Wednesday, October 7, 2020

The New Yorker

 America, the Infected and Vulnerable

Just as the White House became an epicenter of the pandemic and congressional negotiations on the ailing economy collapsed, the Pentagon made its own startling announcement on Tuesday. The entire Joint Chiefs of Staff—the highest-ranking officers from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and other services—went into quarantine for two weeks. These are not only commanders who control the world’s mightiest military, run wars, order bombings, and authorize special-operations raids; they are part of the most consistent and sane wing of the American government right now.

The Joint Chiefs are the highest-ranking members of the military to be impacted by the pandemic, but far from the only ones. As of Wednesday morning, almost seventy thousand members or employees of the military—who put their lives at risk daily to protect the country—have been infected, the Pentagon reported on a special Web site about covid-19. Almost forty per cent of the two hundred and thirty-one U.S. military installations around the world still face travel restrictions because of the pandemic. From multiple angles, including the fact that President Trump is also Commander-in-Chief, the coronavirus is now a genuine national-security threat for the United States. And the rest of the world knows it. The potential dangers abound. Read on....

Sunday, October 4, 2020

The New Yorker

Presidential Illnesses Have Change the Course of World History

The world might be a different place if American Presidents had not been felled by disease or hidden debilitating conditions. In February, 1945, just two months before his death, President Franklin Roosevelt—paralyzed by polio, weakened by congestive heart failure, and with his blood pressure hitting 260/150—travelled all the way to Yalta, a resort on the Crimean coast, to meet the Soviet Premier, Joseph Stalin, and the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. F.D.R. was by then a shell of a man, with skin hanging from his bones, raccoon rings around his eyes, and hands that often shook. But he agreed to the six-thousand-mile journey because the final phase of the Second World War and its aftermath were at stake. He wanted Stalin’s co√∂peration on a new international organization to foster peace, principles for governing countries liberated from Nazi rule in Europe, and military help in the Pacific theatre against Japan.

In the Yalta Declaration, the three leaders set the stage—or so Roosevelt thought—for the postwar world. They agreed to Stalin’s request to divvy up Germany, Roosevelt’s dream of the United Nations, and to ceding chunks of Asia to the Soviet sphere. The most sensitive point was the fate of Eastern Europe after liberation from the Nazis. The three leaders pledged to allow those countries to form governments “representative of all democratic elements” and to facilitate imminent and free elections. Stalin specifically agreed to early elections in strategic Poland, which had been liberated by Soviet troops, and to allow non-Communist members to participate. Upon his return home, Roosevelt gave a speech to Congress extolling the “unanimous” agreements with Moscow. “Never before have the major Allies been more closely united—not only in their war aims but also in their peace aims,” he boasted. More important than the agreement, he said, “We achieved a unity of thought and a way of getting along together.”

Except that Stalin reneged on his commitments, as well as on the spirit of Yalta, in ways that shaped the next half century. Read on....