William Langewiesche, “Peace Is Hell”; Fred Kaplan, “JFK's First-Strike Plan”; Studs Terkel, “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?”; Eugen Weber, “France's Downfall”; fiction by Karen Shepard; Thomas Mallon on Edna St. Vincent Millay; and much more.
Every six months the Pentagon sends nearly 4,000 soldiers to Bosnia and brings nearly 4,000 soldiers home. To see how it's done is to understand why keeping peace has become harder than waging war—and why the Pax Americana has stretched the mighty American military to the limit
The Berlin crisis of 1961 does not loom large in the American memory, but it was an episode that brought the United States and the Soviet Union close to war—nuclear war. Newly available documents reveal that the Kennedy White House drew up detailed plans for a nuclear first strike against the Soviets, and that President Kennedy explored the first-strike option seriously
I’ve been thinking about Barbara Tuchman’s medieval history, A Distant Mirror, over the past couple of weeks. The book is a masterful work of anti-romance, a cold-eyed look at how generations of aristocrats and royalty waged one of the longest wars in recorded history, all while claiming the mantle of a benevolent God. The disabusing begins early. In the introduction, Tuchman examines the ideal of chivalry and finds, beneath the poetry and codes of honor, little more than myth and delusion.
Knights “were supposed, in theory, to serve as defenders of the Faith, upholders of justice, champions of the oppressed,” Tuchman writes. “In practice, they were themselves the oppressors, and by the 14th century, the violence and lawlessness of men of the sword had become a major agency of disorder.”
Three particular failures secure Trump’s status as the worst chief executive ever to hold the office.
President Donald Trump has long exulted in superlatives. The first. The best. The most. The greatest. “No president has ever done what I’ve done,” he boasts. “No president has ever even come close,” he says. But as his four years in office draw to an end, there’s only one title to which he can lay claim: Donald Trump is the worst president America has ever had.
In December 2019, he became the third president to be impeached. Last week, Trump entered a category all his own, becoming the first president to be impeached twice. But impeachment, which depends in part on the makeup of Congress, is not the most objective standard. What does being the worst president actually mean? And is there even any value, at the bitter end of a bad presidency, in spending energy on judging a pageant of failed presidencies?
The uncertain meaning behind a half-black, half-white, two-headed toy: An Object Lesson
The doll is two-headed and two-bodied—one black body and one white, conjoined at the lower waist where the hips and legs would ordinarily be. The lining of one's dress is the outside of the other’s, so that the skirt flips over to conceal one body when the other is upright. Two dolls in one, yet only one can be played with at a time.
The topsy-turvy doll, as it’s known, most likely originated in American plantation nurseries of the early 19th century. By the mid-20th century, they’d grown so popular that they were mass-manufactured and widely available in department stores across the country, but today, they’re found mostly in museums, privatecollections, and contemporaryart. In recent years, the dolls have seen a renewed interest from collectors and scholars alike, largely motivated by the ongoing question that surrounds their use: What were they supposed to symbolize?
Now, in the final hours of the Trump presidency, security forces have turned Washington, D.C., into a fortified encampment in an attempt to prevent further violence. The transformation of the U.S. Capitol into a Baghdad-style Green Zone is unlike anything Washington has seen since 9/11. Joe Biden, already physically isolated by COVID-19, will be further distanced from the American people, who have traditionally crowded onto the National Mall by the hundreds of thousands to witness a presidential swearing-in.
The proper response to these extremists isn’t counterterrorism. It is mental hygiene.
At noon tomorrow, our four-year experiment in being governed by the political equivalent of the Insane Clown Posse will finally end. It is ending in Juggalo style (some have called it “Trumpalo”), violently and pointlessly, with a handful of deaths, the smearing of various bodily fluids, and a riot on the way out. After any bacchanal of this magnitude, the sober dawn is almost as disorienting as the hysteria itself—and the most urgent task, after wiping the shit from the Capitol hallways, is to prevent a repeat performance.
First, the Senate must convict Donald Trump. I confess bewilderment that the Senate will have to deliberate at all: Inciting an insurrection that threatens to kidnap and possibly murder members of the Senate (including the vice president of the United States) seems to me the kind of activity the Senate should frown upon. Enemies of Ted Cruz like to point out that Trump called Cruz’s wife a hag and insinuated that his father killed John F. Kennedy, and Cruz cuddled up to Trump anyway. Any senator who excuses his own near lynching by a shirtless, horned shaman will make Cruz’s self-debasement look dignified by comparison.