RealClearHistory Articles

Churchill's WW II Address to Allied Delegates

Francis P. Sempa - June 12, 2021

A little over a year after Winston Churchill became Prime Minister of Great Britain, he spoke at a meeting of the Dominion High Commissioners and Allied Countries’ Ministers at St. James Palace on June 12, 1941. Britain was still “alone” as a great power belligerent against Nazi Germany. Britain had survived the “Blitz,” won the Battle of Britain in the skies over the English Channel, was waging war against Germany in the Battle of the Atlantic, and was preparing for a possible German invasion of the British Isles. The United States Congress had passed the...

Going the Distance

Steve Feinstein - June 2, 2021

The phrase “Going the distance” has many positive meanings and connotations.  Whether it’s in sports or business or in a social setting, the phrase is both commonly used and well understood. In baseball, it refers to a game in which the starting pitcher throws a complete game, all nine innings. “Verlander was strong, needing only 104 pitches to dominate the other team, as he went the distance for his fourth complete game of the season.”  In boxing, it means when a fighter survives the entire agreed-upon number of rounds, especially when the other...

Gen. Grant's Cold Harbor Regret

Francis P. Sempa - May 31, 2021

“I have always regretted that the last assault at Cold Harbor was ever made,” wrote Ulysses S. Grant in his memoirs. Grant was referring to a Union assault launched on June 3, 1864, against entrenched Confederate positions. In less than an hour, about 7,000 Union soldiers were dead, wounded, or missing.  The Battle of Cold Harbor was part of the Overland campaign that had already resulted in massive casualties on both sides at the Wilderness, Spotsylvania Courthouse, and the North Anna River. Grant, with President Lincoln’s blessing, was determined to fight a battle of...

Neglect, Nature and Horror of Johnstown Flood

Francis P. Sempa - May 27, 2021

“The lake seemed to leap into the valley like a living thing,” wrote historian David McCullough in describing the immediate effect of the failure of the South Fork Dam on May 31, 1889. It was 3 p.m. when the dam gave way and in the next 35-40 minutes Lake Conemaugh emptied into the valley of the Little Conemaugh River on its way to Johnstown, Penn.  The lake traveled 14 miles, wiping out the small towns of Mineral Point, East Conemaugh and Woodvale that lay directly in its path. Before it reached Johnstown, the huge wave of water and debris momentarily reenergized against a...


Did Biden Reopen Wounds for Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan?

Mustafa Tuncer - May 10, 2021

As a presidential candidate, Joe Biden opposed then President Donald Trump’s plan to build a wall along America’s border with Mexico. Indeed, time and time again, Biden has pledged to unite people rather than divide them. Yet, in using the term “genocide” to describe the events of 1915 late last month, President Biden made a foreign policy faux pas. The President’s words mean that Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan may be back to Square One precisely when the rebuilding of ties seems possible. The U.S. is known around the world as a melting pot that respects personal...

Churchill's Walk With Destiny

Francis P. Sempa - May 9, 2021

In 1890, when Winston Churchill was 16-years-old, he told a schoolmate that someday it would fall to him to defend England against invasion and “save the empire.” In 1932, in the midst of Churchill’s “wilderness years,” Lady Astor told Soviet dictator Josef Stalin that Churchill’s political career was finished. Eight years later, Churchill was summoned by the King to form a War Cabinet to lead the nation at the time of its greatest peril. When Churchill became Prime Minister on May 10, 1940, the odds against him succeeding in saving Britain were enormous....

Homage to Catalonia: The Book Orwell Had to Write

John Rossi - May 3, 2021

George Orwell wrote two of the most influential books of the 20th century, Animal Farm and 1984. He had different opinions of them. He was proud of Animal Farm because he believed that for the first time he succeeded in fusing “political purpose and artistic purpose into one whole.” 1984 he pretended to believe was “a ghastly mess … a good idea ruined.” He knew better. This book was tranformed Orwell As significant as these masterpieces were, the book that transformed him politically and intellectually was the portrayal of his experiences during the Spanish...

What Is Happening in the World?

Francis P. Sempa - April 19, 2021

America’s new U.N. Ambassador says that our founding documents and principles are based on “white supremacy,” and before the U.S. rejoins the U.N.’s Human Rights Council (where it would sit with such human rights stalwarts as Russia, Sudan, Libya, China, and Cuba), it needs to approach “issues of equity and justice . . . with humility.” America’s so-called “paper of record” promotes the 1619 project to reteach our nation’s founding with an emphasis on slavery. The mainstream media, the Biden administration, Democrats in Congress, and...


Political Blindness During National Health Crisis Isn't New

Mike DiMatteo - April 19, 2021

I’ve been bemused listening to the venerable Dr. Anthony Fauci and those who insist, even defend, his take on the Covid pandemic. He is considered the final authority on this particular disease and the course that our nation is taking with it. Yes, some states, some renegade states like Florida and Texas have bucked the Fauci line with what seems like success, but nonetheless it is Fauci’s word that matters most not only to the public at large but also the media. Generally, they are so in his corner they act as rabid dogs should anyone dare to challenge his prescription of double...

Exclusive Excerpt: Drawn Swords in a Distant Battle: South Vietnam's Shattered Dreams

George Jay Veith - March 31, 2021

Following is an adapted excerpt from leading Vietnam War historian and former Army Captain George Jay Veith's compelling new history Drawn Swords in a Distant Land: South Vietnam's Shattered Dreams. Traditionally, the Vietnam War has been viewed through an American -- or more recently -- North Korean -- prism. But Veith looks at the war from the South Vietnamese political and social project lens of its leaders and allies. The following excerpt focuses on the "Anna Chennault Affair." In 1968, South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu’s refusal to join the opening of the 1968 Paris...

