Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.

Archive for February, 2016


Hillary Clinton as a High School senior on her debate team in Park Ridge, Illinois; ca. 1965

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Prisoner identification photograph of U.S. Army POW Staff Sgt. Joseph R. Beyrle taken in Stalag XII-A. Beyrle is thought to be the only American soldier to have served with both the U.S. Army and Soviet Army during World War II; ca. 1944

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On 6 June 1944, D-Day, the Douglas C-47 Skytrain transport aircraft Beyrle was in came under enemy fire over the Normandy coast, and he was forced to jump from the exceedingly low altitude of 120 meters. After landing in Saint-Côme-du-Mont, he lost contact with his fellow paratroopers, but succeeded in blowing up a power station before being apprehended by the Germans a few days later. Over the next seven months, Beyrle was held in seven different German POW camps. He escaped twice, only to be recaptured each time. Beyrle was taken to the Stalag III-C POW camp in Alt Drewitz bei Küstrin in Neumark, state of Brandenburg (now Drzewice, Lubusz Voivodeship, Poland), about 50 mi (80 km) east of Berlin where he escaped in early January 1945. Knowing the Soviets were advancing much quicker from the east than the Americans, British and others were from the west, Beyrle headed eastward. Encountering the Soviet 1st Guards Tank Army in the middle of January, he raised his hands, holding a pack of Lucky Strike cigarettes, and shouted in Russian, “Amerikansky tovarishch!” (“American comrade!”). Beyrle was eventually able to persuade the battalion’s commander, who, incidentally, was the legendary Alexandra Samusenko, possibly the only Soviet female tank officer with the rank of Guards Captain, to allow him to fight alongside the unit on its way to Berlin. Thus, Beyrle began his month-long stint in a Soviet tank battalion, where his demolitions expertise was appreciated. Beyrle’s new battalion was the one that freed one of his former camps, Stalag III-C, at the end of January. But, in the first week of February, he was wounded during an attack by German Luftwaffe Stuka (Junkers Ju 87) dive bombers. He was evacuated to a Soviet hospital in Landsberg an der Warthe (now Gorzów Wielkopolski, in Poland), where he received a visit from Soviet Marshal Georgy Zhukov, who, intrigued by the only non-Soviet in the hospital, learned his story through an interpreter, and provided Beyrle with official papers in order to rejoin the American forces. Joining a Soviet military convoy, Beyrle arrived at the U.S. embassy in Moscow in February 1945, only to learn that he had been reported by the U.S. War Department as killed in action on 10 June 1944 on French soil. A funeral mass had been held in his honor in his hometown of Muskegon, Michigan and his obituary was published in the local newspaper. Sgt. Beyrle returned home to Michigan on 21 April 1945. He would marry in 1946, coincidentally, in the same church and by the same priest who held his funeral mass two years earlier. Beyrle died in 2004 at the age of 81. His son John Beyrle would serve as the United States Ambassador to Russia from 2008 to 2012.




Henry Kissinger


Henry Kissinger was the sole purveyor of American foreign policy, with the exception of presidents Nixon and Ford. While he was National Security Advisor, he essentially made the department of state irrelevant by taking over many of the tasks, like communicating with foreign officials and heading foreign policy task groups, typically reserved to the secretary of state. By Nixon’s second term, he was serving concurrently as National Security Advisor and Secretary of State, and had pushed out most other foreign policy advisors from the policymaking process.


Kissinger was involved in Nixon’s conduct of the Vietnam War, the opening of China (essentially the establishment of relations with Mao was not a great triumph for human rights, but another triumph of realpolitik), the coup that brought Pinochet to power, etc. The human rights perspective of Kissinger’s detractors, everything Kissinger did was terrible. He was not bothered by this at all, as he was a firm member of the realist school of foreign policy, which holds that in the anarchic system of international relations, only power matters. Realists believe that international institutions such as the United Nations or international norms such as the concept of human rights are irrelevant. (In the Cold War, this became especially acute as Kissinger allied with brutal regimes, and conspired against democratic ones, in the name of anticommunism.)


Take this quote from Kissinger:

“The emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union is not an objective of American foreign policy. And if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern.”

Remember that Kissinger is Jewish himself. That’s how much of a realist he is.


While Kissinger was in office, the world was undergoing significant upheaval. There were various international crises originating in the Third World, and there was also domestic unrest in every region of the world. The most important aspect of Kissinger’s foreign policy outlook was his overriding concern of maintaining international stability, particularly by maintaining the Cold War’s bipolar global order. Wars in Vietnam and the Middle East and domestic protests in the U.S. and Europe all threatened to upend the bipolar order. Kissinger believed that wars in the Third World might drag the two superpowers into military conflict or nuclear war, and domestic unrest in Western Europe could open that continent up to greater Soviet influence. Simultaneously, domestic unrest in the U.S., particularly protests against the Vietnam War, had the potential of leading the U.S. away from the global interventionism necessary to maintain its superpower status.


