive line that has always stayed with me. America, he wrote, is “a public library full of… dog-eared history books with protests scrawled on the margins.” Historical writing at its best is composed not only of facts but of thoughts and directions. And in this fastpaced country, where currents are very much subject to abrupt change, it is often hard for a history book to take root.Read more »

Reagan His Place In History

Six Aspects Of The Man—Three Political, Three Personal—Hint At How Posterity Will View Him

Contemporary judgments of presidents are notoriously erratic. Consider the four who decorate Mount Rushmore, the stony seal of posterity’s approval. Although Washington retired with almost universally good reviews, Benjamin Franklin’s grandson did say he had “debauched” the nation. Jefferson left the White House with the joy of an escaping prisoner and a stress-induced migraine condition. The Senate was so angry with Theodore Roosevelt in his last days in office that it refused to accept his communications.

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Telling America’s Story

The United States Information Agency did not long survive the Cold War it helped wage. But today the lessons it taught us may be more useful than ever.

Fifty years ago this summer the Eisenhower administration created a unique federal agency, one that most Americans never even knew about. Its name was the United States Information Agency; the reason for its obscurity was that by congressional fiat, it could not distribute its products and services within the United States. Read more »

Where Berlin And America Meet

Our common history isn’t all pleasant, but seeing it firsthand is deeply moving

Berlin’s history intersects with America’s at many points, and tourists who seek these intersections will arrive at the first of them sooner than they expect. Americans who came of age soaking up reruns of Twelve O‘Clock High, The World at War, and Victory Through Air-power may find that flying into Berlin is a slightly disconcerting way to approach the place.

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