When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Beijing in May 2012 for a top-level conference with Chinese officials on strategic and economic issues, she got much more than she bargained for. A handicapped Chinese human rights activist, Chen Guangcheng, had managed to obtain provisional asylum in the American embassy. Chen, who has been blind since infancy, was well-known to diplomats, journalists, and observers of human rights in China.Read more
Halloween, it seems, never fails to arrive in “Witch City” without a spike in tourism. These tourists have conferred the nickname on Salem, Massachusetts. For the past several decades, the otherwise ordinary Essex County community of 41,000 has been the destination of people with a sometimes-lurid fascination with an episode in American history that is forever associated with the city. Police cruisers bear a witch logo, and one local high school team calls itself “the Witches.”Read more
Ever since the death of J. Edgar Hoover in 1972, journalists and disparate authors have pored over his life in order to dissect its mysteries. There have been books about his (alleged) gay activities and darker allegations that he used his powers as director of the FBI for manipulative political purposes.Read more
Declinist literature about America hasn’t been so fashionable since, well, since the Russians beat us into space with Sputnik, or the Japanese seemed to be buying up every American golf course west of the Mississippi in the 1980s, or China commissioned its first aircraft carrier in 2012.Read more
Thirty-eight years after the last American helicopter took off from the roof of the U.S. embassy in Saigon, it might not seem possible for any new book to offer important insights and reporting on the Vietnam war.Read more
It will probably never be known how many people died because they were betrayed by Kim Philby to the NKVD, or its successor, the KGB. Konstantin Volkov, a KGB agent working under diplomatic cover as a consular officer in Istanbul in 1945, is just one standout example. For the sum of £5,000, Volkov offered to defect to the British with a treasure trove of intelligence information: the names of 314 KGB agents in Turkey and 250 in Britain.Read more
It is universally recognized that the Allied victory over Japan and Germany in World War II could not have happened without America’s becoming, in Franklin Roosevelt’s words, “the arsenal of democracy.” The basic figures of American war production are simply gargantuan. The United States manufactured almost two-thirds of all Allied military equipment used in the war: a total of 86,000 tanks, 2 million trucks, and 297,000 planes. And that doesn’t include the atomic bomb or the huge B-29 bombers that carried it to Japan.Read more
It is not so much a truism as a cliché that the Victorian era has been the target of popular denigration ever since Lytton Strachey’s Eminent Victorians (1918) demolished a few of its icons of moral excellence: Florence Nightingale and General Gordon of Khartoum, among others. Strachey was a sort of Christopher Hitchens of his time, ensuring that the very word “Victorian” would henceforth carry connotations of mustiness, and a certain prudish sanctimony.Read more
Many of us who had spent years reporting on China watched with a feeling of slow-motion tragedy the unfolding of events in the Chinese capital in the spring of 1989, when student-led democracy protests started in Beijing and then across the country. Ultimately, it ended two months later in brutal suppression of the protest by the Chinese Army.Read more
Africa has had its share of brutal regimes and rulers in the past half-century. The apartheid regime of the Afrikaners in South Africa was, for quite a long time, a model of well-planned and methodical dictatorship. The eight-year half-comical/half-nightmarish regime of Idi Amin in Uganda appeared, for a while, to set a new mark in buffoonery, cruelty, and arbitrary violence. Then, when nobody seemed to be paying attention, one of the greatest acts of genocide of the past half-century took place in 1994 in Rwanda, with Hutu militias murdering perhaps as many as 800,000 members of the minority Tutsi ethnic group.Read more
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