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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Groping Toward Democracy

The Russians claim they want to be more like us— but do they have any idea who we are?

The Russian road to democracy is not going to be easy. In the forty-five-volume edition of Vladimir Lenin’s collected works, the index shows no entry for Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, John Adams, or James Madison. George Washington gets three mentions, but they all relate to well-wishers suggesting that Lenin is the George Washington of Russia. Monroe is listed four times—each time for the Monroe Doctrine, with nothing about the debates over the U.S. Constitution. Read more »

I Fought For Fidel

In the twilight of Castro’s regime, one of the soldiers who put him in power recalls what it was like to be a fidelista up in the hills four decades ago when a whole new, just, democratic world was there for the building

Like a hurricane spawned in distant waters, the full force of the collapse of world Communism has finally reached the island of Cuba and seems poised to sweep away the last vestiges of the Marxist-Leninist structure erected there over the last three decades. The demise of Cuban Communism has been better foretold than its rise: in 1958 few Americans could have imagined the establishment, ninety miles off their shores, of a Soviet-allied state that within four years would bring the world to the brink of nuclear catastrophe.Read more »

Black And White And Red

In 1932 the Communist International paid to send a cast of American blacks to Moscow to make a movie about American racial injustice. The scheme backfired.

In 1932, while Scarface, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Shanghai Express filled the screens of movie theaters across America, another film, for which entertainment was only a secondary goal, was germinating far away from Hollywood. “The American Negro has never been portrayed on screen or stage in his true character,” wrote the black activist W. A. Domingo, “and this film … will be the first departure from the traditional pattern.Read more »

The Last Real Presidential Debate

It took place in 1948, and it was orchestrated—with difficulty—by the program director of a faltering Portland, Oregon, radio station. He persuaded two Republican candidates to argue formally about an actual issue with no intervening moderator.

In October 1984 President Ronald Reagan and Sen. Walter F. Mondale came together on the same platform in Louisville, Kentucky, and again in Kansas City, Missouri. Correspondents tossed questions at them; each answered. Then instant analysts got busy determining a winner and speculating about what effect, if any, the confrontations would have on the November election. And everybody referred to the meetings as “debates.” They weren’t debates. Read more »

The U.S. And Castro, 1959–1962

Was the Cuban leader always a Marxist or did the United States impel him in that direction? A distinguished historian of Cuban affairs examines the critical years when the Castro revolution became a communist dictatorship.

One of the perplexing mysteries of the mid-twentieth century is why Cuba, a rich island with long and close ties to the United States, became a communist state. It did so in an unprecedented and unexpected way—without Soviet military help, without enduring a destructive civil war (deaths during Castro’s revolution against Batista probably did not reach two thousand), and without the leadership of Cuba’s Communist party, which played at best a minor role in such fighting as there was.

 
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A Rough Sunday At Peekskill

Paul Robeson was giving a concert. It ended in a riot that foreshadowed the McCarthy era of the 1950’s

In most ways and in most places, Labor Day weekend in 1949 was the quiet, lazy end-of-summer occasion that Americans long have cherished. There were parades and barbecues and last days at the swimming pool, and between innings of local softball games spectators and players alike tuned in on the progress of the pennant-winners-to-be, the Yankees and the Dodgers. But in Omaha there was an unpleasant reminder of growing political tensions; a fight broke out when several people attempted to distribute Communist Party literature.Read more »

The Great Red Scare

In 1919 the U.S. Attorney General swooped down on a alleged Bolshevik revolutionaries and deported them by the boatload. For a while he was a national hero; he dreamed of the White House. But then…

In November, 1919, and again in January, 1920, federal agents of the Department of Justice conducted a series of lightning-like raids on private houses and public buildings in cities across the United States and took into custody upwards of three thousand aliens suspected of plotting to overthrow the government. The mass arrests were enthusiastically acclaimed as Attorney General A.

 
 
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