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.
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).
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.
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.
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."