If I live to be old, I will be poor but I hope I won’t think I wasted my life


in Daily updates

Between midterm grading and Judo today, I attended an exceptional lecture delivered by Thomas Blanton, director of the National Security Archive at George Washington University.

To me, it was a great demonstration of the vital importance and characteristic professional practices of history as an academic discipline, which I see as a necessary foundation for such upstart and tragically insecure disciplines as international relations and political science.

Compared in particular with a theatrical, well-received, yet historically and technically dubious talk from Ken Adelman on October 18th, Blanton’s talk seemed grounded in reputable sources and careful thinking rather than ideologically-driven enthusiasm which is little affected by either.

It’s not often that I get to nerd out on details of personal relationships between the old Trudeau and Nixon and Reagan; the close calls of the US-Soviet nuclear confrontation; issues of data preservation in a digital age; espionage; journalistic ethics; and the Vela incident.

And then I went to Judo where, despite sore ribs on the right side near my spine, I felt at least a little bit fit and competent for the first time in the course so far.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Milan October 26, 2016 at 1:19 am

Things I flagged to read or look up during the talk (I am beyond broke at the moment, so if your purse runneth over you can send me one at Massey College, 4 Devonshire Place, Toronto, M5S 2E1):

1) One Minute to Midnight: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Castro on the Brink of Nuclear War

(Blanton said that the scene in Thirteen Days which I once emailed to my father is a complete fiction – nothing of the sort ever happened – and Khrushchev ordered Soviet ships to turn back two days before reaching the “quarantine line”)

2) An article which I can’t immediately locate called: “The Cuban Missile Crisis Ain’t What It Used To Be”

3) Records of a time during Watergate when the new CIA director asked for memos about every violation of the CIA charter and got a vast range of responses from business as usual statements to shocking disclosures about U.S. biological weapons and attempted mind control programs (CIA Family / Crown Jewels)

4) Able Archer 83: The Secret History of the NATO Exercise That Almost Triggered Nuclear War

Milan October 26, 2016 at 1:26 am

Also: What Is History by E. H. Carr

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