“The Shah Always Falls”

A soldier-historian looks at how the world has changed in the past decade and finds that America is both hostage to history and likely to be saved by it

Military historians sometimes write biographies of people they call military intellectuals. Such people are interesting because they can have a vast effect on history, and also because they combine in one career two modes of life normally considered incompatible, the life of thought and the life of action. Read more »

How My Father And President Kennedy Saved The World

The Cuban Missile Crisis as seen from the Kremlin

THE WORLD CAME CLOSE TO A NUCLEAR CLASH THREE times during the half-century of the Cold War. The first was in Korea when China’s intervention snatched imminent victory from General MacArthur. Only a nuclear strike could save the situation, but President Harry Truman firmly rejected it. The second time came in 1962, at the moment of greatest tension around Cuba, 40 years ago this October. And the last was in Vietnam when many American military and political leaders believed that atomic weapons alone could redress the failure of the war’s progress. Read more »

Eisenhower

His farewell speech as President inaugurated the spirit of the 1960s

Whatever the calendars say, in some figurative sense America’s 1950s ended, and the 1960s began, on January 17, 1961, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower delivered the most memorable farewell address by a Chief Executive since another old soldier, George Washington, warned his new nation back in 1796 to stick together always in the cause of its founding principles. Ike, of course, had led the Allied forces in Europe to the triumph of democracy in World War II, a century and a half after General Washington had won America’s freedom in the Revolutionary War.Read more »

Visiting The Cold War Today

From Berlin to Washington to Area 51, landmarks of the era are opening up to tourists.

Berlin, on a Cold War day only George Smiley could love: John Le Carré’s hero would recognize the chill rain of this false spring. But the Kurf’fcrstendamm remains thick with tourists. Berlin’s revived status as a political and cultural capital may be the main lure for these visitors, but seeing the places most associated with the Cold War is a big draw too. Americans want to see the monument to the Berlin airlift, the markers commemorating the former Soviet military headquarters, and, of course, the Wall itself.

 
 
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Mr. Smith Goes Underground

The strangest of all Cold War relics also offers a clue to why we won it

At six-thirty on Monday evening, October 22, 1962, 146 members of the Folding Paper Box Association, highballs and filter-tipped cigarettes in hand, swung into the cocktail party preceding the group’s evening banquet at the venerable Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

 
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The Day We Shot Down The U-2

Nikita Khrushchev’s son remembers a great turning point of the Cold War, as seen from behind the Iron Curtain

On May 1, 1960, a Soviet V-750 surface-to-air missile (known in America as the SA-Z “Guideline”) shot down a U-2, one of the “invulnerable” American spy planes. The plane was a phantom—of all the secret projects of those years, perhaps the most secret. Even now, when it seems there are no secrets left, not everything connected with the U-2’s last mission can be explained from the standpoint of normal human logic.

 
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The Cold War Through The Looking Glass

Nikita Khrushchev’s son recalls a world where the United States was the Evil Empire—and Soviet superpower a carefully maintained illusion

 

When the Cold War began, people my age were in school, and when it ended, we were increasingly thinking about our pensions. Our whole lives were spent amid the fear that our great national enemy would strike a fatal blow if we made the slightest false step or showed the least weakness. Who “we” were and who the enemy was depended on which country we considered our own, the Soviet Union or the United States.

 
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Dr. Strangelove’s Children

Growing up on a Cold War air base in the shadow of the big one

“Do you realize there are fifteen hundred babies born a month in SAC?” says Jimmy Stewart, playing a B-36 pilot in the 1954 film Strategic Air Command . I was raised among those babies. I grew up near Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, during the Cold War, amid the presence of the Strategic Air Command and the eagle vision of Curtis E. Lemay. I spent the first few years of my life with great silver B-36 Peacemakers flying overhead. “Silver overcast,” they were wryly called.Read more »

NATO’s Nativity

It was born of a slew of compromises—which may be the secret of its survival in a vastly changed world

Sometimes historical changes march onstage to the sound of trumpet fanfares. And sometimes they arrive with what seems remarkably little notice by a distracted audience. Such, at least, were my own feelings last spring when the Senate voted 80—19 to approve the admission to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization of Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. How could NATO, a defensive anti-Communist coalition of 1949, come to embrace three former Soviet satellites and presumptive U.S.Read more »

Sputnik

FORTY YEARS AGO THIS MONTH the Soviet Union orbited a “man-made moon” whose derisive chirp persuaded Americans they’d already lost a race that had barely begun

IT WASN’T THE BEST OF TIMES, BUT IT WASN’T THE worst of times either. Although a mild recession had cooled down the post-Korean War economy, many families were living comfortable lives in the autumn of 1957. There were 170 million Americans now, and more of them had taken a vacation that summer than ever before, just like the swells out in Southampton.

 
 
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