“Carnival of Excess” by Charles McDowell Jr.
Public discontent over the ongoing Vietnam War, President Johnson’s decision not to run for a second term, and the June 5 assassination of Robert F. Kennedy set up a contentious race for the Democratic nomination for the presidency which remained unsettled as the summer of 1968 wore on. But in a critical preview of the television coverage of the upcoming party conventions, McDowell warned that viewers wouldn’t have access to the most decisive moments. “While many of the changes brought on by television may be for the best, there is something synthetic about this new kind of convention they are making,” he wrote. “The real decision-making is almost always hidden from the cameras. What we see for the most part is television covering the public version of private arrangements.”
“How Could Vietnam Happen? An Autopsy” by James C. Thomson
By April 1968, American soldiers had been fighting in Vietnam for nearly four years and the conflict had developed into a costly, unpopular quagmire with no clear end in sight. Thomson, who served in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations in the lead-up to and early years of the war, explored—and condemned—the political factors and decision-making processes that led to deepened U.S. involvement in the region. “Where were the experts, the doubters, and the dissenters?” he asked. “Were they there at all, and if so, what happened to them?” As he explained, the answers were complicated.
“Science at the Front” by Joseph Sweetman Ames
One hundred years ago, the fighting in World War I ground to a close. By January 1918, the conflict had developed into a slow-motion horror marked by the advent of devastating new weapons and modes of warfare, from trenches to tanks to poisonous gases. Ames, an American physicist, described his travels to the laboratories and airfields of Europe and detailed how science was aiding the Allied efforts. “The more one goes up and down the battle-line, the more one is amazed at the vital part which science is playing,” he wrote, “and, the more closely one is allowed to enter into the councils of the staffs, the more apparent it is that men of science have a field of usefulness never before opened to them.”
“The League of Nations” by Albert Thomas
As the war entered its final days, diplomats, leaders, and other interested parties turned their attention to considering how to remake and maintain the global order—including the creation of the world’s first international peacekeeping organization. Thomas described the fears and hopes for such a body, then still just a burgeoning idea, in a November article. “[The League of Nations] alone can … reestablish order after the immense upheaval which will leave in utter disarray the men and the bodies politic of the world before the war,” he argued. But even the League of Nations, of course, would not maintain world peace for long.