Nicolaus Mills

Nicolaus Mills is a professor of American studies at Sarah Lawrence College and the author of the forthcoming Winning the Peace: The Marshall Plan and America's Coming of Age as a Superpower.

Recent Articles

India's Exit Lessons for Iraq

Pundits and lawmakers keep making the Iraq/Vietnam comparison. But India in the wake of British colonial rule is a relevant and perhaps a more cautionary tale that should be heeded.

As the debate over a future United States troop withdrawal from Iraq intensifies, pundits and lawmakers increasingly invoke the historical comparison to Vietnam in 1975. The comparison makes sense. But far more relevant to America's decision-making today is what happened in India 60 years ago, when in the summer of 1947 the British suddenly ended their colonial rule and left a country divided by religious hatred. Especially for liberals, what happened during the birth of modern India is a cautionary tale that needs to be heeded. The violence that erupted in India after the British left came as no surprise. Tension between India's Hindu and Muslin populations had existed for years, and escalated during World War II after the leaders of the Hindu-dominated Congress Party of Jawaharlal Nehru were jailed for their 1942 "Quit India" campaign against the British. In their absence, the Muslim League of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, which refused to call for Britain's departure, grew in strength,...

What FDR and Elizabeth Edwards Have in Common

Roosevelt never used his wheelchair as a political gimmick, only as an inspiration to others. The same goes for Edwards and her breast cancer.

In the run for the presidency, no candidate's spouse has proven a stronger asset than Elizabeth Edwards. The key to her appeal is her candor about the return of her cancer, and nothing puts her candor in clearer historic perspective than the controversy that arose a decade ago over whether President Roosevelt should be depicted at his memorial on the Mall in Washington seated in his wheelchair. On the one side of the 1997 controversy was the National Organization on Disability, which at the dedication of the FDR Memorial handed out stickers bearing the slogan, "He did it all from his wheelchair." On the other side were those who thought that FDR should be seen, as he wanted, without his wheelchair. (Only two pictures are known to exist showing him in one). Both sides offered up persuasive arguments and eventually a statue of FDR in a wheelchair was added to the memorial. But with the recent publication of Jean Edward Smith's new Roosevelt biography, FDR , it becomes possible to see...

A Globalism for our Time

Sixty years ago, George Marshall unveiled his plan for rebuilding Europe and redefining America's role in the world. It was on-target then, and his vision for America's role is even more on-target today.

Like the Gettysburg Address, it was a short speech. It took George Marshall just 12 minutes to read his Harvard commencement address, which on June 5, 1947, introduced the United States and Europe to the Marshall Plan. Firsthand reports of the commencement describe Marshall as a speaker who played with his glasses, kept his eyes focused on his text, and was often difficult to hear. But by the time he was finished, he had set in motion America's coming of age as a superpower in a way that would take the United States far beyond its World War II triumphs. Today, 60 years later, the left and the right compete in their praise of the Marshall Plan. Even the Bush administration has sought to link itself with Marshall. On September 23, 2003, just six months after the American invasion of Iraq began, George W. Bush went before the United Nations General Assembly to announce that he was prepared to make "the greatest financial commitment of its kind since the Marshall Plan" in order to rebuild...

The Enemy of Comfort

A week after the presidential elections, Iris Chang, the much-acclaimed author of The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II , was found dead in her car on a highway just south of Los Gatos, California. Before shooting herself, Chang left a carefully written suicide note at her home in San Jose and made sure that her body would be discovered by the police rather than by her husband or her 2-year-old son. The newspaper stories that followed made a point of noting Chang's age -- she was just 36 -- and explaining the success of the most important of her three books, The Rape of Nanking , which sold more than a half-million copies in America alone. But largely missing from the accounts of Chang's death were a serious assessment of her work and a recognition of the moral and intellectual vacuum her death leaves. In a world in which most stories on massacre and genocide have the drama of war reportage, Chang, whose grandparents fled the eastern Chinese city of Nanking as...

The E-Word

One of the most revealing passages in the late Paul Wellstone's political memoir, The Conscience of a Liberal , is his criticism of the decision that he made during his first year in the Senate to hold a press conference on his opposition to the Gulf War within sight of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. "I wanted to dramatize the dangers of military action," he wrote. "Instead, I deeply hurt many Vietnam veterans -- really, all of the veterans' community." What makes Wellstone's self-criticism so interesting a decade after the Gulf War is his refusal to excuse his decision. He does not justify his actions by arguing that he was right about the war, and he does not minimize what he did by saying that it was a lapse in etiquette. Wellstone understood that for Democratic liberals like himself to act in a way that showed indifference to others (in this case, an indifference that allowed him to use a war memorial as a media prop and ignore the sacrifice it symbolized) was serious. It left...