Furthermore, Kissinger was able to elevate himself to an unusual degree of celebrity in the 1973-1976 period because of Watergate and the elevation of the unelected Ford.

President Ford Discussing Progress with Henry Kissinger

Kissinger was the only major public figure of the Nixon Administration to escape Watergate unscathed (because he didn’t know about it, as it was a domestic election thing. To clarify, Kissinger had no connection to Watergate), and Ford, who had no constituency other than the existing Administration, heavily relied on Kissinger. [As Saigon fell, Kissinger’s polling dwarfed Ford’s.]

Then presidential adviser Dr. Henry Kissinger tells a White House news conference that "peace is at hand in Vietnam" on Oct. 26, 1972. (AP Photo)

Because of the unusual circumstances of this presidential term, Kissinger is now a symbol of everything realpolitik. (He’s a lightning rod for criticism from non-realists.) Many people adopted elements of this view of foreign policy, but none personified it like Kissinger.



Reading Recommendations

There are four excellent biographies of Kissinger:

  • Jeremi Suri, Henry Kissinger and the American Century (This book provides a more favorable view of Kissinger than most other biographers).
  • Jussi Hahnimaki, The Flawed Architect: Henry Kissinger and American Foreign Policy
  • Mario del Pero, The Eccentric Realist: Henry Kissinger and the Shaping of American Foreign Policy
  • Robert Dallek, Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power

The following are excellent studies of U.S. foreign policy during the Nixon-Ford administrations:

  • Daniel Sargent, A Superpower Transformed: The Remaking of American Foreign Relations in the 1970s
  • Jeremi Suri, Power and Protest: Global Revolution and the Rise of Detente
  • Barbara Zanchetta, The Transformation of American International Power in the 1970s
  • Paul Thomas Chamberlin, The Global Offensive: The United States, the Palestine Liberation Organization, and the Making of the Post-Cold War World
  • Gary Bass, The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide

21 year-old bombardier Lt. Joseph Heller (future author of ‘Catch-22’) in the nose of a B-25; ca. 1944

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“Yossarian was a lead bombardier who had been demoted because he no longer gave a damn whether he missed or not. He had decided to live forever or die in the attempt, and his only mission each time he went up was to come down alive.”

(More Info)

Right before the execution of Anna Månsdotter, the last woman executed in Sweden; ca. 1890

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The Yngsjö murder occurred on 28 March 1889 in Yngsjö, Sweden. Hanna Johansdotter (born 1867) was murdered by her husband Per Nilsson and his mother Anna Månsdotter (born 28 December 1841), who became known as Yngsjömörderskan (in English: The Yngsjö Murderess). Both were sentenced to death for the murder, and Månsdotter became the last woman in Sweden to be executed.

The circumstances of the murder are not entirely clear, as both Månsdotter and her son gave several different explanations for it. In later years it has been suggested that she carried out the murder alone. During the trial it came to light that she had a sexual relationship with her son, and that this eventually led to the murder. It is believed, that she murdered her daughter-in-law because of jealousy, and that she did this with her son’s consent.

Anna Månsdotter had married Nils Nilsson, 13 years her elder, expecting a wealthy future, but they had become poor and afflicted with debts. She had three children, of which only one, her son Per, lived to adulthood. Anna’s spouse Nils died in 1883. She had arranged the marriage between Per and Hanna Johansdotter, possibly as a way to prevent the spread of rumours about incest. The marriage was not a happy one. Anna did not move in with her own mother, which had been the initial plan, and Hanna complained to her father that her mother-in-law was the cause of her unhappy marriage. One suggestion is that Hanna had discovered the sexual relationship between her husband and his mother, and that they together murdered her to prevent her from being able to tell anyone. One of many summaries given of the murder was that they beat her with a piece of wood, after which Anna strangled her. They then dressed her and placed her as if she had fallen down the stairs.

Månsdotter was executed on the district jail grounds in Kristianstad on 7 August 1890 by executioner Albert Gustaf Dahlman. Per Nilsson was pardoned from his death sentence and was instead sentenced to hard labour for the rest of his life. He was however released in 1913 and died of tuberculosis in 1918.


Here is a filmed reenactment from an old movie:

circus elephant from a Belgian zoo is put to work on a Belgian farm during World War I. Horses and mules were drafted to aid in the war effort, which left a shortage for farmers in Europe; ca. 1915

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