Sunday, February 17, 2019

The Cold War

Just finished Paul Thomas Chamberlin's The Cold War's Killing Fields: Rethinking the Long Peace.  His central premise is that the time period of 1945 to 1990, known as the Cold War, is typically and falsely thought of as a time of 'peace' between the two superpowers, the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.  While it's true that the two never went directly to war the desire of each to influence events and shape the destinies of other countries led to a great deal of conflict which was then exacerbated by the two of them seeing every regional or civil war as being absolutely critical in the 'grand scheme' of things.

The narrative is in three parts.  In the first part, Third World revolutions occur in areas recently freed from colonial domination.  He looks especially at China, where a Communist Revolution succeeded under the leadership of Mao Zedong (and others), at Korea, where the two forces first opposed each other in a proxy war, at Vietnam where determined resistance to foreign interference proved decisive and also briefly at Indonesia and Pakistan/Bangla Desh.  Part one saw revolutions sparked by Marxism and nationalism triumph (for the most part).

In part two he examines the splintering of any international communist momentum as regional/national interests caused various otherwise aligned parties to fight each other, highlighted by the 'Sino-Soviet split.'

Part three takes us to the Middle East where revolutions erupted based not on the Capitalism vs. Communism clash but with millions of people rallying around ethnic and religious ties.  As before though, the two superpowers picked sides and vied for influence creating uneasy alliances, sometimes with recent adversaries.

At the end of the 80's the collapse of the Soviet Union left the United States as the winner of the Cold War.  But what had they won? 

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

The Year In Books, 2018

The Impossible Presidency: The Rise and Fall of America's Highest Office
Jeremi Suri

God: A Human History, Reza Aslan

JFK's Last Hundred Days: The Transformation Of A Man and The Emergence Of A Great President, Thurston Clarke

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, Jack Weatherford

Genghis Khan and the Quest For God: How the World's Greatest Conqueror Gave Us Religious Freedom, Jack Weatherford

Collision of Wills: Johnny Unitas, Don Shula, and the Rise of the Modern NFL
Jack Gilden

The War Before The War: Fugitive Slaves and the Struggle For America's Soul From the Revolution to the Civil War,
Andrew Delbanco

Monday, October 29, 2018

Genghis Khan

I finished Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World recently.  (Author Jack Weatherford.)  Some thoughts follow ...

From the dust jacket:

"The Mongol Army led by Genghis Khan subjugated more lands and people in twenty-five years than the Romans did in four hundred.  In nearly every country the Mongols conquered they brought an unprecedented rise in cultural communication, expanded trade, and a blossoming of civilization.  Vastly more progressive than his European or Asian counterparts, Genghis Khan abolished torture, granted universal religious freedom, and smashed feudal systems of aristocratic privilege.  From the story of his rise through the tribal culture to the explosion of civilization that the Mongol Empire unleashed this brilliant work of revisionist history is nothing less than the epic story of how the modern worldwas made."

First off, that's the first time I've ever seen 'revisionist history' used proudly  ;  )

In the comments I'm going to lay out some of the themes Weatherford's narrative evokes.  Starting tonight yet  ;  )

Friday, January 19, 2018

Letter to Wisconsin State Journal

I read George Will's columns, when I do, knowing that his blend of snark and ultraconservative ideology is seldom illuminating and only occasionally entertaining.  His take on Oregon's semi-concession to practicality in allowing some self-service gas stations to begin operation is mildly amusing, but he also unconsciously shares with us a bit of skewed, 'white' thinking when he refers to Oregon as "the state that was settled by people who trekked there on the Oregon trail."  This statement presupposes that Oregon was 'unsettled' until these (white) 'settlers' arrived.

From Wikipedia: "By the 16th Century, Oregon was home to many Native American groups, including the Chinook, Coquille, Bannock, Chasta, Kalapuya, Klamath, Klickitat, Molalla, Nez Perce, Takelma, Killamuk, Neah-kah-nie, Umatilla and Umpqua."  All of them 'civilized' and all of them quite 'settled.'  

Anyone care to guess why he so easily discounts them?

Friday, January 5, 2018

Better Late Than Never

Here is the list of books that I read in 2017.  It's the shortest list since I've started keeping track; not sure why, especially ...

Bush, Jean Edward Smith

Stranger In A Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein

A Struggle For Power: The American Revolution
Theodore Draper

Over the Edge of the World: Magellan's Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe
Laurence Bergreen

Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty, Charles Leerhsen

Millennium: From Religion to Revolution: How Civilization Has Changed Over a Thousand Years, Ian Mortimer

The Year The Yankees Lost The Pennant, Douglass Wallop

Sting Like A Bee: Muhammad Ali vs. The United States of America, 1966-1971
Leigh Montville

Eisenhower, In War and Peace, Jean Edward Smith

LIES My Teacher Told Me, James Loewen

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Here's My Latest Letter ...

A letter Wednesday, 'Criminals Will Get Guns Anyway,' reports that "only between 3 percent and 11 percent of criminals who used guns purchased them legally," claiming that making it harder to buy guns legally won't make a difference.  But this ignores the obvious problem with the equation.  Nothing ever happens to the 'illegal' seller.  Suppose there were strong penalties for selling firearms in any manner except one prescribed by law.  And the penalty for violations were to be commensurate with the crime committed with the firearm in question.  So the seller might wind up being charged with being complicit in mass murder.  Might that make a difference?