Great Britain Had a Thing for Drama During WW II

Steve Feinstein - March 30, 2021

The British air forces in World War II — the RAF (Royal Air Force) and Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm — fought brilliantly and heroically on all fronts for the entire six-year duration (1939-45) of the war. Indeed, Britain’s very survival was a result of the RAF’s superhuman efforts during the five-month span from May-October 1940. The RAF fought off the German air force (the Luftwaffe) during the evacuation from Dunkirk, France following France’s collapse, allowing more than 330,000 allied soldiers to escape annihilation and live to fight another...

Mahan and the Craft of Writing History

Francis P. Sempa - March 9, 2021

In March 1903, the Atlantic Monthly published Alfred Thayer Mahan’s address to the American Historical Association, which he had delivered a few months earlier in Philadelphia. Mahan, as the association’s new president, spoke on “The Writing of History.” By that time, Mahan had been writing historical works for 20 years, and he would continue to do so until his death in December 1914.  He was born in 1840 at West Point, where his father, Dennis Hart Mahan, taught the future officers of the U.S. (and Confederate) Army. In 1859, Mahan graduated from the U.S. Naval...


Yalta, Whittaker Chambers, and Time Magazine

Francis P. Sempa - February 28, 2021

Between Feb. 4-11, 1945, the “Big Three” leaders of the Allied powers met at the Livadia Palace at Yalta in the Crimea to plot end-of-the-war strategy and to plan for the postwar world. Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, and Josef Stalin sensed victory. The Battle of the Bulge had ended in a German defeat. British and American forces were poised to breach the Siegfried Line. The Soviet army had launched a great offensive in the east. And American forces were advancing pincer-like against Japanese forces in The Philippines and in the islands of the central Pacific. The...

Mackinder and Sea Power

Francis P. Sempa - February 20, 2021

In 1901, Great Britain still ruled the seas, though she would soon be challenged by Kaiser Wilhelm II’s Germany. There had been no European general war since 1815, when allied powers combined to defeat Napoleon Bonaparte’s brief revival at Waterloo — and even then, as Wellington said, victory was a close-run thing. In 1830 and 1848, revolution had reared its ugly head, and smaller wars had been fought in the 1850s in the Crimea, and during the 1860s and early 1870s to bring about Italian and German unification, but the Concert of Europe, supplemented by the Congress of...

From Drugs to Gambling, Mesoamericans Were Ahead of Their Time

Iain Fenton - February 18, 2021

The Mayans and the Aztecs remain two of the most well-known and hotly debated of the Mesoamerican civilisations. Despite the bloody history of the Aztecs, and to a lesser extent the Mayans, both civilisations discovered, invented and cultivated a mixture of food, items, and medicines which are commonly used today in the 21st century. Medicine and drugs The Aztecs discovered and used an extensive inventory of medicine consisting of a variety of different medicinal herbs and plants. Indigenous works recording the Aztec practices of medicine survived the Spanish conquest and are still used in...

James Burnham: Unheralded Prophet of the Cold War

Francis P. Sempa - February 8, 2021

In Washington, D.C., there are no statues of James Burnham. Most Americans know little or nothing about him. He was not a high-level U.S. government official. He was a writer, a political philosopher, and a geopolitician. He started his intellectual journey on the Left as a member of the Trotskyite faction of the international communist movement in the 1930s. He ended up writing for William F. Buckley Jr.’s National Review. Burnham was an empiricist, not an ideologue. His intellectual heroes were Machiavelli, Mosca, Pareto and Michels—writers who studied history and the way ruling...


History and a Triangle of Farms

Francis P. Sempa - January 25, 2021

Travel to south-central Pennsylvania and across the border into Maryland and discover a triangle of historic farms where three men who made history during the Cold War lived. One was a brilliant diplomat who understood the cold, harsh realities of international politics, and articulated a strategic doctrine that guided U.S. foreign policy throughout much of the Cold War. Another was a troubled intellectual who escaped communism, courageously exposed hidden enemies within our country, and explained more clearly than any other writer what was at stake in the struggle against communism. The...

How Hindsight Can Change View of a Presidency

John Rossi - January 18, 2021

The recent unpleasant presidential election and the ugly aftermath of rioting in Washington got me thinking about the concept of presidential reputation. How will Donald Trump be evaluated by future scholars of the presidency? The presidential ratings game is not all that simple. For instance, other than the three presidents uniformly ranked as ‘great:’ Washington, Lincoln, and FDR, the labeling of "great" or "near great" presidents really is little more than an interesting commentary on the fickleness of fame and a commentary on the way ideas move in a modern society. During my...

Opinion: Police Force Part of the Culture -- for Blacks and Whites

John Rooney - January 14, 2021

Accusations of police hostility and abuse towards African Americans has been a pressing issue fueling mass demonstrations demanding reform. Amnesty International has joined in, censuring the U.S. for the nearly 1,000 police killings per year with a disproportionate number of Black and Latino victims. The problem of police abuse, however, is not confined to the Black community. It is a problem for all of us. Consider this: The record shows that more Whites than Blacks are killed by police each year. Something similar holds true for other kinds of police abuse: It is part of police culture...

Skeptics of Democracy and Defenders of Freedom

Francis P. Sempa - January 12, 2021

In the United States, it is often said, “the people rule.” This is one of the myths or “political formulas” that legitimize those who exercise political power in this country. The American government at the federal, state, and local level is nowhere a pure democracy where the people rule themselves. We are instead a constitutional republic where, as in all other forms of government, political power is held and exercised by a “ruling class,” a group of elites who make, interpret, and execute laws and rules that govern the citizenry. The great socio-political...